Connect with us

News

House Passes Accountability Act Reforms

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, May 28, the Alabama House of Representatives passed SB71 which reforms the controversial Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.  The bill was sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and was carried in the House by Representative Ken Johnson (R-Moulton).

The Alabama Accountability Act allows taxpayers to divert a portion of their income taxes from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to privately managed non-profit Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) so the SGOs can use that money to award scholarships to students trapped in Alabama’s poorest performing schools. The scholarships allow the student to attend either another public school or a private school that is taking AAA scholarship students.

Representative Johnson said that the bill drops the annual income to qualify down to 185 percent of the Federal poverty level…..the same as for reduced lunch.

Rep. Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said, “I want to thank you for bringing more accountability to the Accountability act.”

Rep. Johnson added two amendments to the bill on the floor that were recommended by the House Ways & Means Education Committee. One excludes special education from being responsible for a school being on the failing to perform list.  Johns said that it is not fair to hold them to the same standards. This wording was in an earlier version of the bill but got excluded. Johnson said this narrows it down to those schools that are truly underperforming.

The House rejected an amendment that will lower the scholarship amount by $1000 each to make the scholarships closer to the amount that the state spends on public school students. Families would have had to make up the difference.

Rep. Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) opposed the measure on the grounds that the families could be responsible for up to $1000 per child per year. The people you were actually trying to help will be responsible for and many won’t be able to afford it. They will not be able to afford to take advantage of it anymore and undermines the purpose of it.

Advertisement

State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said, “I think this bill (SB71) makes it better. It closes up some loopholes.”

Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) proposed an amendment to make sure that the State Department of Education keeps data from the schools so that they can know how the students leaving the underperforming schools perform academically in their new schools.

Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans (D-Fairfield) said, “When we pass these bills we want to make sure that there is a positive net impact. This is the responsible thing to do given the amount of money being poured into this program.”

Rep. Ken Johnson accepted the amendment.

Rep. Hall said the Department of education will maintain a database and will annually make reports to the education policy committees of both the House and the Senate.

The legislation passed 68 to 26.

The bill clarifies and confirms that the intent of the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 is educational choice. It also amends certain current definitions and add new definitions. The reporting period for scholarship granting organizations from a calendar year to an academic year; to clarify and confirm that educational scholarships are provided to eligible students, not to particular schools. The bill requires that scholarship granting organizations determine the income eligibility of a scholarship recipient every other year and requires that all participating private schools to be accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies, the National Council for Private School Accreditation, AdvancEd, the American Association of Christian Schools, or one of their partner accrediting agencies, within three years from the date their notice of intent to participate in the scholarship program is filed with the Department of Revenue.

The legislation also allow certain pass-through entities, such as Subchapter S corporations and limited liability companies, to make contributions to scholarship granting organizations and to allow the credit earned by the entity to pass through to and be claimed by its owners, and to expand the definition of “individual taxpayer” to include the individual owners of these pass-through entities. The legislation clarifies and confirms that donors making contributions to scholarship granting organizations cannot earmark their contribution for a particular school or to fund scholarships for a particular student or group of students. The legislation prohibit scholarship granting organizations from making lump sum, block grants, or other similar payments to otherwise qualifying schools. The bill removes the current $7,500 annual limitation on contributions made to scholarship granting organizations by individual taxpayers and increases the cumulative amount of tax credits available in a calendar year to $30,000,000. The bill also allows taxpayers to make contributions to scholarship granting organizations before the due date, with extensions, of a timely filed 2014 tax return but reserve tax credits against the remaining balance of the 2014 cumulative amount of tax credits available. The SGOs may use up to five percent of their revenues from donations for administrative or operating expenses in the year of donation or any subsequent year.

The bill has already been passed by the Senate.

 

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with six and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook.

Advertisement

Health

Third patient at state’s Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center dies from COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

A third patient at the state’s Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center has died from COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Mental Health confirmed to APR on Tuesday. 

