HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Alabama Accountability Act has been met with outrage from Democrats and members of the Alabama Education Association ever since its passage Thursday evening.
Twenty pages were added to the bill without prior discussion or debate, altering the bill from one that offered flexibility to local districts to one that allows students to transfer out of failing schools and receive tax breaks to attend private institutions.
Even State Board of Education members were unaware of any plan to add the amendment.
Mary Scott Hunter, a state school board member, says she has been reading and re-reading the bill and encourages the public to do the same.
“I think the intended effect is to be good,” said Hunter. “Nobody in the legislature on either side of the political platform wants there to be a negative effect.”
Hunter says at this time, not much is known for sure about how the bill would impact schools. However, she is optimistic about what it could do for districts.
“That’s the exciting piece of this. The flexibility in this bill allows leadership in those systems to address it in the ways they best know how,” said Hunter. “This bill does set up tension, it sets up tension to improve and that’s a good thing. At the end of the day we want to guard against unintended consequences.”
The bill’s critics are concerned about the potential for failing schools to fall even further behind, while driving up costs for districts and the state. Hunter said she is also concerned about the affordability of the plan.
“We want to make sure we’re helping and not hurting. At this point everything is so new, I can’t say what all those things might be,” Hunter said. “Of course, the Education Trust Fund is a concern for me, making sure we’re adequately funded.”
Hunter has expressed confidence in state and local leaders to ensure the bill works for Alabama.
“Solutions need to be organic to Alabama and need to work for what we have here in the state, but on the other hand it’s not smart not to utilize best practices from other states,” said Hunter.
Several states already have similar laws in place. Oklahoma’s is the most similar to the bill passed by the Alabama Legislature on Thursday.