By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— State House of Representatives Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) will hold a press conference today on the topic of education in Alabama. Ford, who represents Etowah County, and is a lifelong native of Gadsden, has been an outspoken opponent of the Alabama Accountability Act since its passage last legislative session.
The law provides tax credits for parents whose children attend schools labeled as “failing” to attend a private school of their choice.
Other Democrats from around the state have also spoken out against the policy; Dallas County Representative Darrio Melton, in a recent op-ed published here on APR, said that Republicans passed the law in order to “codify segregation.”
In his own op-ed on the subject, Minority Leader Ford voiced many other shortcomings of the law. As he points out, to date only 51 students have actually transferred out of “failing” schools under the plan, even when, as he says, Republicans have called the legislation “historic” and “life-altering.” Only eight private institutions in the state have even decided to accept these students, despite the 1,500 public schools decreed “failing.”
The law is also currently being challenged in court by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Education Association on various state constitutional grounds. The Department of Justice also stated concerns about the law, especially considering the evident impact transfer opportunities in the law have on the ability of local school districts to implement racial balancing transfers in order to comply with federal desegregation orders still in place. For example, in August the Federal Government ordered Huntsville to ignore transfer quotas in the law because of their impact on racial balancing.
Many of these perceived legislative failures are sure to be addressed in tomorrow’s press conference. However, thankfully, Ford is not slated to speak only on the alleged failures of Republican policy.
The press conference, scheduled for 2:00 at the State House, will also showcase the Minority Leader’s proposal on “a way to improve academic performance in every public school in Alabama.”
Many people around the state have long called for a Democratic proposal to replace the legislation the Party deems failed, so these steps by Rep. Ford, rumored to be a contender for the 2014 gubernatorial run, are a positive step forward for progressives in the state.
Alabama Political Reporter will cover the event and report on the Minority Leader’s comments on the Accountability Act, and his future plans for education in our state.