Judge grants injunction blocking Alabama Accountability Act - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Judge grants injunction blocking Alabama Accountability Act

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Circuit Judge Charles Price issued an injection that stops Governor Robert Bentley from signing the bill. Circuit Judge Charles Price issued an injection that stops Governor Robert Bentley from signing the bill.
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) -

A Montgomery judge blocked Alabama's controversial school flexibility bill, HB 84, from becoming a law for now.

The bill, also known as the Alabama Accountability Act, would let parents move their children out of schools designated failing, and give them a tax credit to help them if they move into a private school.

Opponents of the legislation accuse the Republican supermajority in the state legislature of meeting privately to alter the legislation and pass it.

Circuit Judge Charles Price sided with them and issued an injection that stops Governor Robert Bentley from signing the bill.

The judge heard arguments Tuesday on the matter, and more motions were filed overnight. He ultimately made this decision around 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Price told the court because the bill's original purpose changed, it violated the state constitution.

Last week, a committee made up of four Republicans and two Democrats met to hammer out an agreement on school calendar legislation.

However, an hour later, a bill with an additional 20 pages and sweeping reforms in education came out of the meeting.

Democrats argued it was a bait and switch and AEA attorney James Anderson told the court he believed Alabama's open record law was violated. He told reporters a lot more after Wednesday's ruling.

"You can't have the majority of a committee going in, taking a bill that's nine pages long, go into a committee and coming back with a 27 page bill that's a totally different bill. That's why if you ask if we've done anything. We've said, 'Let's do thing out in the open and do things by the rules,'" said Anderson.

The AEA's fight is not over yet. Another hearing on the issue is set for March 15.

Many educators in public schools feel slighted by this bill because they believe just what the judge said about the original intent of it changed.

To begin with, there were only nine pages giving schools more flexibility over things like their schedules, but then it came out 27 pages last Thursday with a whole new part, which includes giving families with students in failing schools a $3500 tax credit, which they can apply to private school tuition or they can simply go to another public school.    

District 3 AEA Director Beverly Sims said the bill is just a cover.

"This is a blatant attack on public education," she said.

She said lawmakers are missing the point. They should be directing resources to failing schools, instead of pulling them out.

The money to pay for these tax credits would come from the education trust fund.

"The less money you have in the ETF, the less money each system is going to get to operate," said Sims.

Not to mention, it would fall on the districts to transport students.

If the bill did get signed into law, it would be up to the state board of education to work out the kinks, and some of the biggest questions still cannot be answered.

"The definition of a failing school is really not clear," said Mary Scott Hunter, member of the Board of Education District 8.

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