Alabama private school tax credits bill

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.

With the start of the year just three weeks away for most districts, only seven private schools have signed up for Alabama's new program of tax credits to help students transfer from failing public schools.

The state Department of Revenue is developing regulations for the tax credits, and it reports that it hasn't seen much interest from private schools.

Robin Mears of the Alabama Christian Education Association says one reason is the lateness of the regulations. Schools start around Aug. 19, and the state's regulations won't be final until after that.

The leaders of two Alabama private school organizations don't expect many new students to apply in the wake of a law providing tax credits for students transferring from failing schools.

   The executive director of the Alabama Christian Education Association, Robin Mears, said he expects less than 100 transfers to his member schools. The executive director of the Alabama Independent School Association, Randy Skipper, said he hasn't heard about any students inquiring about transferring.

The state is releasing the names of schools that are failing under a new Alabama law that lets parents receive tax credits for sending their children to a better school.

   State Superintendent Tommy Bice holds a news conference in Montgomery on Tuesday morning to make the names public.

   The schools are being labeled as failing under the Alabama Accountability Act, passed by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature this year.

State of Alabama

The Republican majority in the Alabama Legislature has handed the Republican governor a major defeat by rejecting his proposal to delay the start of private school tax credits for two years.

The House voted against the governor's proposal 57-10 Monday. Then the Senate agreed 19-15 at the urging of the architect of the tax credits, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. Republicans provided the decisive votes.

fox10tv.com

The Alabama House has rejected Gov. Robert Bentley's proposal to delay private school tax credits for two years.

The House voted 57-10 Monday to reject the governor's proposal. Now the proposal goes to the Senate on the last meeting day of the legislative session.

dyn.politico.com

Gov. Robert Bentley is spending the weekend trying to round up legislative support for his proposal to delay Alabama's new private school tax credits for two years.

Bentley spoke Saturday at the Alabama League of Municipalities convention in Montgomery and urged several hundred city officials to contact their legislators before the Legislature's last meeting day on Monday. Bentley said he's also contacting legislators by letter and in person.

blog.al.com

Alabama's Republican governor isn't getting support from key Republicans or Democrats for his proposal to delay private school tax credits for two years.

The Republican architect of the tax credits, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, says a delay isn't needed.

The Senate Democratic Caucus and House Minority Leader Craig Ford say the tax credits should be repealed rather than delayed.

But Bentley is persisting. He sent a letter to legislators Friday and is contacting legislators urging them to support a delay when they wrap up the 2013 legislative session on Monday.

alprotem.com

The architect of Alabama's new private school tax credits intends to block the governor's proposal to delay the tax breaks for two years.

   Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston said families of children trapped in failing schools need the option of school choice now. Marsh said Thursday he intends to block the governor's proposal, either by getting the Legislature to reject it or never bringing it up for a vote.

   The new law provides tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools rather than public schools rated as failing.

The Associated Press

Gov. Robert Bentley wants the Legislature to delay Alabama's private school tax credits for two years.

Bentley told chamber of commerce leaders Wednesday that a delay will give schools time to try to get off the failing list and will help the state repay a $423 million debt before the tax credits begin.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate leader Del Marsh says they will discuss Bentley's proposal with their members.

Teacher lobbyist Henry Mabry says the tax credits were a horrible mistake and they won't be any better in two years.

blog.al.com

The schools Accountability Act, which will give tuition grants for students to transfer from failing schools, may not be in its final form.

At a chamber of commerce breakfast on Monday, Gov. Robert Bentley indicated that he is reviewing the act and is considering sending it back to the Legislature with executive amendments by mid-week.

The governor's staff confirmed that although no specific approach has been finalized, Bentley is considering some possible amendments that would clarify its intent.

Alabama State House
AP

The Alabama Senate has approved legislation saying private schools and non-failing public schools don't have to take students transferring from failing public schools.

The Senate voted 21-12 Thursday for a bill making changes to the Alabama Accountability Act. The bill makes clear that a student transferring from a failing school in one school system to a non-failing school in another system has to provide his own transportation. It also tightens up which schools will be designated failing schools.

The Alabama Legislature is one step away from passing a bill that would make sure private schools and non-failing public schools don't have to take students who want to transfer from failing public schools.

The bill making transfers optional won approval in the House last week and in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill by Republican Rep. Jim Carns of Mountain Brook now goes to the Senate for what could be a final vote.

facebook.com/senatordelmarsh

A sponsor of legislation designed to clarify Alabama's new law on private school tax credits says he won't push it for one week to allow more time for suggested changes.

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the bill by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston. The committee had planned to vote on the bill Wednesday, but Marsh agreed to a request from the Alabama Association of School Boards to wait a week to consider more changes. The senator from Anniston says he's willing to talk to various groups.

blog.al.com

An architect of Alabama's new law on private school tax credits is proposing some modifications to answer questions raised by educators and parents.

The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday on the legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, of Anniston.

The Republican-controlled Legislature voted along party lines Feb. 28 to provide state income tax credits to parents who choose to enroll their children in a private school or non-failing public school rather than send them to the failing school where they are assigned.

twitter.com

Several hundred members of the Alabama Education Association filled the Capitol steps to push for better working conditions and the repeal of new state tax credits for private school students.

The rally Tuesday was one of the biggest by any group during this year's legislative session.

http://governor.alabama.gov / Office of the Governor

  Gov. Robert Bentley told retired educators that he signed a bill providing private school tax credits because of the flexibility it gives public schools to try new ideas to improve learning.

Bentley said he knew he would be facing an upset audience Tuesday when he addressed the Alabama Education Retirees Association in Montgomery, but he did it because of his respect for teachers.

Bentley told the retired educators, "Y'all are mad at me. I understand that."

governor.alabama.gov

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley wasted no time in signing legislation providing tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools instead of failing public schools.

The Alabama Supreme Court decided late Wednesday afternoon to throw out a lower court order that kept the Legislature from sending the bill to the governor for signing. The Legislature delivered the bill Thursday morning and Bentley signed it just before 11 a.m.

apr.org

The Alabama Supreme Court has cleared the way for the governor to sign a bill to provide tax credits to some parents who send their children to private schools.

The Alabama Education Association sued over the legislation, and Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price temporarily blocked the governor from signing the bill.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Wednesday the lawsuit is premature and ordered it dismissed. AEA attorney Bobby Segall said the court indicated the suit should be filed after the governor signs the bill, and that's what AEA intends to do.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

A legislative session that began with a rapid pace five weeks ago has been slowed by hard feelings over the passage of private school tax credits.

Democratic opponents of the tax credits are slowing down action in the House and Senate. House Minority Leader Craig Ford says the slowdown will resume when the Legislature meets Tuesday and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Alabama Education Association

The Alabama Supreme Court has given the Alabama Education Association until Monday to respond to an effort by Republican legislators to get a private school tax credit legislation signed.

AEA got a Montgomery judge to issue a temporary restraining order barring the governor from signing the bill into law. Attorneys for Republican legislative leaders appealed to the Supreme Court and asked the court to lift the judge's order. The Supreme Court on Friday gave AEA's lawyers until Monday to respond.

The Birmingham News file

The Alabama Supreme Court can decide whether the governor gets to sign private school tax credits into law.

Republican legislative leaders want the all-Republican court to lift a temporary restraining order issued by a Democratic judge. The order by Circuit Judge Charles Price of Montgomery keeps the governor from signing the bill into law while the judge considers a lawsuit filed by the Alabama Education Association. AEA contends the Legislature improperly passed the bill to provide tax credits to parents who move their children from failing public schools to private schools.