‘Failing schools’ list won’t solve the real problem

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

So now we know. Earlier this week, State Superintendent Tommy Bice released the list of the 78 “failing” schools as defined by the Alabama Accountability Act.

The controversial act, passed earlier this year by the legislature, is supposed to help improve the quality of education in Alabama public schools. It provides a $3,500 tax credit to parents whose children are zoned for a “failing” school, ostensibly allowing the parents some financial flexibility in transferring their children either to more successful public schools or to non-public schools, all of which presumably will provide a better education.

While no Pike County Schools were on the list, local school administrators have not been shy about voicing their concerns over the effectiveness of the new law and the fairness of it. As Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools said, the Accountability Act essentially will take money away from already struggling public schools (via the loss of state tax revenues), compounding the challenges these schools face. Moreover, public schools are under no mandate to accept transferring students and neither are private schools, many of which won’t have the capacity to handle any significant influx of students. So the majority of students in these “failing” schools will be left with little options for seeking alternative educational programs.

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We all agree public education needs to improve, locally and on a statewide level. But the Accountability Act isn’t likely to bring about the radical shift needed to move these struggling, or failing, schools in the right direction. And that’s a shame for our state and for our students.