Amid screaming, Ala. Legislature passes controversial school fle - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

  • DO YOU THINK THE STATE SHOULD PROVIDE TAX CREDITS TO STUDENTS ZONED FOR FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO HELP THEM PAY FOR PRIVATE SCHOOL TUITION?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    YES
    32%
    874 votes
    NO
    63%
    1674 votes
    NOT SURE
    5%
    130 votes
  • Amid screaming, Ala. legislature passes expanded school flexibility bill

Amid screaming, Ala. Legislature passes controversial school flex bill

Posted: Updated:
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The Republican supermajority within the Alabama Legislature forced through a controversial school flexibility bill Thursday night that includes tax credits for parents who desire to move their children from failing public schools into private schools.

The vote within the Alabama Senate, amid a shouting match that nearly brought the chamber to chaos, was 22-11. The House earlier in the afternoon passed the revised bill in a 51-26 vote.

The measure now goes to Governor Robert Bentley who says he will sign the bill into law.

"This is historic education reform that will benefit students and families across the state," Governor Bentley said.  "Local school systems will have the flexibility to make more decisions on behalf of their students.  Families will have new options if their children are stuck in failing schools.  All children, regardless of their family's income or where they live, will have the opportunity to receive a quality education." [Read Governor's Full Statement]

Others weren't so optimistic about the soon-to-be new law after Republicans late Thursday caught many Democrat lawmakers off-guard, angering them with what they called a 'bait and switch'.

The bill even lost the support of Alabama School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice. 

[DOCUMENT: Read the School Flex Bill]

"NONE of the added language has been vetted with us at the State Department/State Board of Education," Dr. Bice wrote. "There are SIGNIFICANT negative financial implications for all of Alabama's public schools. THIS IS NO LONGER THE BILL I GAVE MY SUPPORT TO!"

Earlier in the day, it appeared Republicans and Democrats were working on a bill they could both mostly agree upon. A WSFA 12 News report filed as late as 3 p.m. showed Democrats and Republicans passing SB 84 on a 26-7 vote. "It's the best of both worlds..." Sen Quinton Ross [D-Montgomery] said at the time.

But the situation deteriorated for the minority party when Republicans took the school flexibility bill and added tax credits for some parents who may want to move their children to private schools. The bill went from 9 pages to 25 as it added the tax credits language and flexibility on tenure, though only in failing school districts.

Sen. Ross took to the Senate floor demanding answers.

"The Alabama Senate is run by the Alabama House of Representatives..." Ross said, adding that the bill is now a charter schools bill which he, and many other Democrats, do not support.

A Democratic source said, "We had a deal and they [Republicans] switched it."

A GOP source said, "AEA [The Alabama Education Association] overplayed its hand on the tenure protection. These are the changes we wanted."

Anger was clearly visible on the faces of many Democrats as Senator Del Marsh [R-Anniston] explained the changes. 

Senator Craig Ford [D-Gadsden] called the move "a bait and switch" and said, "There is no way that happened in the thirty minutes..." speaking of the changes to the bill almost immediately after it came out of a conference committee. "This bill has been sitting in someone's desk draw for months," Ford claimed. "It was their strategy all along..."

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow

1414 North Memorial Parkway
Huntsville, AL 35801
256-533-4848

WAFF Is a Proud Member
of the Raycom Family of Stations


FCC Public File
EEO Report
Closed Captioning

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WAFF. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.