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AEA Head Vows To Bring New Legal Action Against Accountability Act

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Alabama's powerful teacher lobby is still licking its wounds from defeat at both the statehouse and courthouse, but the head of the Alabama Education Association says the battle over a newly signed school voucher law is far from over.

AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry told WHNT News 19 that new legal action against state lawmakers is imminent, with state and federal court both possible venues. Mabry was in Huntsville Thursday night for a closed-door meeting with area educators, but spoke candidly about the Alabama Accountability Act beforehand. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed the bill into law on Thursday, one day after the Alabama Supreme Court threw out a restraining order implemented by a Montgomery-area judge earlier this month.

Mabry said AEA attorneys are reviewing their options, and expect to have a formal announcement as soon as Friday.

"We think this is a travesty that the governor has signed this legislation," said Mabry. "Our lawyers are looking at all legal potential remedies, and we're going to certainly look at further state court action. We're looking at federal court action as well."

Mabry said his main beef with the new school voucher law is that it drains valuable funding from the Alabama Education Trust Fund, and abandons poor-performing schools instead of trying to reform them.

"We don't need to punish those schools, take students away from those schools, take money away from those schools," said Mabry. "Those schools will not improve, they'll just get worse."

State lawmakers who crafted the Accountability Act said the AEA's legal threats are nothing but sour grapes. State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) told WHNT News 19 that federal courts have already upheld similar legislation in school voucher states like Florida and Oklahoma, and will be ready for another legal fight should it come.

"There are those in the education system that unfortunately want to keep things right where they always are," said Holtzclaw. "The flexibility aspect and the parent choice aspect is going to increase the competition, and allow parents to look in another direction."