Judge Declares Alabama Accountability Act Unconstitutional

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) – A Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge declared the Alabama Accountability Act unconstitutional on Wednesday.

Judge Eugene Reese says the 2013 law violates the Alabama Constitution’s requirement for the Legislature to have only one subject in a bill.

Read the ruling: Judge Declares Alabama Accountability Act Unconstitutional

The law provided tax credits for parents who transferred their students out of failing public schools to private schools.

The judge’s ruling applied his decision prospectively, so as not to affect tax credits made for the 2013-14 school year.

The Alabama Education Association along with state Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery and others filed the lawsuit filed in August 2013.

The Institute for Justice says it will appeal the ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Alabama Accountability Act was the education bombshell of 2013, creating confusion and derision amid teachersparents and legislators alike.

But after all the uproar and interest, the number of statewide transfers allowed by the act may surprise you.

The Accountability Act enabled 719 students across Alabama to leave a “failing” school to a higher-performing school with the same system. But just 52 transferred to private schools statewide.

“>According to statewide numbers tallied by the Alabama Department of Education, Montgomery and Mobile saw the most internal transfers under the new state law.

Decatur allowed 122 internal transfers under the new law.

But Birmingham, which recorded the most “failing” schools in the state, saw just 62 student transfers within Birmingham City Schools under the Alabama Accountability Act.

And Huntsville, which has the second most “failing” schools in the state, permitted just six transfers. In Huntsville, the system’s 43-year-old desegregation order took priority over the requirements of the state act.

The Alabama Accountability Act, passed by a GOP majority last spring over the noisy objections of Democratic lawmakers, allows students to flee so-called “failing” schools by three methods.

Students may transfer to a non-failing school within the same system, request permission to enter a neighboring system, or switch to a private school.

The family of a student who transfers to a participating private school qualifies for a refunded tax credit of approximately $3,500 to offset tuition.

However, the law clearly allows school boards to reject transfers from neighboring systems.  The state reports just 18 students were able to leave a “failing” school for a different system last year.

The law holds school boards responsible for providing bus rides for transfer students, provided the system already has bus service. The law does not provide for transportation for students leaving for private school or for a different system.

The Alabama Department of Education in , in meeting the new law, identified 78 ‘failing’ schools across the state using two new standards. One method looks at passing rates on basic reading and math tests over the previous six years. Another identifies the schools previously listed as eligible for a federal grant for persistently low-achieving schools.

32 comments

  • Cass Smith

    One more example of AEA and their political power taking precedence over true education reform and the option for the children to go to a better learning enviorenment. They do not want competition from better learning institutions, only power and money.

    • Christopher

      According to the way some of you think, if there are any inequities in the world, it is all the fault of either Obama or AEA. The ruling was declared unconstitutional by a judge, not AEA. That said however, according to the accountability act, if you wanted to move your child from a “failing” school to a “passing” school, the “passing” school has the ability to deny your child’s entry into that school. Just because you can move them does not mean that a school has to accept your child. In effect, a “passing” school can pick and choose who they accept, resulting in the re-segregation of Alabama schools which is the component that likely makes the law unconstitutional. If lawmakers want to rewrite the law to say that a “passing” school has to accept all of the students who want to transfer, then there would be an equal opportunity for all students regardless of race, etc.

      • Say What

        Christopher, you described the exact intent of that law. At least one judge saw through the smoke and mirrors and saw the law for what it is — hopefully the higher courts also see it!

  • Say What

    This is not the first time Alabama has had its hand slapped for being unconstitutional — and will not be the last! This state loves to waste a lot of taxpayer money on passing and defending stupid laws!

  • lynn

    I have always opposed the charter schools. it hurts public schools in every way. if the state of Alabama would pass the lottery then there would be more money to put into all the schools. not to mention to fix all of out crappy roads.

    • Spencer W Chaffin

      When gambling was up for votes, that promise was made ” for the schools “. Three district superintendants later stated they did not receive any additional money. Where I lived school taxe increases appeared on the ballots almost yearly. So many become addicted and commit crimes, gamble away homes, retirement accounts ect. In my personal case my X gambled away 55 years of retirement savings. She is living in another state on your taxpayer funded housing and food. I an in N Alabama in my brothers equipment shed on a 288 dollar a month retirement from the last short job. I do not plan on ever asking for any taxpayer funds. She even attempted to get part of the 288.

  • HansJurgen

    So, if a public school is failing and there’s no competition what course does one have? I’m glad my kids have graduated some time ago since I wouldn’t consider a local public school these days. Grissom High was rated 5th in the US at one time – not any more.

