Alabama privatization law gets slapped with two court cases


by Brian Washington/Photo courtesy WFIU

The state of Alabama is catching legal heat over the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), a law educators say is “ill-conceived and illegal” and will have a huge negative impact on students, public schools, and the entire state.

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Within the last month, two lawsuits have been filed against the law, which is expected to reduce public education funding by $40 million.  The AAA authorizes a tax credit worth up to $3500 for expenses incurred by parents who transfer their children from a designated “failing” public school to an accredited private school or “non-failing” public school. It also creates a $25 million tax credit voucher program that authorizes tax credits worth up to $7500 for individuals and 50% of the tax liability for corporations that make donations to voucher-granting organizations.

A lawsuit recently filed by Anita Gibson, president of the Alabama Education Association (AEA), along with a state Senator and the superintendent of the Lowndes County Public School System alleges that the legislation violates the state’s constitution.  The 10-count complaint touches upon three problem areas:

  • Violations in how the law was passed;
  • Violations in earmarking of funds; and
  • Violations regarding public funds being used for charitable and religious institutions.

“Regardless of how many students actually relocate to private schools, $40 million have been set aside to fund this law,” said AEA Associate Executive Secretary Dr. Gregory Graves in a press statement. “The role of public education funding in Alabama is to educate our children, not to provide welfare to private schools.  The Alabama Accountability Act takes money from all of Alabama’s children that need it and redistributes it to a small number of private schools which is a clear violation of our state’s constitution.”

“Across Alabama parents are being asked to buy toilet tissue, paper towels, hand sanitizer and other items because our schools can’t afford them.  Hoover (a city in the north central part of the state) has decided to cut its bus service because of a lack of funding, yet the governor is asking Alabamians to pick up the tab for their tax give away.  Left unchallenged, the cost of this act to taxpayers will continue to grow to astronomical levels at the expense of Alabama’s public schools.”

The AAA is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which is asking the federal court to permanently block the legislation because it discriminates against poor children, who can’t afford to attend private schools and, because of the inadequate funding of public education, have very few options when it comes to non-failing public schools. The SPLC charges the AAA creates two classes of students assigned to failing schools—those who can escape them because of their parents’ income or where they live and those who cannot.  The suit charges this violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

“More than ever, a quality education is critical in today’s world,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “It shouldn’t depend on how much your parents make or where you live.”

To find out more about the issues that impact students, educators, and public schools, click here.


Reader Comments

  1. The AAA or any other idea that the Alabama Legislature comes up with is and will be done by “lock-step” Republicans. The party ideology is most important, not the people. I am glad to hear a law suit has been filed and I hope for a win for Anita Gibson and SPLC. However, if Legislature history is any indication, just expect another slap to the educational system of Alabama. I am completely disappointed by my representative and senators and when I write them, I get a letter with Republican “talking points”. Unless we vote in people who are pro education, we will get the “same old, same old” and I am not confident that the state of Alabama will do that.

  2. Thank God for the Southern Poverty Law Center. When you look closely at how this crazy lil thing called the AAA came to be, well, no one was sleeping! The real deal is, the AL legislature thinks they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. I’m pretty sure the way the law passed is unconstitutional in itself. In fact, the AAA is not the legislature passed, it was transformed in committee after something 20 pages shorter and barely resembling the current law passed. From the perspective of an Al educator who was very much trying to be awake while this was going on, let’s just say, clearly “Bubba” was trying to get his buddies (and himself)a tax credit for the private school education they chose for their children long ago because they have been living the “it’s not what you know” philosophy for long enough to know you may as well pay for your kid to be well connected. After all, a real education in Al can quickly become little more than frustrating when your lawmakers resort to tactics such as these to undermine those of us who actually understand it is to everyone’s advantage for all children to be as educated as possible. The end bill the Al legislation passed is rather castrated for giving actual tax credits to anyone (since this would require an individual to first pay for the tuition up front), though it does allow the legislature to dip into our Education Trust Fund to offer scholarships/kickbacks to corporations to entice students who have exceptional ability in sports to attend the schools the legislators’ children attend because of a seemingly infinite opportunity for robbing a fund they did not previously have unlimited access to and perhaps so weekends at the ballpark can be a little more entertaining than Junior’s upbringing has prepared him to provide. So, I’m just happy someone got the lawsuits filed and can only offer this last bit of info…after the legislation takes a beating legally for the travesty lawmakers have perpetrated on our state this time, there had best be a plan for inspecting what you have decided to allow as a settlement! The new “if I say it three times, it must be true” in AL is “if I ignore you saying it three times, it must not be true”!!

  3. Perhaps we should just go ahead and place education in the hands of Halliburton, or Shell Oil, or Exxon-Mobil, or maybe it would fit better as a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase, or better yet put it under the control of the IMF or World Bank and an international flavor. Then our children could learn the real meaning of life on earth. Instead of learning quaint fairy tale prose like “a rising tide lifts all boats,” or “all for one and one for all,” or “we’re all in this together,” they could be indoctrinated with that bottom line sentiment; “It’s every man for himself,” or “only the strong survive” where the arts and earth’s environmental wonders have no relevance. Children could be taught the character virtues of Marquis St. Evremonde, and every child will know the answer to the question, “Who is John Galt?”

  4. My child attends a private Christian school. I do NOT want tax payer assistance to help pay for my daughter’s Christian education. It is a sacrifice for us but well worth it. I believe that it is my duty as a citizen of the US to pay my taxes and support public education.

  5. These law suits are long over due, and a clear message needs to be sent to Del Marsh (R) from Anniston, Alabama and the Governor that the public IS NOT willing to fund private schools. These law suits are the best news in a while.

  6. I am totally in favor of privatization, as it is a forerunner to taking government and government indoctrination out of the school systems. It is not right to force people to pay for an educational system.

    1. Apparently you never were taught about the fundamentals of public education. I suggest that you do some research somewhere other than Fox News. Look up the Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance if you want the basics. The object is to create informed citizens who can think for themselves. Also look up the Constitution concerning the separation of church and state. If you choose a religious or other private school, that is your choice, but it is not up to the public to sponsor your choice. Public schools are for everyone, and have a broad based curriculum.

    2. Yes, it would be SO much better to have our children indoctrinated by business and the 1%. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of gov’t entirely, auction off all gov’t functions and property to the highest bidder, and leave in their hands the future of all the socialist programs such as Social Security, Medicare, transportation systems, police and firefighters, energy and electricity infrastructure, and, oh yeah, the military.

      1. Jeff, check out these sources I have come across since my awakening in March of 2011 (before that time I was too busy minding my own business, taking verbatim the talking points of the Right…) “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” or an electorate that discovers that they’ve been used to craft their own demise…

        The next clip answers some questions about what has been going on over the past 30 years as the muddy water clears about the role of the international, globalization movement and who that benefits and who it doesn’t benefit…

    3. Tom Lewis, your beliefs are the complete opposite of our Founding Fathers and especially Thomas Jefferson who stated that everyone should pay taxes for the education of our country’s children because it would be the only way we would remain free.

  7. It seems absurd to me that we invest educational monies to private enterprises when this same money could be used to strength our present educational system. The tax incentives for voucher-type school should equally be available to all Alabama families who are financially supporting the education of future leaders of Alabama. The Alabama Accountability Act is a very unfair (and probably unconstitutional) piece of legislation that must have been passed when many legislators were sleeping!

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