Lawmakers approve tax credits for students in failing schools

Alabama Great Seal State Senate

[lin_video src=http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/player.js?aspect_ratio=16×9&auto_next=1&auto_start=0&div_id=videoplayer-1369114557&height=480&page_count=5&pf_id=9624&show_title=1&va_id=4065615&width=640&windows=2 service=syndicaster width=640 height=480 div_id=videoplayer-1369114557 type=script]MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) – State lawmakers finalized big changes in the way parents in Alabama can decide where their children go to school.

In the final hours of the 2013 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, state lawmakers rejected an executive amendment to the Alabama Accountability Act which impacts students who are enrolled in failing schools.

The governor was pushing hard for the legislature to put off the changes, but the legislature said no.

The Senate voted to concur with the House in overriding the governor’s executive amendment to the bill.

That means it will now become law. The governor had requested the act to be delayed by two years.

He issued a response when the House rejected the amendment earlier on Monday.  It contained the following:

 “Some have asked about the timing of the amendment. Here’s my response: When I submitted my budget proposals in February, I included $100 million for repayment to the Education Rainy Day Account. But the education budget approved by the Legislature less than two weeks ago reduced that repayment to only $35 million. The state is constitutionally required to pay its debts. My executive amendment would have allowed us to pay back a greater portion of that debt in the coming year. The Legislature rejecting my amendment is fiscally irresponsible.   “The sooner we repay the rainy day account, the sooner we can invest more resources in improving education. The executive amendment would have also given schools time to improve by using the flexibility provided by the Accountability Act before the tax credits went into effect,” said Governor Robert Bentley.

One of the major concerns expressed by opponents of the bill is that the tax credits which the Accountability Act will offer to families who live in failing school districts will take money away from public schools.

“They’re giving tax credits to people who already have children in private schools who don’t need this help, who didn’t ask for this help. So those tax credits have to come from somewhere, so they will come from the education trust fund budget. We have never adequately funded education in the State of Alabama,” said Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, (D) – Senate Minority Leader.

Supporters of the act are standing firm.

“The local parents and teachers and administrators know what’s best for their local communities and  what, that’s what this legislation that has become law does,” said Rep. Paul Demarco, (R) Homewood.

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