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ALGOP expects passage of school voucher program with no cap

The bill would create a system to award tax credits for students attending participating private schools.

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The Alabama Senate is picking up legislation Wednesday that would create a system to award tax credits for students attending participating private schools.

Alabama Republic Party Chairman John Wahl said Monday that he expects the legislation to pass out of the Senate this week, and urged lawmakers not to add a monetary cap on the program as several education groups have asked for.

“The Republican Party does not support adding a monetary cap to School Choice in Alabama,” Wahl said in a statement. “We believe every student should have access to a better education. Placing a cap on this bill would be discriminatory to many Alabama students, leaving families who should be able to participate out in the cold. Such a system would be unfair, and quite simply bad policy for any state.”

At least three education groups came out as “neutral” on the bill at its stop in a House committee two weeks ago after changes were made.

But Alabama Education Association Executive Director Amy Marlowe said after House passage last week that the association remains concerned about the bill’s lack of a cap.

“While AEA has worked with others in a good faith way to fashion a bill that does not hurt Alabama schools, it is important to note that Alabamians — including a strong majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — are overwhelmingly opposed to unlimited funding being diverted from the Education Trust Fund for this program,” Marlowe said. “We want to continue to work to find common ground on this proposal as the bill moves to the Senate, but a cap must be included in the bill to protect the future of our local schools, or it should not pass.”

In his statement, Wahl says that Alabama parents must be making the decisions for their children, “not a government bureaucracy or education union.”

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While Wahl does not directly reference the AEA in the statement, he has previously falsely referred to the AEA as a teachers’ union.

In its current form, the bill would require a minimum $100 million appropriation toward the program, which would fund up to $7,000 per eligible student in annual tax credits. Homeschool students would only receive up to $2,000 each, and only up to two students per household during any given year.

“We believe every family should have the opportunity to receive a better education, and school choice is an important part in accomplishing that goal,” Wahl said. “It’s time to put parents back in control of their children’s education.”

Proponents of the legislation have noted, however, that the legislation will likely only impact a small number of students that attend public school, and would overwhelmingly benefit students already enrolled in private education.

It’s unclear how the program will help most participating families “receive a better education” when the majority of students will have no change in education, but rather a change in their parents’ pocketbooks.

Terry Lathan, former chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party, tweeted last week that data shows “only 2 percent of students move out” of public school. 

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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