When the Alabama Accountability Act was passed in 2013 we were told over and over that it was all about helping low income students. And we were told that competition would save “failing” schools.
It went like this: some schools would work really hard to get out from under the “failing school” stigma. Because their students could transfer to non-failing schools or get scholarships to private schools, either of which would cause them to lose funding, they would compete hard to prevent this from happening.
But the accountability act did not tell these schools what they needed to do to get better, nor did it provide them extra resources to help struggling students. We just patted them on the head and wished them well. Didn’t matter if there was not another non-failing school in their system to transfer to, nor a private school participating in the scholarship program, we just wished them well.
Today, there are eight schools that were on the first “failing” list in 2013 that are still there. There are 3,436 students in these schools. Of these, 72.1 percent are black and 92.5 percent get free lunches.
They are: Bullock County high; Carver middle in Greene County; B. T. Washington middle and Scarborough Middle in Mobile; Bellingrath middle in Montgomery; Camden School of Arts in Wilcox County; Hudson Middle in the Selma city system and Central High in Tuscaloosa city. Basically they are forgotten schools full of invisible students.
Since 2013 we have diverted $147 million from the Education Trust Fund to provide scholarships to private schools. But how much help have we diverted to those 3,436 students in the eight schools just listed?
Look carefully at the language in the first Alabama Accountability Act and you find it mentions “tax credits” 28 times and “failing schools” 27 times. This bill was amended in 2015 to restate the purpose of the legislation. Interestingly enough, the 2015 version mentions “tax credits” 22 times and “failing schools” only 10 times.
This would probably not be a surprise to any of the 3,436 students in these eight schools.