State Superintendent Tommy Bice Monday night listed nine areas of concern in a bill passed Thursday by the Alabama Legislature that would, among other things, allow families of students in failing schools to claim tax credits to put their children in private schools.
The bill initially allowed school districts to pursue waivers from certain state laws governing education, but was amended in conference committee by Republicans to include the tax credits and a provision that would allow deductions for contributions made to groups providing scholarships to private schools. Bice withdrew his support for the legislation that evening, expressing concern about the financial implications for schools in a short statement.
Bice expanded on those concerns in his Monday statement.
“Based on the income tax credit for individuals and corporations, there is a yet-to-be-determined negative impact on the total potential income to the ETF,” the statement said. ”This will not only affect the K-12 budget but also the budgets of the Department of Postsecondary Education and Institutions of Higher Education.”
Jeremy King, a spokesman for Gov. Robert Bentley, said Monday the office was aware of those concerns, but said he believed the issues could be addressed through rules and policies established by the State Department of Education.
“The governor still plans to sign this legislation,” King said. ”Because it provides a new option for students stuck in a failing school.”
Bice also said he wanted to see the definition of a “failing school” in the bill simplified; give students eligible to transfer the option of a non-failing school in a public school district first, and greater academic criteria for private schools that could benefit from the tax credits.
The superintendent also expressed concerns that the bill could drain the state’s already underfunded school transportation budget and force districts to spend local money to support special education students in private schools.
Bice said in his statement that Alabama public schools were working to prepare students for “college, work and a future of their choosing.”
“The vast majority of our schools are meeting this challenge, and Alabama’s academic outcomes are at their highest level in history,” the statement said. Regretfully, however, meeting that mission has not always been a reality for some students, for a variety of reasons that we must own collectively as a state. We must work collaboratively to ensure those impediments no longer exist.”
– posted by Brian Lyman