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More Money for Private School Students Suggested

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Under revisions to the Alabama Accountability Act, some private school students will be given a bigger share of the State’s education money.

Under current law, the tax credit is equal to the lesser of (1) 80 percent of the average State cost of educating a public K-12 student in Alabama or (2) the actual cost of sending the child to another school. Recent figures show that the State spent around $4,500 per student for 2010-2011. Under the current cap approximately $3,500 in State dollars would be available to the average transfer student.

Recently, it has been suggested by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, (R-Anniston) the bills Senate sponsor, that tuition for private school students under the AAA be raised to $5,000 for grade school, $7,000 for middle school and $9,000 for high school.

At a recent public hearing on the AAA, Baldwin county educator Hope Zeanah asked why the State sends only $5,454 to educate her two grandchildren in their school system, but would spend up $10,000 to send students to private schools under Marsh’s plan?

(See testimony by Zeanah here.)< It has been suggested that the current revisions to the AAA are little more than a lifeline to rescue the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund (AOSF) at which former Gov. Bob Riley serves as figure head.

AOSF is wholly owned by the Florida-based Step Up For Students (SUFS).

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Riley’s parent company allows a maximum scholarship of $5,272 per student.

Education advocate, Larry Lee recently supplied lawmakers with a list of tuitions for private schools that are participating in the AAA.< (See list of private schools here.)

Selma’s Meadowview Christian charges $3,050 for its high school students. In contrast, Pastor Gary Crum’s Ellwood Christian Academy, also in Selma, charges $7,000. According to a report by The Montgomery Advertiser, Crum has 180, students who receive scholarships from Riley’s AOSF.

If those facts are accurate, Riley’s SGO is contributing over one million dollars to students attending Ellwood Christian Academy.

While the program has been touted as wildly successful by its advocates, there is no empirical data to support those claims.

As critics have noted, education by antidote, like legislation, is a bad idea.

Education advocate Larry Lee contributed to this report.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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