SPLC Files Federal Lawsuit Against Alabama Accountability Act

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) – On the first day of classes for many public schools across the state, a group has asked the federal court to block a new law in Alabama that gives tax breaks to families who transfer their children from low-performing schools.

The Alabama Accountability Act, passed into law earlier this year, allows families to transfer their student from a low-performing school to a higher-performing one, or, to get a $3,500 tax credit to offset the cost of tuition for a private school.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the complaint Monday, saying the Act works against thousands of children in Alabama’s Black Belt. 

“When the Act was passed, state officials promised it would benefit students regardless of their family income or where they lived,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen.  “The reality is that thousands of children in Alabama’s Black Belt, most of them African-Americans below the poverty line, are trapped in failing schools and cannot take advantage of the Act.”

The SPLC filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on behalf of eight students who attend failing schools in Wilcox, Russell, Barbour and Marengo counties.

“The failing Black Belt schools will deteriorate further as money meant for public education is funneled into tax breaks for families with access to successful public and private schools,” Cohen said.

Read the SPLC’s complaint here.

WHNT News 19 is working to get reaction from a local state senator who supported the Alabama Accountability Act.  We’ll have his reaction Monday on WHNT News 19 at 6:00 p.m.