There remained 16 active coronavirus cases among patients at the state-run facility, said ADMH spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert in a message Tuesday.

Those patients are in various states of recovery, she said. 

Valdes-Hubert also confirmed that the members of the Alabama National Guard are to clean the facility on Thursday. 

Under the direction of Gov. Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, members of the Alabama National Guard have since early April decontaminated and sanitized state nursing homes. Guard members also cleaned the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home, which had a serious outbreak of coronavirus, killing more than 20 residents and infecting more than 100. 

Valdes-Hubert said the department is in the process of planning for recovering patients and will release more information when available. 

There were no confirmed cases at ADMH’s two other facilities in Tuscaloosa, Bryce Hospital and the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility as of Tuesday, Valdes-Hubert said.

Continue Reading

National

Sewell implores Alabamians “to speak out and demand change without violence”

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Alabama U.S. Rep.Terri Sewell said that her heart aches for George Floyd and that anger should be directed not to violence but to action.

“The heroes of the Civil Rights Movement showed us it is possible to change history without damaging property and torching businesses that our community members depend on, so I implore all Alabamians to speak out and demand change without violence,” Sewell said. “We cannot let violence distract from the legitimate anger and frustration that we must channel toward action. I pray for both peace and justice.”

Sewell posted a video message Monday in response to protests across the country, which have at some points, turned violent and chaotic. On Sunday, several reporters were attacked in Birmingham, and some businesses were vandalized.

The representative’s video message comes after Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed also called peaceful demonstration. Birmingham implemented a curfew in response to the riotous demonstrations Sunday evening, but the city also removed a Confederate monument from Linn Park.

“To all those who feel marginalized because of the color of your skin: I see you and I hear you,” Sewell said. “Your pain and hopelessness is legitimate — since the founding of our nation, our criminal justice system has failed our black and brown communities. My heart aches for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the countless others whose senseless deaths have not made the national news cycle.”

Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District and is the only black member of Alabama’s congressional delegation.

“As a daughter of Selma, I myself have struggled to reconcile with the moment in which we continue to find ourselves, over and over,” Sewell said in the video statement. “The Foot Soldiers who came before us fought to create a better future, but every day we are reminded that that fight is far from over. They sacrificed their lives in pursuit of an America that lives up to its ideals – an America that we have not yet reached more than 55 years later.”

Sewell said the racism that causes pain can be seen plainly in police brutality and in the staggering health disparities black communities have endured before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advertisement

“It can be seen in thinly-veiled attempts to put African Americans in our place, holding on to and idolizing a time when our bodies were not our own,” she said. “And it can be seen in the state-sanctioned holidays and monuments that honor the leaders of the Confederacy, including today, ‘Jefferson Davis Day.’”

Sewell said she also knows that the vast majority of Americans across the country and in Birmingham are peacefully protesting for social justice.

“I wish I had all the answers and I could give us all the solutions we need,” Sewell concluded. “For now, I promise that I will work tirelessly to do absolutely everything within my power to bring peace and justice to our communities.”

“My Administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served,” President Donald Trump said on Monday. “He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob.”

Floyd was killed while being arrested by the Minneapolis Police Department on suspicion of counterfeiting. The police officer who killed Floyd has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Activists say more widespread reform of policing and the criminal justice system needs to happen, and the other officers involved in Floyd’s homicide should also be charged.

Continue Reading

National

ACLU of Alabama backs right to protest

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

The ACLU of Alabama in a statement Tuesday expressed support for the Constitutionally protected right to protest and called for an end to racist policing. 

“We support protesters in Alabama and across the nation who are expressing their grief at the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all of the many Black men, women, and children who have been killed at the hands of police,” the statement reads. “We stand with those who are demanding justice from a system that has both historically abused and too often abuses Black communities to this day. Black people should not live in fear of being shot and killed by the police.

