Governor proposes change to school tax credit bill

Published 12:48 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday proposed an executive amendment to a controversial bill that would grant tax credits for private school tuition to parents whose children are in “failing” public schools.

Bentley said the amendment would help public schools improve while also allowing the state to make greater progress in repaying the Education Rainy Day Fund. The Legislature only has one meeting day next week, May 20.

The executive amendment to House Bill 658 will call for a two-year delay on the implementation of the tax credit and scholarship portions of the Alabama Accountability Act.

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Bentley outlined two main reasons for providing the executive amendment:

• Greater fiscal responsibility:  The Education Trust Fund owes the Education Rainy Day Fund $423 million by the end of fiscal year 2015.  The state needs to pay its debts.  Delaying implementation of the tax credits and scholarships until the 2015-2016 academic year will allow more resources to be focused on Rainy Day Fund repayment.

• Time to improve:  The executive amendment will preserve the flexibility provided by the Alabama Accountability Act.  Public schools asked for, and deserve, that flexibility so they can develop unique and innovative plans for improvement.  By delaying the tax credit and scholarship provisions for two years, schools will have time to put their improvement plans into place and provide a better education.

“If the Legislature accepts my executive amendment, we can help schools improve while also helping ensure the state meets its financial obligations,” Bentley said.  “I believe this is the most fiscally-responsible approach.

“I have always been a strong supporter of giving schools the flexibility they need to improve. I want to not only give them flexibility — I want to give them time to put it into place and make progress. This executive amendment will help us accomplish that goal.”

“Moving forward, my ultimate goal is to have zero failing schools,” Bentley said.  “The flexibility provided by the Alabama Accountability Act will help failing schools improve and help non-failing schools get even better.  That’s why this legislation is so important.  My executive amendment will preserve that flexibility while also helping ensure greater fiscal responsibility.”