MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WALA) - A heated debate ensued Thursday, May 9 as the Alabama House and Senate passed some changes to the controversial School Accountability Act.
It was signed into law in February but Thursday the legislature approved a substitute. The Accountability Act in part gives tax credits for parents who transfer their child to private, non-failing public and parochial schools from a failing school.
Since the beginning, the Accountability Act has been a sore spot for Democrats. They said they are bothered by what it means and how it was passed.
Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures made it clear that she still doesn't like it, and her party wants to be heard.
Figures got fired up when the rules committee shut off debate.
"This was the straw that broke the camel's back," said Figures.
One if the changes passed Thursday ups the level of a tax credit corporations can donate to scholarship granting organizations from 50 percent to 100 percent of the donation, as long as the credit does not exceed 50 percent of the taxpayer's (corporation's) liability.
The state caps these credits at $25 million combined.
Also, when a student from a failing school system receives a tax credit, that tax credit is 80 percent of the state allotment of education dollars that a local system receives. The bill specifies that the remaining 20 percent of those dollars stay with the school district that the students leaves from.
That means that every time a student leaves a failing public school and attends a private school that local district the next year will receive approximately $1,400.
"My hope is that those extra funds can be put to good use to improve the quality of education for that failing school," said Chad Fincher, one of the bill's House sponsors.
It also now allows private or parochial schools to decide whether or not to take the transfers from a failing school.
"Now a piece of legislation has been passed which will more than likely go on and be signed into law again, which I call this the ‘fixability bill' because of the first bad bill they passed. And without anybody knowing about it before that and I get really upset about that because it's the children who are going to pay," said Figures.
Figures said the bill will take millions out of the education trust fund and leave children stuck in failing schools with less funding.
Fincher said the bill is for the good of education and has no hidden agenda.
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