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Parent Choice Act: what it could mean for families if it passes

Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 5:09 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Private school, public school or home school: there are a lot of choices for educating your child, and a new bill on the table in Montgomery could give families financial support if they don’t choose the public school route.

It’s called the Parent Choice Act.

”This finally gives control to parents for their dollars of education,” said Senator Del Marsh.

About $5,600 that’s how much the state is allocating for each public school student this year. Money, parents of private and homeschool children could receive under a proposed bill by Senator Del Marsh. But not in a cash payment.

The bill would create Education Savings Accounts. They then could apply the money in that account towards board approved tuition, tutoring, fees for standardized tests, afterschool or summer education fees, and therapy such as speech or behavioral.

“‘They say, ‘I’m paying property taxes which goes to fund public school education and I am also paying tuition,’ and it seems unfair to them. And just purely from that level, it is unfair,” Whitesburg Christian Academy Headmaster Jerry Reeder said.

Private Schools like Whitesburg Christian Academy would have to apply to a newly created Parent Choice Board to be a part of the program.

Then parents who send their children there could receive thousands of dollars a year to pay for their tuition.

“We have parents that can write a check, send their kids here. And they can afford it. They can afford to pay the taxes, they can afford to pay tuition, but there’s a lot of parents out there that cant do that,” Reeder said.

The same goes for parents of homeschooled children as well. However, they would only be able to use the funds on a board-approved curriculum. A fact the director of Hope Christian Academy, a church school for the homeschool community says is very concerning.

“The intent is clear that they want to help. I’m afraid that they don’t understand that additional restrictions and any kind of stricture will change the way we educate. I’m more likely to buy curriculum A from an authorized vendor if I can get it for free. So curriculum A is going to succeed. Curriculum B, which may not have been approved may be better for my child,” Gillon said.

Gillon is warning families with money comes more oversight and government control.

The bill also is creating a wave of fear for people in the public school community.

The director of the Alabama Education Association has spoken out passionately against it, saying it “would result in more than $420 million cut from the Education Trust Fund.”

Whitesburg Christian Academy principal and former Madison City Schools superintendent said giving parents the choices in their child’s education is important.

“I do not believe that there will be a mass exodus of students from public schools for many reasons. One, I don’t think everyone wants to leave public school. I think public school is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity. 33 years of my life was in a public school,” Robby Parker said.

If it passes, it will be three years before it’s fully in place. However Senator Del Marsh tells us, the first year it’s passed, a parent with a child enrolled in public school would be able to transfer their child to a participating private school.

The second-year it is in effect, parents of private school or homeschool children who are at the 200% percent poverty line would be able to apply for the funding to put towards tuition. And finally, in the third year, any private or homeschool parent regardless of income could apply for the ESA.

You can read the full bill here.

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