School bill changes not likely

Published 11:35 am Saturday, May 18, 2013

A proposed amendment from Gov. Robert Bentley that would delay a controversial act that grants tax credits for private school for students in “failing” districts could be dead before the Legislature’s last meeting day Tuesday.

Bentley proposed the amendment Wednesday, saying it would give schools time to improve — with the flexibility measures that were in the bill already — and save money to repay the state’s Rainy Day fund.

“I believe this is the most fiscally-responsible approach,” Bentley said.

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Democrats — who were opposed to the tax credits — said they instead favored repeal of the Accountability Act.

And Republican Senate leaders reportedly said Thursday they do not expect the Senate to vote on the measure. To pass it, both houses would have to approve. Legislators could override the governor’s effective veto, meaning the revised version stands. If they don’t override the veto, the original Accountability Act would stand.

It’s unclear what qualifies as a “failing school,” but some lists of current “failing schools” have included Escambia County High School. There is no official list.

The revised Accountability Act bill states that no school would be required to accept a student from a failing school, and it also gives a new definition for a failing school.

Bentley said his executive amendment is needed to help put more money into the rainy day fund.

“I have always been a strong supporter of giving schools the flexibility they need to improve,” he said. “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.”