Sen. Taylor backing tax credits

Published 11:00 pm Friday, May 17, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley is asking the Legislature to delay private school tax credits for a period of two years, but Sen. Bryan Taylor, who represents Pike County, doesn’t believe that’s a good idea.

“I firmly believe the potential financial impact of this law has been way overblown by political opponents of school choice in order to scare people,” Taylor said.

The Alabama Accountability Act was passed over Democratic opposition on Feb. 28 and would give school systems flexibility in complying with state education laws. It also provides about $3,500 in tax credits to parents who move their children from a failing public school to a private school. Another provision gives tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate to scholarships for children in failing schools whose parents can’t afford tuition to a private school.

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“Your heart breaks a little for the families who’ve been counting on this law to take effect for the next school year,” Taylor said. “I’d hate to think that children currently compelled by government to attend the worst schools in the state might be trapped in those schools for two more years, just because of what side of the street they live on, particularly after they’ve been promised some hope.”

Bentley’s position is that the delay would allow failing schools time to improve and allow the state to pay a huge debt before the new tax break reduces tax collections.

“As for paying back the rainy day account, we are already on track for it to be repaid right on time,” Taylor said. “As a member of the education budget committee, I’m proud we balanced this year’s budget and created a surplus of over $200 million that will go to repayment this year. I believe the budget we crafted for next year is equally responsible and will cover debt repayment and any costs that may be associated with the implementation of school choice and accountability. The two goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive.“

The Legislature can accept Bentley’s proposal or reject it with a majority vote.

State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice is backing the governor’s plan, but House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh agree with Taylor.

“I just don’t see what’s wrong with letting parents of children who are trapped in persistently failing schools have more freedom to choose to put their own tax dollars to work at better schools for their children,” Taylor said.

The final meeting day of the 2013 legislative session is Monday.