Taylor: Accountability Act is ‘sound’

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pike County’s state senator says the Accountability Act is “very sound,” despite legal challenges to it.

Alabama’s Accountability Act is currently under fire from two lawsuits challenging the validity of the law — one from the Southern Poverty Law Center, another from the Alabama Education Association.

Sen. Bryan Taylor, who represents Pike County in the Alabama Senate, said the principle behind the Accountability Act is one of common sense. “The concept behind the Accountability Act is very simple and very sound, despite the well-coordinated campaigns by certain political special interests to vilify it,” Taylor said.

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The Alabama Legislature passed the Accountability Act in February 2013. The act allows for the parents of children who attend failing public schools to move their children to either non-failing public schools or private schools. Parents who move their children from failing public schools qualify for a $3,500 tax credit to help offset the cost of the move.

Taylor said the tax credit given to the parents does not take money away from school systems. “A parent whose child is trapped in a persistently failing school can take the tax dollars that followed that child to that school and direct those dollars to a different school, public or private, for the child to attend,” Taylor said. “It’s that simple. If the school systems in my district would accept students transferring from failing schools, they would actually have more money to spend, not less, because the money follows the child.”

Schools are designated as “failing” schools by the State Board of Education if they perform in the bottom 6 percent of schools in Alabama or if schools fail to meet certain benchmarks.

Taylor said that, so far, the Accountability Act has helped the students it was intended to help. The Accountability Act has already helped hundreds of students escape some of the worst schools in this state, without taking so much as a dime from the good schools in our district,” Taylor said. “That’s a fact. The money follows the child, just as it always has.”

While no schools have been labeled as failing in Pike County, Taylor’s district extends into Montgomery and Prattville. Also, schools in both Barbour and Bullock county have been designated as failing.

The numbers of students leaving “failing” schools back Sen. Taylor up. Since the law has been implemented, 719 students transferred to non-failing public schools within their school system, 18 moved to public schools in other school systems, and 52 moved to private schools.

The lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of eight children in counties in central and south Alabama.

The lawsuit alleges that the law denies access to a quality education for these children because the children live too far away from a different school or the school districts will not accept new students. Under the Accountability Act, districts are not required to accept any students who want to transfer in to the district from a “failing” school.

The lawsuit claims that districts will not be likely to accept students from “failing” schools because they do not want to accept students who might bring down the districts academic achievement.

When it comes down to it, Taylor said allowing kids to leave “failing” schools is a moral issue. “Not one child should be forced to go to a failing school,” Taylor said.

“I don’t believe that government should force people to enroll in and pay for a health insurance program they don’t want or need, and, likewise, I don’t believe government should force parents to enroll their children in and pay taxes for schools that persistently fail to provide a basic education year after year.“