The ACLU said these times of unrest compel us to examine what will make our communities safer and more equitable.

“Police, sheriffs, and other government officials have discretion in how they use their time and resources,” the organization said in their statement. “Now is the time to question how they use that discretion around the role that law enforcement possesses in our communities, especially given the disproportionate harm inflicted upon communities of color, particularly Black communities, caused by enhanced militarization of law enforcement in this country. We cannot effectively address police violence without completely reimagining the role of police.  We must significantly reduce the responsibilities and presence of police in the everyday lives of people in heavily policed communities. We will not rest until there is an end to racist policing.”

“The ACLU’s commitment to ending racist and violent policing goes back decades, from confronting the police violence that fueled protests in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark in the 1960s, through Ferguson. Sadly, those efforts  have not worked. We must do more.

“Rather than spend taxpayer dollars on enforcing restrictions on the constitutionally protected right to protests, police and government officials should focus on seeking justice and holding themselves accountable to the people they are supposed to protect and serve.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Monday declared a state of emergency and enacted a city-wide curfew after a peaceful protest Sunday turned violent early Monday morning. 

Protests across Alabama on Monday were peaceful, with few arrests reported, according to news accounts.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Josh Moon

Opinion | The people have always been more important than the monuments

Josh Moon

Published

on

Two participation trophies fell in Alabama on Monday night. 

No tears were shed. 

On the same day that the state “celebrated” Confederate Memorial Day — which is somehow still a state holiday some 150 years after the traitorous South surrendered in its quest to make legal the ownership of other human beings — a large monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park went away piece by piece and a metal statue of Robert E. Lee was toppled and hauled away from its spot outside of a Montgomery high school. 

This is progress, I guess. At least those eyesores are gone (for now, in the case of the Lee statue), even if the attitudes that kept them in place remain. 

It is no secret by now that I have never understood the fervor with which so many people in this state cling so tightly to reminders of defeated traitors who fought to enslave black people. 

I mean, I understand why racists cling to them. I don’t understand how those who claim to “not have a racist bone in my body” also cling to them. I don’t understand our state lawmakers creating laws to protect them. 

Monuments are meant to honor the people depicted in them. You don’t see us creating monuments of the 9/11 hijackers at the former World Trade Center site, do you? 

You know why? Because while that day was historic and we’ll want to remember those who died forever, we don’t honor those who caused that devastation. 

Advertisement

But then, I don’t actually think anyone is confused by this. The cries of “protecting history” or “not erasing history” are nothing more than phony excuses meant to mask the true intent of cowards too ashamed or too scared to say what they really mean. 

And what they really mean is that they still cling to this notion of white supremacy. They’re just too scared of the societal backlash to put on a white hood and attend the meetings. 

These people see the removal of the Confederate monuments as a loss — a personal loss. Because that tie to the confederacy and the sad, pathetic belief that they were somehow superior because of the color of their skin has sustained them throughout their lives. 

That’s why they cling so tightly to these relics of the past — because those relics represent their “heritage” and their worth. 

It doesn’t matter at all that poor whites and poor blacks have so much more in common in 2020 than poor whites and rich whites. If the two groups ever bonded, ever formed a mutually beneficial coalition, they could — by the power of their numbers — change America overnight to a more just, more equitable country. 

But they won’t, because poor white people would lose their ability to look down on someone. And really, what good is life if you can’t make certain that someone out there has it worse than you? 

And so, here we are, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War and more than 60 years since Dr. King crossed the bridge in Selma, still fighting battles over race and discrimination and hatred and intolerance. 

Maybe the protests of George Floyd’s killing will finally be the straw to break this thing. Maybe the days of everything being on fire, along with those awful images of Floyd, will instill in the minds of enough people that there really are problems.

Maybe we can finally stop holding onto these relics of the past and concern ourselves more with holding onto each other. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Authors

Advertisement

The V Podcast

Facebook

Trending

.