Playing the good soldier, Bice produced a list of failing schools as defined by the so-called Alabama Accountability Act, the controversial law handed down earlier this year by Montgomery’s ruling Republicans. The strict definition of failing, Bice said Tuesday, meant he was “unable to remove a school from the list although they’ve shown improvement.”
Sadly, that’s merely the start of the problems with this policy.
As private school administrators from Calhoun County told The Star earlier this year, the law’s intent — allowing students in “failing” schools to transfer to a private school or better public school — almost certainly won’t work. The law’s tax credit — approximately $3,500 annually — won’t be enough to cover private school tuition. What’s more, private schools are balking at accepting state-administered scholarship dollars.
Public schools are under no obligation to take transfers from failing schools. Several local districts have confirmed to The Star that they aren’t interested in taking on these new students. In Anniston and elsewhere across Alabama, there’s also the matter of a federal court order concerning desegregation that severely limits student transfers between public schools.
All this adds up to a law that seems unlikely to have the intended effect.
The shame is that Alabama’s public schools desperately need improvement. Of course, the 78 schools listed Tuesday as “failing” need help, but so does the entire state, especially when considering our ranking in national comparisons of student achievement.
Perhaps the best path forward would be for the Legislature and the governor to scrap this policy’s wishful thinking and head back to the drawing board. Putting Alabama’s schools on the path to excellence will require a greater investment, in money, of course, but also in tougher standards for teachers and students.