Ala. House approves changes to school tax credit bill - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Ala. House approves changes to school tax credit bill

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

After a mere 45 or so minutes of debate, the Alabama House of Representatives approved a proposed "fix" to the so-called Alabama Accountability Act, a controversial measure aimed at getting children out of failing schools across the state. Republicans cut-off debate Tuesday evening in a similar fashion when the bill passed two months ago

The House voted 62-40 to pass a measure that clarifies language in the bill stating that no school, public or private, will be forced to enroll any student from a failing school.

"We re-segregating the schools is what we're doing" said Rep. Thomas Jackson, (D – Thomasville).

House Democrats only had several members speak on the bill before the GOP invoked cloture. They did not offer any amendments to the bill. They said the bill is being jammed down their throats as well as those of people across Alabama.

The Alabama Accountability Act provides tax credits to parents of children in failing schools who opt to move them into non-failing private or public schools.

Rep. Jackson asked, "Dual school systems? Separate but not equal? We're backing up in the state of Alabama and we're using taxpayers' money to pay for private education."

Republicans defended the changes saying they provide clarity to schools and systems across the state concerned about overcrowding.

"No public school or private school is forced to take someone if they don't have the ability to do so," Rep. Chad Fincher, (R – Semmes), the Accountability Act's sponsor said.

When asked if there was the possibility that students in rural areas could be trapped in failing schools because there aren't better public options or private schools nearby, Rep. Fincher said that example is far-fetched.

Rep. Fincher said, "We're talking about maybe one student and I hope that doesn't happen.

"I keep going back to the point that there are going to be hundreds, maybe thousands of students that benefit from this because they're going to have options."

Fincher also added that the Act provides smaller private schools struggling with enrollments with a possible influx of public school students in the next few years with tax credits following them.

The House-passed "fix" to the Accountability Act will now go to the Senate for consideration with only a few days left in the Regular Session. The bill could see some major changes as there was a more expansive version of a tweak in the Senate that won't make it down to the Senate before the end of the session. The Senate could substitute its changes that include more clarity in regard to tax credit eligibility, and conference with House members on the differences.

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