By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday (as almost everyone expected) the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the courts do not regulate the rules of the legislature. The Alabama Education Association (AEA) had sued to block Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) from signing the Alabama Accountability Act. Judge Price (D) had ruled in favor of AEA; but the Republican controlled legislature appealed that decision to the Republican controlled Alabama State Supreme Court and the court ruled that Judge Price had acted improperly in granting the AEA their request.
Failing to do anything but slow down the process AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry begged Gov. Bentley not to sign the bill. Secretary Mabry said, said, “Today’s action by the Alabama Supreme Court is disappointing. At this point we hope Gov. Robert Bentley has the understanding and insight to recognize that the voucher bill is fraught with errors and bad policies that will haunt our state if he signs it and it is implemented. We continue to strongly encourage Governor Bentley to veto this anti-public school legislation.”
If the Governor signs the landmark education reform bill Democrats promise to continue to litigate. Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden said in a written statement, “This ruling does not mean an end of the legal challenges. This was just the first issue. But regardless of the legal challenges, Democrats remain committed to repealing this terrible bill, and that will be our first priority if voters elect a Democratic majority to the state legislature in 2014.”
Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said in a written statement “This ruling clearly demonstrates that constitutional principles and the basic separation of powers take precedence over the patently political actions of a liberal lower court judge. While the enemies of education reform will continue to file baseless actions and fight the changes that our public education system desperately needs, today’s unanimous decision is a great victory for students, parents and educators alike. As a result of this decision, students trapped in failing schools will soon get the educational opportunities they deserve, and their parents can make meaningful choices in how and where their children are taught.”
Alabama Lientenant Governor Kay Ivey (R) said in a written statement “I am pleased to see the Alabama Supreme Court has dismissed the case blocking education reform in our state. The Court has upheld separation of powers, a fundamental doctrine of our Republic which is crucial to the successful operation of state government. Unfortunately, I expect this will not be the last attempt to obstruct real and lasting education reform in Alabama.”
Governor Robert Bentley (R), who is expected to sign the bill said when the bill passed that it was “the most significant piece of legislation that’s been passed in this Legislature in years.” Now some sources are claiming that the Governor will only sign the bill after a “thorough legal review.”
According to the Senate Pro Tempore’s Office: The Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 does three things: it allows for flexibility contracts between the State Board of Education and local school districts, it creates tax credits for families with students in a (chronically) failing school to attend a nonpublic school or non-failing public school and it creates tax credits for taxpayers (individuals and businesses) who donate to a nonprofit “scholarship granting organization” that provides scholarships for students to attend a nonpublic school or non-failing public school.
The ability to opt out of your local school would only apply to students who are zoned to the poorest performing 10% of schools in Alabama. Supporters believe that giving more children a chance for a decent education will raise more Alabamians out of chronic intergenerational poverty.
Opponents of the bill worry that public dollars would be flowing to non-public schools and that education employees will lose jobs as more students take the opportunity to flee their failing school.
If Bentley signs the bill, it is certain that AEA and their Democratic Party allies will challenge it in federal court on just about any grounds that they can think of.