HUNTSVILLE, AL. (WHNT) – School Choice will likely be a significant topic in the upcoming session of the Alabama Legislature. Proposals range from boosting the available options to options of expanding what tax dollars can fund.
School choice programs provide alternatives to parents who do not wish to send their children to local public schools to which they are assigned but still want to use public funding to afford to seek other education options.
This legislative session, lawmakers will consider a change to the tax credit scholarship program, called the Price Act, which will help increase the choices available to parents.
“With the Price Act it actually puts the decision in the parents’ hands,” School Choice Lobbyist Jennifer Wolverton said.
New improvements to the Alabama tax credit scholarship program are now in full swing. This comes after Governor Kay Ivey signed improvements to the program into law, which increased the cap on individual and corporate tax credits given to students within the program.
While this will increase the number of scholarships available for students across the state, Alabama continues to lag behind in education.
“If you have three children you can say, ‘well this child has these needs and this child has these needs.’ You might decide different things for each of your children that will allow you to have the flexibility and control as a parent to keep growing and changing with your children,” Wolverton said.
Terri Collins, the Chairwoman of the House’s Education Policy Committee, says a key area she’d like to see growth in is the state’s charter schools. She says they are one of the best options for parents who want a choice for their child, but those schools don’t receive much support.
“They’re extremely transparent and accountable. They have been slow to grow because while they get federal and state money, they’re public schools. They are not getting any local money,” Collins said.
Nicholas West is a student who benefited from school choice. During his last year in high school, his family hit hard times. Thanks to the tax-credited scholarship program that passed in 2014, he was able to stay in private school. West went on to graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in computer science and now he’s working to obtain his doctorate. He says school choice changed his life.
“I wouldn’t even be where I am right now if it wasn’t for the opportunities that I was given so long ago,” West said. “My hope is that with better school choice expansion, more students can have that opportunity. Because I don’t want to be the only one, if I’m a reflection of what would happen if more students have that opportunity,” West said.
The House will reconvene on March 7.