MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) – Alabama lawmakers are considering a bill that would give state funding to individual families for their school of choice. As proposed, “The Parents Choice Act” would move nearly half a billion dollars out of the Alabama Education Trust Fund.
The Alabama Education Association says if the Parents Choice bill is passed in its current form, it would have devastating financial impacts on the fund.
“Loss of revenue to the Education Trust Fund, literally I’m not being dramatic, but literally could impact all facets of public schools,” says AEA Northern Region Manager William Tunnell. “From the loss of teachers to loss of texts books and paper supplies to loss of professional development funds.”
The bill would create Education Savings Accounts giving families access to state funds that can be used for alternate education.
“Certainly the title is very attractive, and naturally what’s wrong with parents’ choices? Parents have always had choices of where to send their students,” says Tunnell.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon says the bill brings an important conversation to the table: giving parents options.
“If parents are pulling their children out of public school and sending them to private school or whatever that choice may be for them, the question remains why?” said McCutcheon.
McCutcheon points to failing Alabama schools and the importance of quality education for everyone.
“In the grading of our school systems, how many of our systems are failing? Why are they failing, and why do these parents not want to send their children to those schools?” he asked.
Tunnell says the money for families’ Education Savings Accounts will come out of the Alabama Education Trust Fund for public schools.
“So every child that leaves a public school. Not only would that school lose the student for enrollment purposes, but $5,300 for that student comes off the top of the Education Trust Fund,” Tunnell explained.
If passed, the bill would essentially impact all Alabama students.
“Even if parents in a particular community didn’t take advantage of this legislation, your community school would still suffer the loss of finances,” says Tunnell.
The impact under the proposed bill would be to the tune of nearly half a billion dollars for public education.
“The loss of half a billion dollars would set public education back literally years in terms of growth,” says Tunnell.
For reference, this report is referring to the bill in the Senate, SB140 by Senators Marsh, McClendon, Allen, Stutts, Melson, Whatley, Albritton and Barfoot. There is also a school choice bill making its way through the House of Representatives.
Speaker Mac McCutcheon says the bills continue to be amended from the original form.