AG to appeal ruling that overturned Alabama Accountability Act - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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  • Read more: Judge overturns Alabama Accountability Act

AG to appeal ruling that overturned Alabama Accountability Act

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Source: MGN Online Source: MGN Online
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says he is "disappointed" by a Montgomery judge's ruling that strikes down the Alabama Accountability Act, which gives tax credits for parents who move their children from failing public schools to private schools. Strange's office is promising an "immediate appeal".    

Circuit Judge Gene Reese ruled Wednesday that the AAA is unconstitutional, saying it violates the state Constitution's requirement for the Legislature to have only one subject in a bill.   

[DOCUMENT: Judge's ruling strikes down Alabama Accountability Act (.pdf)

Another lawsuit challenging the law on the grounds that it violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution was thrown out by a federal judge in April.

The law was passed during the 2013 legislative session by a Republican supermajority and it was challenged in court by members of the state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A group defending the law, the Institute for Justice, says it will appeal the judge's Wednesday ruling.     

The judge says his ruling will apply prospectively, and it won't affect the tax credits earned for the 2013-2014 school year.

OFFICIALS REACT:

WSFA 12 News reached out to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's office, as well as State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice, but both offices said they were still reviewing the ruling and had no comment.

The Department of Education would say that there have been 52 students who have transfered using tax credits to go to private schools and bases that number on a poll done at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. No poll has been done since.

Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) reacted to the ruling saying, "This ruling to block school choice in Alabama is unfortunate largely because the law has already been successful in giving children more options to receive a quality education. I firmly believe this law will stand upon appeal. I will continue working to ensure Alabama families have more options when it comes to their children's education, not less."

"The Alabama Accountability Act was unconstitutional from the beginning," said House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden). "Now a judge has confirmed it! Today's ruling is a huge victory for Alabama's school children and our educators. It also sends a clear message that the Supermajority in Montgomery cannot simply ignore the law and force through whatever legislation they want.

"We are definitely pleased with Judge Reese's ruling," said Dr. Gregory Graves, the AEA's Associate Executive Secretary. "We feel it is consistent with what we have alleged all along when it relates to the law being unconstitutional."

"We only had a small number of MPS parents this year who opted to use the tax credit to move students to private schools," said Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Allen. "We will continue to follow the results of the court's ruling and any subsequent legal action or legislation." The school system says approximately 30 parents used the tax credit.

DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

Alabama Revenue Department says taxpayers donated $25 million to pay for scholarships through Scholarship Granting Organizations, or SGOs, for children leaving failing schools under the law. So far in 2014 donations to support SGOs stand at $7.85 million.

The law also allows children to transfer and obtain scholarships as long as they transferred after September 15 of the schools year.

The Revenue Dept. says that SGOs are not required to report scholarships awarded in a given year until June of the following year, so the department will not have the official number of transfers for 2013 for another month. The department says its believes more scholarships have been awarded in 2014 that 2013 but will not know that for sure until June of 2015.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved. The Associated Press is contributing.

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