Alabama Accountability Act

House Speaker Mike Hubbard is urging the Alabama Senate to approve an austere budget before addressing any short- or long-term revenue bills.

Hubbard said Thursday taking action too quickly could have "unintended consequences."

The House passed the state's general fund budget with $200 million in cuts earlier this month.

Gov. Robert Bentley sought $541 million in new taxes this year and has threatened to veto any budget that includes cuts to the state's $1.88 billion budget.

Committee members throughout the Alabama Legislature have a busy day ahead of them.

The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing this morning on a bill aiming to repeal the Common Core curriculum standards.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee will also consider changes to the Alabama Accountability Act, a state program that provides scholarships to help some families pay for private school.

Yesterday was a busy day in the Alabama Senate. Two bills passed the Senate floor and are on their way to be heard in the House of Representatives.

The first is a bill that looks to change how Alabama recruits businesses and industry. The Alabama Jobs Act would create a pay-as-you-go model for incentives like tax breaks that the state uses to recruit companies.

Under the old model, the state would provide millions of dollars of funding up-front. This bill will allow Alabama to peg those incentives to the companies' performance.

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The Alabama Supreme Court has upheld a state program that gives tax credits to help families pay for private school.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the law does not violate restrictions on giving funds to private, religious schools because the money goes to parents.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says in a news release this afternoon “The Supreme Court’s ruling makes it crystal clear that Alabama parents have the right to school choice in seeking the best education for their children.”

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The Alabama Supreme Court has heard arguments on the constitutionality of a law that gives low-income families tax credits to pay for private school.

A lawyer representing individuals challenging the Alabama Accountability Act said Wednesday that it does an end run on Alabama's prohibition of using education funds to support private religious schools.

However, a lawyer representing families using the credits said it supports parents seeking education opportunities for their children, not private schools.

The Birmingham News File

The Alabama Supreme Court has heard arguments on the constitutionality of a law that gives low-income families tax credits to pay for private school.

   A lawyer representing individuals challenging the Alabama Accountability Act said Wednesday that it does an end run on Alabama's prohibition of using education funds to support private religious schools.

   However, a lawyer representing families using the credits said it supports parents seeking education opportunities for their children, not private schools.

The Birmingham News file

The Alabama Supreme Court will hear arguments Dec. 3 on the state government's appeal of a judge's ruling striking down the Alabama Accountability Act.

The case is third on the court's docket for a hearing that starts at 9 a.m. in Montgomery.

The Accountability Act provides state tax credits for parents to move children from public schools rated as failing to private schools. It also provides tax credits for individuals and businesses that contribute to scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools rather than public schools.

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An organization headed by former Gov. Bob Riley has awarded nearly 1,500 scholarships for students to attend private schools rather than failing public schools.

The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund released enrollment figures Monday, as well as an audit report saying none of its board members, including Riley, received any money.

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State tax officials say some parents wrongly claimed tax credits under the new Alabama Accountability Act and are being asked to return it.

State Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Deputy Commissioner Curtis Stewart say the department's review is ongoing and it's too early to say how many will be asked to return their refunds or pay additional taxes.

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Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne is pushing for changes to education in Alabama that he says will make the system work better.  He says in speaking with school superintendents in the Mobile area, one thing he’s hearing a lot is that the federal government is at times making the jobs of educators' lives harder.

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A report by the Alabama Revenue Department shows scholarship granting organizations raised nearly $24.8 million in tax-deductible donations through the Alabama Accountability Act, but granted only nine scholarships in their first semester.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center is taking its legal challenge of the Alabama Accountability Act to a federal appeals court.

The Montgomery-based group has asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a federal judge's decision rejecting the law center's challenge of the state law.

An Alabama judge will delay enforcing his decision outlawing tax credits for private school students in Alabama.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese issued a hand-written order Monday agreeing to delay implementation of his ruling against the Republican-based Alabama Accountability Act.

The judge agreed with the state to block his order, meaning the tax credit program can go ahead while appeals courts consider the issue.

The law allows state tax credits for parents who move their children from failing public schools to private schools.

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A Montgomery judge has struck down Alabama's tax credits for parents who move their children from failing public schools to private schools.

Circuit Judge Gene Reese ruled Wednesday that the Alabama Accountability Act is unconstitutional. He said it violates the state Constitution's requirement for the Legislature to have only one subject in a bill.

The Legislature passed the law in 2013. It was challenged in court by members of the state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association.

Alabama Education Association

The state teachers' organization is fighting private school tax credits in court and the architect of the tax credits at the ballot box.

The Alabama Education Association's political action committee filed a campaign finance report showing the largest donation it gave in March was $50,000 to Democratic state Senate candidate Taylor Stewart of Anniston. Stewart is opposing Republican Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston, who was the chief architect of the Alabama Accountability Act.

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Former Gov. Bob Riley says he's serving as the unpaid chairman of a scholarship organization because he believes in a new Alabama law that provides scholarships to families that move their children from failing public schools.

