By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Montgomery, AL – Democrats in the Alabama legislature today said that Republicans had violated their 2010 campaign promises to make government open and honest last week when they used bait-and-switch tactics to push the school “Accountability Act” through the legislature. Democrats also pledged that if the people elect a Democratic majority to the legislature in 2014, their first order of business would be to repeal the “Accountability Act.”
“It’s not the Democrats in the Alabama legislature who are getting hurt. We’re not the ones they are running over; we’re not the victims here. It’s the people of Alabama, and specifically our children who are paying the price,” said House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden.
Continued Rep. Ford, “We are here today to pledge to the people of Alabama that if you elect a Democratic majority to the legislature in 2014, our first priority will be to repeal this bill.”
“It’s not just that they wrote this bill in secret and then abused their power to get it passed,” added Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans, D-Birmingham. “This bill is nothing less than an abomination. It will kill some schools, and be a detriment to all of them.”
Democrats said the so-called “Accountability Act” would divert hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools and open the door to private schools to recruit athletes and high-performing students with scholarships.
“I asked a person back home who is big in local private schools what he thought about the bill and he told me they love,” said Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay.
“He said that this bill will let the private schools recruit the best athletes and the best students. It’s not the kids in the rural areas who will get these scholarships. It’s gonna be the kids who can play football, basketball, and baseball getting these scholarships, and maybe some of the kids with high SAT scores, but not the kids who are struggling in school or the students making B’s, C’s, D’s, or F’s.”
Democrats said the school Accountability Act would divert as much as $347 million away from Alabama’s schools and redirect that money to private schools, while many families with children in failing schools would not be able to afford a private school even with the tax credit and scholarship program.
“This tax credit gives families around $3,500. But the average cost per year of sending your son or daughter to private school in Alabama is around $10,000. So how are these families supposed to afford that?” asked Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield.
Democrats said that all schools, including school systems that are performing at or above academic standards, will lose funding under this bill due to the costs of the tax credits and scholarship program which will divert funding from public schools to private schools.
“Everybody will lose money on this one,” said Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia. “The schools in Mountain Brook will lose money just like the schools in Montgomery will.”
Democrats also noted that school funding is tied to the number of students enrolled in a school. If a school losses students, it will lose even more funding beyond what it will lose from cuts to the Education Trust Fund to pay for the tax credit and scholarship program.
“It’s simple,” said Rep. Coleman-Evans. “The fewer students there are in a school the less money that school gets. And that means laying-off teachers and support personnel, it means cutting funding for or entirely eliminating extracurricular activities like athletics, and it means no money for things like computers, textbooks, field trips, and other classroom resources and learning tools.”
Democrats also slammed Republicans for violating campaign promises to make government more ethical and transparent.
“The Republicans campaigned in 2010 on a platform of cleaning up Montgomery. But in less than three years, they have fully embraced a culture of corruption that includes back-room deals, abusing power, and drafting bills in secret,” said Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery.
Added Rep. Thomas Jackson, “There may not be any real accountability in this so-called school ‘Accountability Act,’ but you can rest assured that Democrats are going to hold Republicans accountable. And I believe the voters will, too!”