The call was from someone I consider one of the state’s top educators. She absolutely knows her “stuff” and her every decision is made with students in mind. She has been called upon time and again to serve on task forces and statewide committees.
She had just been to a private religious school as one of three members of an accreditation team. She was distraught about what she had observed. “I wanted to cry when I left,” she said, “because the students there are missing so much they should be getting.”
The school in question has students getting scholarship through the Alabama Accountability Act. According to reports on the Alabama Department of Revenue website, they had scholarships from the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund for 17 students in the first quarter of 2017.
The latest listing of non-public schools participating in AAA shows a total of 201 schools. However, 78 of them are not accredited. This is 39 percent.
This legislation was first passed in 2013. It was last amended in 2015. It states that a qualifying nonpublic school shall be accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies and names them. It also mentions that a non-accreditied school has three years to get its accreditation once it signs up to participate in AAA.
Curious, I looked to see when the school my caller visited got into the program. Jan. 17, 2014. This means it is now well beyond the three-year mark.
BUT. I went back and read the language in the 2015 amendment more carefully and found this: “A nonpublic school shall have three years from the later of the date the nonpublic school notified the Department of Revenue of its intent to participate in the scholarship program OR THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE ACT AMENDING THIS SUBDIVISION.”
That date is June 10, 2015.
So that gives the above school a “grace period” of nearly 17 months. For 14 more schools it is even longer since they joined AAA in 2013. None of these schools HAVE to be accredited until June 10, 2018. Three years from the date the law was changed.
We are diverting money from the Education Trust Fund for vouchers for private schools that can go for almost five years without accreditation thanks to friendly legislators.
The games we play with our children.