Accountability Act receives mixed reviews

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The proposed changes to the Alabama Accountability Act receive mixed receptions from local educators.

During a senate committee hearing last week, Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston suggested a $10 million raise to the cap of the total tax credit for AAA scholarship program, which is currently $25 million per year.

Current eligible students are from families with an annual income of up to about $64,000, approximately 150 percent of the state’s median household income.

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The new bill establishes the limit at twice the federal poverty level, which is $48,500 for a family of four.

Marsh’s plan changes the deadline of awarding scholarships to students from failing public schools from Sept. 15 to May 15 each year. It also changes the definition of a failing public school.

Mark Bazzell, Pike County Schools superintendent, said he was against the act, although he sympathized with the parents.

“I am opposed to all of it, period,” Bazzell said. “I am opposed to the (Accountability Act) on principal, no matter what the changes… They have not proposed any revisions that would make me change my mind.”

According to Bazzell, the act and the financial aspect were not the solution to the problem. To change the culture of low expectations for students required hard work, he said.

Pike Liberal Arts Headmaster Becky Baggett said she supports the Accountability Act.

“The act is a good way for students to afford to go to the school of their choice,” she said. “(Private schools) offer a small setting and individual attention, so that students can go on to succeed and be able to do great things in their lives.”

Pike Liberal Arts School currently does not have any students receiving scholarships from the act, according to Baggett. However, she said she recognized the benefits for students.

“I have seen students in many different schools who were offered an opportunity they would not normally have otherwise,” she said.

“The benefits that a child gets would be much more valuable than the tax credit thing… It’s such a small percentage taking from public school, but you would see a big difference in the students from failing schools realizing their potentials.”

Baggett also said the AAA enables parents to make sure their child gets the best education possible.

Troy City Schools Superintendent Lee Hicks said he reserved his comments until the bill is amended and passed.

“We are going to work with whatever the state legislators decide,” he said. “The act has been with us for the past year, and there are changes being proposed, but I want to wait and see the official bill to be able to make an educated assessment.”

There is no failing school within Troy City Schools, according to Hicks.

“There is not much happening in our system regarding the Accountability Act,” he said. “Our job as school superintendents is to make sure the money going toward private schools doesn’t affect our school systems.

“However, anytime money for education funding goes toward private institutions, it impacts the quality of education for all students in the state of Alabama.”