Pros, cons, and questions: Alabama Accountability Act

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Families now have the freedom to request transfers or tuition tax credits if their children are zoned for what lawmakers consider failing schools.

The Alabama Accountability Act is already shaking things up for public schools and parents, although many questions remain.

All public schools-  failing or not – will be affected by this- and stand to lose some funding- according to  Malissa Valdes-Hubert,  APR , Public Information Manager for the Alabama Department of Education.

Here’s what we know – the law spells out additional options for parents.  If their child is zoned for a “failing” public school, they can request a transfer to another public school or a tax credit to help offset the cost of private school tuition.

Here’s what we don’t know: what the final criteria will be for what constitutes a “failing school” or a “priority school” which is the term preferred by the State Department of Education.

The State Superintendent wants to factor in whether schools have shown improvement even if they fall short of set benchmarks in math or reading.

Another variable is how much this will cost the education trust fund. The lowest estimates are still tens of millions of dollars.

“So in essence that would bring down the amount that would be distributed statewide to, to all school systems.” said Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools.

“I do not like the idea that it’s going to affect the public schools funding,” said Akwen Tseng, Homewood resident. “I do have a choice to take my kids to private school right now, but I chose, I still choose to put them in the public schools.”

State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice is expected to present the statewide list of failing or priority schools by June 13th, 2013.

Another question involves whether families who already have students enrolled in private schools will be able to receive the tax credits.

Alabama Department of Revenue spokesperson  Carla Snellgrove said that has not been settled.

“The department is reviewing the legislation, and no final determinations have been made at this point,” said Snellgrove.

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