  • Ms. G

    Instead of feeling free to bash the AEA as if it were some faceless entity, why don’t you call the AEA what it is? The AEA is comprised of the teachers, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and teacher’s aides who teach and support your children every day! Overall, a finer group of individuals never graced our world! Such people care deeply about what happens in our schools.
    As far as better schools go, if you want better schools, you need to support public education. Very few people will be able to afford to educate their children if we allow education to become entirely privatized. Their are billionaires behind this assault on education who want nothing more than to get their hands in the money pot. Most of the charter schools that were expected to be such a wonderful alternative to public school, swept in, failed the students, and left town with a fist full of cash. Don’t just swallow the hype, do some research.

    • Mrs. S.

      I agree wholeheartedly! Our public schools set us apart from others. We educate everyone here, not just the “smart” kids!

    • douglas

      I agree 100 per cent. If people did the research, their eyes would be opened to what is really going on. St. claims they have no money to put into the schools, but yet have money to give to private schools. WAKE UP people.

    • richard sherrod

      Your comments have warrant to them but if you look closely the AEA is one of the strongest liberal lobby groups in the country. I feel they do have a strong organization but they don’t always have the interest of the children in mind as much as they do the political objectives. .Public education is very important to the state of Alabama as well as all states, but we need to revamp it not follow the AEA. You are also correct when you say we should all get our facts straight, including the followers of AEA.

      • Ms. G

        The AEA supports a free public education. The only political agenda they have is to support education. I am well- versed in the goals of the AEA.

  • Concerned citizen

    In general the public school system is broken. Sure we have a few good schools scattered around, but it is a model that rewards mediocrity and really has very little accountability. Good teachers cannot be rewarded and bad teachers cannot be fired (you can thank the unions for this). Discipline is a thing of the past because teachers and administrators are scared of being sued for every little thing. Until you get the federal government and unions out of education this will never improve. The federal government provides about 10% of the funding and creates 90% of the paperwork. Now that is efficient. Public schools have little say in what is taught and how it is taught. Great teachers cannot teach. They have to follow the road map that is dictated to them from above. They cannot think for themselves. Kids in failing schools have no option to go anywhere else. I argue that you can take about 60 to 70% of the money that is spent per child in the public education system and a few motivated teachers and provide a better education than most public schools and be able to pay the teachers more.

  • Sabrina Smith

    Constitutionality has nothing to do with any group. The Alabama again passed a law for political interests which was unconstitutional.

  • There Are No Shortcuts

    It is so easy to point fingers. It Is so easy to pass blame. The reality is, and will always be, that as much as our society claims to care about education, that couldn’t be any where near the truth. Do we want better schools? Everyone says yes. Do we want our teachers to prepare our students for their future? Yes, again. Do we want to put in the effort, as a society, to make that happen? Crickets. And yet, everyone has so much to say. Until we live in a world where putting money into a school is more important than putting money into renovating downtown ..we will never be successful. Until we understand the regardless of what side of town you live on, every student deserves a fair and equal chance at the same education and putting money into new buildings won’t fix a problem that is deeper than the building school takes place, we will never be successful. Until we face the reality that paying athletes millions of dollars yearly, and not even giving teachers stipends to purchase things for their classroom (and please spare me the, “what about $300 the state provides?”.. You try building a classroom for 20+ kids on $300 stipend budget, then bring that mess up again.), we will always fall behind in this world. We are a backwards society and expect forward progress.

    So instead of complaining and blaming, try helping and investing by giving your time, talents, money, and support to the teachers who go into classrooms day in and day out with the armor of education ready to fight the good fight of teaching. And try giving it to a school that needs it the most, regardless of if your kids attend there. There are too many of us who spend our summer in voluntary trainings to better our teaching for your kids…voluntarily spend our own money to build a class library or by extra supplies. Not to mention, the many nights our families are neglected so we can find a way to get a concept across that our students are struggling with. Now, I am not totally against charter schools, because I do feel that our schools are failing our children…but how can we even attempt to rectify a problem without actually trying to rectify the problem? That’s like putting on a fancy band-aid to a stitches situation. So, as a state we are saying that in order for a child to get a good education, a parent has to pay for it out of their own pocket for private school instead of the money we already pay into our school system? What sense does that make? Or pulling funding from a failing school, a school that needs the funding the most, is the state saying that is helping our educational problems? They can’t be. I am a product of the schools that are on the Alabama failing school list (and we were title one then), and I am a college grad, a teacher, and a currently enrolled graduate student. What was the keys to my success. …A community that gave a damn.(excuse my language) and didn’t hesitate to do what was needed to push us to be the best. Are you going to be that community again or just continue to complain? Your choice. There are no shortcuts in Education. …and it really does take a village.

