Opp board joins groups calling for repeal of Accountability Act

Published 1:00 am Friday, February 22, 2019

The Opp City Board of Education on Thursday became the second in the county to approve a resolution calling for the repeal of the Alabama Accountability Act of 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 to use in participating non-public and public schools.

Related story: Andy BOE calls for repeal of Accountability Act

Donors can count the contribution as a credit against their Alabama income tax liability. Critics claim those tax credits represent tax revenue that could be used to support public schools while supporters claim the scholarships allow families an educational option beyond what is offered in their neighborhood public school.

Andalusia’s board passed a similar resolution on Tuesday.

“Essentially what has happened is that the law has become a tax shelter almost,” Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said. “They are diverting state tax dollars into this organization and it has cost the state of Alabama schools $146.6 million, which amounts to over $240,000 that has been diverted from Opp City Schools.”

Smithart is not a supporter of the Alabama Accountability Act and even personally signed on to a lawsuit to repeal the act in 2013.

“If you look where we are, we don’t have any failing schools and we don’t have any private schools in our area,” Smithart said. “So that is money that is being taken away from us that could be money spent right here in our district.”

Opp City Schools’s resolution will be sent to the legislature, Smithart said.

“We will send a copy to the house and senate, as well as Sen. Jimmy Holley and Rep. Mike Jones,” Smithart said. “Just so they will know that our local district supports the repeal of this act, because of the impact that it is having on our schools locally. It will just let them know that this is a bad act. I’m not saying that there needs to be nothing done for students in failing districts, but this isn’t the right answer.”

Covington County native Larry Lee, who has written extensively about the Alabama Accountability Act and who is campaigning to have it repealed, said earlier this week, the six SGOs have collected $145 million and only awarded $90 million in scholarships.