Failing schools list no surprise

Published 8:51am Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Take a look at a map of the state’s 78 “failing” schools, and you won’t be surprised. As many have noted, you could have made this list 20 years ago, and the same schools would be on it.

Parents whose children attend one of these failing schools will now be eligible for a tax credit of about $3,500 if they decide to send their children to a private school.

To be fair, a few of the schools have shown marked improvement in the past three years. But because the state formula says that schools must be in the bottom 6 percent of performance in at least three of the past six years, recent improvements don’t even count.

But what do most of the schools on the list have in common? Poverty. Poverty so stifling that a majority of the students — in some cases, 90 percent or higher — or living below the poverty line. This state has been struggling with that disparity for decades, and it is a fight that will not end with school choice.

Rather than help the state invest in and improve public schools — which can be held accountable — the state is going to give their parents a tax credit to send them to a private school, where there is no accountability.

But let’s take a look at the timeline: You can start sending your child to private school this year. But you won’t get a tax credit until next spring sometime.

If you are struggling to put food on the table, why would you be able to afford the $3,500 in tuition this fall, and just wait for the tax credit later?

Not to mention, we predict that the Department of Revenue’s decision that only students who are new to a private school will qualify for the tax credit will lead to a lawsuit soon.

Does that mean that a family will, essentially, be able to pay for one year of private school?

The Alabama Accountability Act was flawed from the start. We don’t believe it will do anything to improve education for those who most desperately need it.

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