School districts respond to Accountability Act ruling

Huntsville Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski.
Huntsville Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski.

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Huntsville City Schools responded to Wednesday's ruling on the Alabama Accountability Act.

A Montgomery judge struck down the state's tax credits for parents who move their children from failing public schools to private schools.

Judge Gene Reese ruled that the Alabama Accountability Act is unconstitutional and violates the state Constitution's requirement for the Legislature to have only one subject in a bill.

The school district released the following statement after the ruling:

"This law began as the Alabama Flexibility Act with the purpose of giving school districts more ability to use innovative methods in the classroom. The legislation was changed, without any prior notification, to the Alabama Accountability Act, which added 20 additional pages to the existing document. Within a few short hours, the new bill was voted on and approved, without any input from local or state education experts. The legislation created a flawed standard to define a 'failing school' by looking at a combination of data that is six to seven years old. When the list was first released last year, three of our most improved schools were included. State Superintendent, Dr. Tommy Bice, noted that he could not remove any such school from the list, because the new law would make it 'illegal' to do so. Huntsville ranked 6th out of 134 school systems in the state in terms of the percentage increase in the graduation rate for the 2013 reporting period. Huntsville City Schools, like many other districts, still maintains that the Alabama Accountability Act does not give parents a true representation of how their school is performing, nor does it serve in the best educational needs of the students."

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said he plans to appeal the ruling.

Another area of impact for educators and parents is the school calendar. The judge's ruling also took out Alabama school districts' ability to set their own calendars. If upheld on appeal, districts will no longer have the ability to set start times or choose what holidays to take off.

Districts could file a waiver with the state superintendent to receive permission to set their own days, but he does not have to grant it.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler said the Accountability Act also deals with school district budgets and state money.

"We're starting to create our budget at this time, and we've already been given the budget numbers from the state," said Dr. Fowler. "The only thing that could happen with that is the budget numbers could up. In my opinion, the ruling on this will not cause them to go down in any form or fashion."

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