By Larry Lee
The most recent quarterly reports from scholarship granting organizations participating in the Alabama Accountability Act are now posted on the web site of the Alabama Department of Revenue. These cover the period from April 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016.
While there are currently six SGOs approved to operate in the state, only four submitted reports. These were Rocket City SGO from Owens Cross Roads with 37 scholarships; AAA Scholarship Foundation from Prattville with 38 participants; Scholarships for Kids of Birmingham with 1,883 scholarships and Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund of Birmingham with 2,059 students.
The most recent list (7-12-16) of participating private schools shows 191 have been approved. Of these, records show that 43 do not presently have any students on scholarship through AAA. Out of the total of 191, 78 are listed as non-accredited.
These reports show 4,017 students with scholarships. Of these, 626 (15.5 percent) go to non-accredited schools.
(The original law from 2013 was amended in the 2015 regular session stating that schools must obtain accreditation within three years. This gives non-accredited schools until June 9, 2018 to obtain accreditation.)
Of course, taxpayers were told repeatedly in 2013 that this law was about helping students stuck in failing schools. This has never proved to be the case. For instance, of the 4,017 now on scholarship, only 978 are shown to be “zoned” to attend a failing school. That is 24.3 percent. And the key word is “zoned” rather than “attending.” A child may have attended a private school all their life, but live in a neighborhood where the local school is labeled as “failing.” So though they never attended the neighborhood school, they are still classified as “zoned” for a failing school.
I have written more than 40 articles about the accountability act and what I believe are its shortcomings. However, I have also said repeatedly that I am certain there are students who have benefited from getting a scholarship for whatever the reason.
But here’s what the AAA supporters never mention. We have 730,000 children attending public schools in Alabama. From 2013 through today, we have diverted $73.5 million from the education trust fund to benefit about 4,000 students.
Don’t they count?
Is this equity? Is it fair? And most importantly, is it moral?