Andy BOE calls for repeal of Accountability Act

Published 1:42 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2013 measure diverted tax dollars from public schools

The Andalusia City School System on Tuesday approved a resolution urging the legislature to repeal the Alabama Accountability Act passed in 2013.

The Alabama Accountability Act, originally passed by lawmakers in 2013, allows taxpayers to donate to scholarship granting organizations, known as SGOs, who then distribute scholarships to low-income students in Kindergarten through 12th grade from districts which have “failing schools” to use in participating non-public schools.

Donors can count the contribution as a credit against their Alabama income tax liability, which critics say has hurt the state’s Education Trust Fund, which funds public schools.

Superintendent Ted Watson recommended adoption of the resolution, and said he estimates the local school system has lost $324,927 in state funds since the 2013 passage of the Act.

The Act was billed as a way to help students escape “failing schools.”

“Since there aren’t any failing schools in Covington County, and there are no private schools in Covington County, not a single child has benefitted from this in Covington County,” Watson said.

Coivngton County native Larry Lee, who has written extensively about the Alabama Accountability Act and who is campaigning to have it repealed, attended the board meeting.

“I call this the Non-Accountability Act, because there is a lot of stuff you can’t figure out,” he  said.

Lee said former Gov. Bob Riley was the first person to form a Scholarship Granting Organization after the Act was approved. There are now a half-dozen such organizations.

“So far, the SGOs have collected $145 million and only awarded $90 million,” Lee said. “My question is where is the other $55 million? There are a whole bunch of things we simply can’t answer.”

And every dollar given to an SGO is being diverted from the Education Trust Fund, he said.

As of Monday, 13 local school boards had passed resolutions calling for the repeal of the legislation, including those in Baldwin, Bibb, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Marion, Mobile, Montgomery, Randolph, and Tallapoosa, and Leeds, Russellville and Winfield.

Those 13 systems have 24 percent of all public school students in Alabama.

The legislation was introduced into the legislative process as a “Teacher Flexibility Act,” and in a conference committee it evolved as the tax credit scheme. Legislators were given only one hour to review the bill before a vote was called. Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, led a small group that opposed passage in the House of Representatives. Jones refuses to vote for legislation he has not read.