9 scholarships awarded from $24.8 million raised

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Scholarship-granting organizations raised nearly $24.8 million in tax-deductible donations through the Alabama Accountability Act, but granted only nine scholarships in their first semester of operation, a report by the Alabama Revenue Department shows.

The organizations began raising money last summer to help low-income students and those in failing public schools attend private school. Their first reports to the Revenue Department ran through the end of 2013, which covered the first semester of the new program. Supporters of the program had predicted there would be few scholarships awarded in the first semester because the program began so close to the start of the school, but several of the scholarship-granting organizations reported big increases in the spring semester.

The report said six of the nine students had attended public schools during the previous school year and five of them would have otherwise spent the fall semester at public schools rated as failing.

The biggest fundraiser among the scholarship organizations was former Gov. Bob Riley’s Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund with $17.8 million. It did not report any scholarships for the fall semester, but it awarded 768 for the spring, a spokeswoman said.

The Accountability Act was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in February 2013. Organizations can collect up to $25 million per year in tax-deductible contributions. They must file reports with the Revenue Department for each calendar year.

The state teachers’ organization, the Alabama Education Association, challenged the program in court, and a Montgomery judge ruled the program unconstitutional in May. His ruling is on hold while state officials appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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