MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A Montgomery Circuit Judge has issued an order blocking Governor Robert Bentley from signing a controversial school choice bill.
Judge Charles Price issued the restraining order, which prevents Jeff Woodard, the Clerk of the Alabama House of Representatives, or anyone working with him from delivering the bill to Governor Bentley for his signature.
This, until the Judge reviews the matter. Al.com reports the judge scheduled a hearing today at 1:30 p.m.
Governor Bentley had planned to sign the Alabama Accountability Act into law later today. Legislators passed the bill on Thursday night after heated debate and complaints.
Several groups have expressed dissatisfaction in the way the bill was passed, including the Alabama Education Association and Dr. Tommy Bice, State Superintendent of Education.
Lynn Pettway, a Montgomery resident, filed an injunction late Monday night saying the way the House passed the bill violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act.
Governor Bentley was outwardly upset over all the Montgomery finger-pointing.
“You can’t get lost in all this legal stuff,” Bentley huffed Tuesday, “and talk about tax credits and all this. The flexibility is so important for these school systems.”
The Alabama Department of Education Monday issued a list of nine points of opposition to the Accountability Bill. Aside from the process in which the bill was passed, they say the financial impact is the greatest concern.
“We would love to hash that out to have the least amount of impact on our schools that are already cash-strapped,” says Malissa Valdes-Hubert, public information officer for the Alabama Department of Education.
Many in opposition argue the bill would put the Alabama Education Trust Fund in grave danger.
“We are really concerned to keep public dollars with public education and we really want to make sure those poor schools have the ability to essentially keep the lights on and to keep their teachers employed,” Valdes-Hubert warns.
Educators say they just wanted to be able to have a dog in the proverbial fight.
“In order to voice the concerns we had,” continues Valdes-Hubert, “the concerns from the school board association or any other educational group, including parents; just a chance to be heard.”
One Madison County lawmaker, who brought his own school flexibility bill last year is deflecting accusations and calling the bill a Godsend for Alabama schools.
“I would hate for the people of Alabama to think for one instant that anything illegal or unethical happened with the passage of this bill,” says district 6 State Representative Phil Williams.
“I know it’s probably the most controversial piece of legislation that we’ve taken up in a generation but in my opinion it’s the most important piece of legislation.”
Despite the opposition and calls of unethical practices, Valdes-Hubert says state educators pledge to implement the bill to the best of their ability and help local districts with the transition, even if the bill is signed as-is.
Tuesday Afternoon the Alabama GOP issued this response to Judge Charles Price’s ruling on the Accountability Act.