By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Just when it looked like time was running out on a Billion Dollar Bob Barack-Style Bailout, it is back and on today’s House Special Order Calendar.
SB71, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), is said to change some fundamental aspects of the State’s Accountability Act, which was sold as a way to help children escape failing public schools. The primary beneficiary of the revised law would appear to be the Florida-owned SGO led by former Governor Bob Riley (Riley’s SGO is a whole subsidiary of Florida-based Step Up for Students, according to its 990s).
SB71 would not only expand the cap of donations under the AAA from $25 million to $30 million, but would also allow for retroactive tax credits and give SGO’s the ability to bring forward unused money from previous years.
Most importantly, it would save Riley’s Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund (AOSF) from embarrassment.
There are currently nine SGOs, but there is only one that appears to be getting special consideration, or, is in need of the amended legislation: Riley’s Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund.
According to an internal memo from Riley’s SGO, AOSF needed approximately $15 million by May 1, 2015, just to renew its current scholarship obligation. That deadline has passed, but Riley still needs the legislation to avoid a massive default on promised scholarships. Under the provisions of the current law, Riley’s SGO could default on renewals and would not be able to enroll new students.
AOSF’s own accounting shows that the group needs $15,110,300 just to renew students from the 2014-2015 school year.
Under the current Education Trust Fund Budget, passed by the House and Senate, many school children will be without textbooks, teachers will have to make-do without classroom materials, even toilet paper will be in short supply. But, the parent company of former Gov. Bob Riley’s SGO is sitting on piles of taxpayer dollars.
Still, Riley does not have what he wants. But, it seems at long last, Speaker Mike Hubbard plans on delivering it to him.
An internet memo from Riley’s SGO indicates that it is on the verge of collapse, and could be the first SGO to fail under the Republican-created Alabama Accountability Act.
While other SGOs have faired well, Riley’s has sunk under the weight of too many scholarships and not enough donors.
According to Riley’s parent company, Step Up For Students, Riley raised 85 percent of all his SGO’s donations from only three contributors.
Under the Accountability Act, SGOs are not accountable to disclose donors.