State Rep Holds Town Hall Meeting On New School Voucher Law

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A town hall meeting on a newly passed school voucher law seemingly led to more questions than answers Monday night in Huntsville, with forum speakers openly admitting they had few answers on what specific impact it will have on Huntsville City Schools.

Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) hosted the town hall meeting at the Richard Showers Center in north Huntsville, which was attended by a few dozen people.

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski told audience members that it was not yet clear if the new law conflicts with a federal court order on desegregation that Huntsville and several other Alabama districts still have to comply with. The U.S. Department of Justice enforces the order.

“They [Department of Justice] didn’t seem to know much about it frankly,” said Wardynski, who told audience members that he had discussed the new law with DOJ attorneys a few days ago. “I imagine they’re doing their homework on it right now.”

School officials also said students transferring into and out of the district would likely lead to much higher transportation costs, but who pays for it, or how it gets paid, is also unclear. Rep. Hall said she was still working to understand the specific impact on Huntsville City Schools.

“We really don’t know very much right now because no one has really been able to do an analysis,” said Hall. “I think we want every child to benefit, and if there’s a program within this bill that would allow the students and the constituents of my district to benefit from it, I’m going to provide whatever information is necessary to ensure that they do.”

Starting next school year, students who attend schools that are classified as failing will be allowed to transfer to another public or private school. Lawmakers told WHNT News 19 that a list of failing schools has not been compiled or sanctioned, but that they would begin working on criteria for the list later this week.