    • richard sherrod

      You have truly said a mouth full..wish we could all get behind that kind of movement..

    • Mandy

      Until parents are ready to sacrifice and teach the child themselves, our education will always be hamstrung. Parents want the easy way out and their nice homes and nice cars. Parents need to be willing to give their life away for their children before education is fixed.

  • Public educator and proud

    It’s obvious when reading these comments , many who post truly do not understand the logistics of public education. Sadly, so many people have opinions on what it will take to fix public education but have never spent an hour or a day in the classroom as an adult. I can tell you that the FIRST thing would be get the Legislators out of it. As long as they are calling the shots, public education will never be at its best. When a group of hostile, know-it-all, underhanded representatives pass a bill in a back door deal and hide it from all education professionals, you can bet it’s going to be a debacle! That’s exactly why the AAA was overturned today! It’s unconstitutional! Plain and clear! Let’s vote OUT the incumbents and replace them with legislators who will listen to the people who are in the trenches every day with our children! I am AEA and I’m PROUD to be a part of an organization fighting for the students in our public schools! Mrs G…. You told the truth!

  • Ruth Edge

    ALFA and other groups lobby all they want and never get the criticism given to A E A. My children attend public school. I want politicians to quit attacking public school funding. Quit trying to rob my tax dollars from my children’s school. Not all children want to go to private school. My tax dollars are public funds. It should be illegal to misappropriate public tax dollars to fund private schools.

  • Public School Teacher

    I am a public school teacher, and a member of AEA. When my parents taught school, my mother made much less than my dad. The benefits were few and far between. The public and many young teachers don’t realize that our 9 month salary is divided into 12 months because teachers of years past ran out of money before school resumed in the Fall. We already earned the money; it’s just filed out over time. I have never denied a child to pray or read their Bible once their assignments have been completed. Doctors have their medical association, lawyers have the Bar, and businesses have 3 or 4 organizations. I have “donated” countless time and money on my students. SO, unless you have spent 1 full day in my shoes, shut up!

  • American

    When God and Prayer was taken out of the public school system that’s when the public school system failed ! God and Prayer NO SHOOTINGS ………. No God and Prayer SHOOTINGS . How hard is it to figure out folks ??

    • Christopher

      Actually, the problem is that people took God and prayer out of their heart. The taking of prayer out of school is a reflection of the inward state of those who have removed God from their life. In other words, it is the side effect of some people’s inward spiritual state. For God gives us something that the world cannot give, and the world cannot take which is peace in our soul. Prayer is not a place but an inward communication with God arising from the heart, no matter where in the world that you are.

    • Say What

      Matthew 6:6

      “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “

  • On the paying end

    For a student to learn, you primarily need a willingness to learn, good text books with the appropriate material. Then you need most of all an honest, dedicated teacher to guide and teach the student in their studies. These are the basic fundamentals in all societies and cultures. Whether it’s a simple block building or a 40 million high school as found in some systems (in California) the basic fundamentals do not change.

    Why do you need a bloated bureaucracy of appointed “political” appointees such as enough “administrators” to almost replace the number of teachers in a system. More, money, more money, is the cry as the number of failing schools increase.

    The problem is not needing more money but accountability in doing a good job for which you are paid. Get rid of the needless “administrators” and increase the salaries of the teachers that teach and get rid of the lazy teachers that hide behind a union.

    A good teacher with the right teaching material needs dedication to do their job for which they are paid. Whether this “good teacher” is in a multi million dollar building or under a tree, it will not change their intelligence or the intelligence of the student, only good teaching will train the student. Money?….really…..

    While the increase in public education spending has increased substantially over the years, parallel to it is the degradation of a students ability to pass a test and graduate. More money, really?!

    Give a student a good teacher in a woodshed and you will have a more successful outcome than in the political, partisan, money wasting system we have today. I am not against unions as all people need good representation but what the average parents seeing their tax dollars going to is people who call themselves teachers are nothing more than lazy do nothing bureaucrats themselves. Tenure is another word for being as sorry a teacher as you care to be because of the protection for ineptitude by the union. Unions are too political, they are voting blocks for politicians and as long as the votes go the right way, throw some more money at the problem.

    The problem is basic common integrity that is lacking in the individual. There is no need for the “individual” to produce anything of value as the group mentality covers one another’s behind. It’s called politics, favoritism.

    I have never understood how money can buy better morals in a teacher or anyone else. I thought the love of money was the root of all evil.
    I did not know money could buy morals.

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