Archived Story

Accountability Act offers a choice

Published 11:00pm Friday, March 8, 2013

As a parent, I know that we all want the best for our children, especially when it comes to their education. But what happens when you are not able to deliver on this commitment?

This is the sad plight faced by many families across Alabama. Hardworking moms and dads recognize that their children deserve a better education, but oftentimes lack the means to attain it. And, the many families in households who are already having trouble making ends meet often can not make room in their tight budgets to pay for private education, nor can they afford the cost of homes in higher-performing districts.

These are the problems our Legislature were looking to fix when they passed HB 84 – The Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

By passing this measure, children trapped in failing schools now have an opportunity to attend a better school of their choice through income tax credits or a tax credit scholarship program.

The individual income tax credit will be available to parents of students in failing schools to offset a portion of the cost of enrolling their student in either a private school, or a public school outside of the parents’ residential school district. This provision also provides these parents with the option to enroll their child in a better public school within the student’s own school district.

The second tax credit program serves as a scholarship for students who would otherwise attend a failing school to enroll in a qualifying private school, or a public school outside of the student’s resident school district. This program will be funded from donations made by individuals or corporations that pay Alabama taxes. To qualify, families must earn less than 150 percent of the median income in Alabama. Moreover, a percentage of the scholarships will be designated specifically for students from low-income families.

By setting a portion of the tax credit scholarship funding aside for students from low-income families, our Legislature has set a strong precedent. For the first time, those Alabama parents that once felt helpless have now been empowered with the freedom of choice.

In addition to providing parents with more school choice options, HB 84 allows local school systems to apply for flexibility from certain state laws and rules, allowing school leaders to manage and use resources in ways that best serve their students needs. Simply put, our Legislature has alleviated some of the bureaucratic barriers to help make our local school systems run more efficiently.

Passing this bill confirms that Alabama leaders believe it’s critical all children should have access to a quality school. Making this a priority is an investment in the future of our state and in ensuring all students are trained and prepared for success. Ultimately, this legislation was about prioritizing the interests of the children of our great state.

For this, I applaud Governor Bentley, and the bold leaders in the Legislature that advocated for this transformative legislation. StudentsFirst will continue to stand with you in the fight to improve education in Alabama.

As a mother of three, I knew that a quality education would allow my children to reach their God-given potential, and prepare them for a successful journey in college and the workforce. My husband and I realized that we had to make the best possible education choice for each child every year. Through HB 84, I am convinced that every other child in Alabama will now have this same opportunity.

Charlotte Meadows is Alabama Outreach Director for StudentsFirst, a national organization working to transform public education. A mother of three, she lives in Montgomery, where she served on the county school board for six years. Email: cmeadows@studentsfirst.org.

 

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