While no one was looking (because no one could — it was done in secret), the GOP’s legislative leaders rewrote the widely supported School Flexibility Bill and turned it into a bill that would give tax credits to parents who pull their students out of failing public schools and put them in other public schools or private schools.
Republicans quickly brought the rewritten bill to the floor of the House and Senate and rammed it through, crushing all opposition in their path.
According to news reports, Republicans knew state school officials and the Alabama Education Association would oppose tax credits, so they were left out of the loop. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said they moved quickly to get it passed so legislators would not be inundated with phone calls from opponents of the plan.
Well, so much for transparency.
So much for keeping the public (not to mention other legislators) informed.
So much for bringing in interested and affected parties to get their input. Better to blindside state Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice than deal with the possibility that the opposition might have something to say — and that the something might be worth listening to.
We are not talking about the content of the bill. This page will address that over the next few days. We also will address the practical matters that accompany any legislation — the pesky “unintended consequences.”
What we are talking about is process, the old “how a bill becomes a law” discussion.
As they came to power in Montgomery, Alabama Republicans promised things would be different, that the days of legislation written in back rooms to benefit particular groups or points of view were over. In other words, a new day was dawning.
Well, in this case, the new day looks a lot like the old.
Whether you believe, as critics do, that this new bill is “a Trojan horse to benefit private schools,” or if you believe, as supporters do, that this would “free children from the bondage that comes with a poor education,” there is no way to get around the fact that here was a case of the majority ruling without regard to what the minority might think.
Sen. Marsh summed it up this way: “We took flexibility and turned it into accountability.”
The question remains, accountability to whom?
Despite their protests to the contrary, the people who passed this legislation showed little concern for opinions other than their own and those of their ideological allies. Thus, it is to themselves and co-believers that these legislators are accountable.
Everyone else can get on board or get out of the way.