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.