Marsh, R-Anniston, is generally credited as the main force behind the bill that gives tax credits to the parents who take their students out of “failing” public schools and enrolled them in public schools that are not failing, or in private schools. The senator replied to the Birmingham News, “The intent of the Alabama Accountability Act is to give parents of children in failing schools the choice to pursue a better education. Supporters of this school choice law view it as a tool for all students, regardless of where they live — and not a manufactured racial story line.”
The “manufactured racial story line” that Marsh criticized apparently referred to the way the act’s critics were pointing out how little “choice” the legislation would give poor black children whose parents could not afford to enroll their students in another school.
However, despite the senator’s protests, the “racial story line” was not “manufactured” as a vehicle for attacking the act. The “racial story line” can be traced back to the 1960s, when events and attitudes came together to create the network of private schools the state is now poised to subsidize.
Back then, white parents in public schools were anxious over the possibility that long-resisted integration was actually going to happen. The concern, indeed fear, was especially evident in rural counties where white students would become a minority in the public schools. When the courts ordered the schools to integrate in the late 1960s, parents took their children out of public schools and created what were derisively called “seg-academies.” Check the founding date of any private school and if it opened between 1967 and 1972, odds are that its creation was racially motivated.
But there were other factors. For many white parents, Supreme Court decisions on school prayer were just as disturbing as ordered integration, and this gave private schools yet another reason for their existence. By the mid-1970s, “providing Christian education” had become another goal of many private schools.
(It is important to note that not all “Christian schools” were created to avoid integration. Some private schools with a Christian curriculum have a racially mixed student body, but few of those started as segregated academies.)
Thus, the basis for this “manufactured story line” is real, despite Marsh’s criticism of the act’s opponents who say it will do little to improve the education of poor black children.
The Alabama Accountability Act will financially support racially and economically segregated schools that were opened not as an alternative to failing schools but instead to offer white parents the choice of not sending their children to school with black children.
Many of these schools offer white parents that same choice today.
Once more we are just now discovering a byproduct of the Alabama Accountability Act.