Riley started the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund with Tampa businessman John Kirtley, who started a similar program in Florida.

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Nearly 600 Alabama businesses and individuals are getting state tax credits by contributing to private school scholarship programs.

The tax credits were included in the Alabama Accountability Act that the Legislature passed in February. State Revenue Department spokeswoman Carla Snellgrove says that 582 donors have given $19.5 million to organizations set up under the new law to provide scholarships to students who move from failing public schools to participating private schools.

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The Alabama Supreme Court has changed some of the wording its recent ruling tossing out a lawsuit against the Alabama Accountability Act, but it didn't change the result.

On Sept. 20, the state's highest court blocked a lawsuit that members of the Alabama Education Association filed against four legislators to challenge the new law. Even though the legislators won, they asked the court to reconsider part of the ruling that said the Accountability Act appropriated public funds.

Alabama's attorney general is telling a federal judge that blocking the new Alabama Accountability Act won't help students in failing public schools.

Attorney General Luther Strange is trying to get U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of eight students in failing schools.

The suit challenges the law on equal protection grounds, saying the law's transfer provisions aren't open to the students because there aren't any non-failing public schools or private schools nearby that will accept transfers.

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State attorneys are asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center seeking to block a new state law allowing students to transfer from failing schools.

The state attorney general's staff filed papers saying the plaintiffs lacked legal standing and failed to state a valid equal protection claim. In an order Monday, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins set a schedule for each side to file briefs, with the last brief due on Oct. 21.

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An Alabama Democrat says the Accountability Act has failed and is asking lawmakers to divert funding intended for tax credits to another educational program.

   House Minority Leader Craig Ford, of Gadsden, said Thursday that he'd like to see the state reallocate $40 million meant for tax credits under the legislation used instead to expand the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative.

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State lawmakers and education officials have filed a state lawsuit to have the Alabama Accountability Act ruled unconstitutional.

   The Montgomery Advertiser reported Wednesday (http://on.mgmadv.com/15yhreh) that the suit was filed on behalf of Democratic state Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery, Lowndes County schools Superintendent Daniel Boyd and Alabama Education Association president Anita Gibson.

The Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama's public schools aren't seeing an exodus of students taking advantage of private school tax credits.

State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice told the state school board Thursday that preliminary survey data shows 51 students have used the new Alabama Accountability Act to transfer from a failing public school to a private school.

He told AL.com that not all school systems have responded to a department survey, but he doesn't expect the figure to increase much because the state's largest systems have responded.

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Gov. Robert Bentley says the Alabama Accountability Act is designed to help students in all public schools.

The governor spoke out Monday after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal court suit seeking to block the law. The suit says some impoverished students can't access part of the law providing tax credits for families that move their children from failing public schools to private schools.

Bentley says another portion of the law gives those failing schools the flexibility to make changes and improve.

The only proposed rule for Alabama's new private school tax credits that's raising any concern is one saying the credits don't apply for children already in private school.

Alabama's Revenue Department planned a full day Thursday for a public hearing about its proposed rules for implementing the new Alabama Accountability Act. Few people showed up.

The new law provides state tax credits for parents who transfer their children from a failing public school to a private school.

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So far, 36 private schools have signed up to participate in Alabama's new private school tax credit program with less than two weeks to go before most schools start classes.

The state Revenue Department says the 36 schools range from Pope John Paul II Catholic High School in Huntsville to McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile.

Alabama's new Accountability Act provides state tax credits to parents who move their children from failing public schools to participating private schools.

kootation.com

Alabama's most specialized public schools are now labeled as failing because of a new state law that's supposed to make schools more accountable.

All four of the state's schools that teach only special needs students are classified as failing under the Alabama Accountability Act, which became law this year.

The schools are in Cullman, Mobile, Montgomery and Shelby County. They serve students with a wide range of emotional and mental problems and physical disabilities.

elmoreco.com

School officials in several higher performing Alabama districts say they doubt they will take many students looking to transfer from schools that have been listed as failing by state officials.

   Elmore County Schools Superintendent Jeff Langham says his fast-growing system outside Montgomery will not be taking new students from surrounding counties at this time.

   Langham says he has not had formal discussions with school board members about the issue. But he says the board has a policy in place which requires all students to be residents of Elmore County.

Alabama's Department of Revenue says the state's new private school tax credits don't apply to students who are already in private schools, even though they are zoned for a failing public school.

   The department has been developing regulations to implement the Alabama Accountability Act, which the governor signed into law in March. State Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee said Tuesday the law is clear that the tax credits are to offset the cost of transferring students out of failing public schools, and it starts with the semester beginning in August.

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Seventy-eight Alabama schools from both urban and rural areas are on the state's list of schools that are failing under a new law.

   The list released Tuesday includes many schools from the state's Black Belt region and city or county systems around Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.

   Parents who want to remove their children from the schools and send them to better ones can receive tax credits under the Alabama Accountability Act, passed by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature this year.

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