Once again the much-ballyhooed Alabama Accountability Act proves that there is very little “accountability” as to how it works.
In the last regular session of the legislature we were told an amendment to the original bill would bring more accountability, more transparency and more reporting by scholarship granting organizations to the public.
So how is this working? Not very well it appears.
The Alabama Department of Revenue issued new regulations for SGOs after the amendment passed. The first one on the list says that By the 15th day after the close of each calendar quarter a report containing the following information about educational scholarships granted during the quarter:
However, a check of the Revenue website shows that only three of the nine approved SGOs have turned in their last report on time. These are: Scholarships for Kids of Birmingham, AAA Scholarship Foundation of Prattville and Rocket City SGO of Huntsville. Of these, Scholarship for Kids awarded 841 scholarships through June 30, 2015; Rocket City SGO awarded 10 and AAA had none.
Who has responsibility for policing SGOs and making sure they are in compliance? Your guess is as good as mine.
Another change in the amendment raised the “cap” on total SGO contributions from $25 million to $30 million a year. Supposedly this was needed to allow the program to grow. (A contributor to an SGO gets a dollar for dollar tax credit on their state income tax liability. So each one of these dollars is diverted from the Education Trust Fund.)
The amendment also allowed contributors to donate and claim a tax credit back to 2014 since total funds raised amounted to only 54 percent of the $25 million cap last year. This meant that the ETF could potentially lose another $11,586,490 in donations counting against last year and $30 million this year–a total of $41,586,490.
However, as of Sept. 18, total contributions this year for both 2014 and 2015 are only $14 million. And it should be noted that in late April there was apparently a single donation made to one SGO of $10 million.
Looks as if once again all the hype about the accountability act back in the spring was far overstated.