In what is the strongest rebuke yet of the Alabama Accountability Act, the Jefferson County school board, the second largest system in the state, has passed a resolution calling on the legislature to repeal AAA. They are the seventh board to take this step.
This is significant because it means all four of the largest systems (Mobile, Jefferson, Baldwin, Montgomery) have spoken out about the ineffectiveness of AAA. These systems, plus the three others who have done the same thing (Tallapoosa, Russellville city, Randolph) represent more than 155,000 students.
By comparison, at the end of September, there were only 3,668 students on accountability act scholarships attending private schools. Public school boards are taking this step to highlight the fact that AAA has now diverted more than $100 million from the Education Trust Fund since created in 2013.
The move by Jefferson County is also meaningful because the county has the largest legislative delegation in Alabama. In all, 16 house members and six senators represent portions of the county. And when you look at the same measure for all seven systems, there are 42 house members and 17 senators representing school systems calling for repeal.
The Jefferson County resolution, which was read by superintendent Craig Pouncey at the Jan. 31, 2019 board meeting, minces no words as to why the Jefferson County board believes the accountability act is bad. For example:
WHEREAS, it was introduced into the legislative process as a “Teacher Flexibility Act” and in the darkness of a conference committee it evolved as a tax credit scheme that has served to benefit a select few.
WHEREAS, the legislation was touted as a vehicle to help students escape failing schools, the facts show something far less. There have been zero dollars allocated to improve struggling schools, and the overwhelming number of scholarship recipients receiving benefits from this act never even attended a failing public school.
WHEREAS, students who are granted these quasi scholarships to private schools are actually receiving on a per pupil basis, a larger share of state dollars than is being allocated to the 722,000 public schools students throughout the state.
WHEREAS, public schools are subjected to multiple accountability measures, private schools neither have to be accredited nor held to the same standards.
WHEREAS, the Alabama Accountability Act is the legislatively approved measure that has singly diverted $140,000,000 from Alabama public schools and specifically $19,762,068 from the twelve school districts in Jefferson County.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Jefferson County Board of Education calls on the Jefferson County Legislative delegation to take the lead in abolishing this act that was deceptively created as one thing, but in reality has turned into a profitable advantage for a chosen few; all the while, nothing has been added to support struggling schools and this act itself has unfairly mislabeled schools of poverty and their communities as well.
As us country boys say, They have put the hay down where the goats can get it.
And from all indications, more hay is on the way.