- Cullman, Alabama

March 15, 2013

EDITORIAL: Parents gain an option

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Gov. Robert Bentley wasted little time in signing the state’s first tax credits for private school attendance into law after the Alabama Supreme Court granted permission.

The controversial measure was held up briefly by a Montgomery circuit judge after a challenge was filed by the Alabama Education Association. Even with the governor moving forward with the bill, a future legal challenge is inevitable.

The AEA, long a powerful force in the state’s political scene, is infuriated with the bill because it will allow parents to move their children to private schools, along with a tax credit, if the local public school is failing.

While there are legitimate questions about how this bill will eventually impact funding for the state’s most troubled public schools, the AEA’s main concern has nothing more at its core than employment for public school teachers. Any concern the organization expresses about the quality of education or education reform can be digested with a grain of salt.

The way in which this bill was passed can be argued from several viewpoints. Some observers think it was sneaky to slip in the tax credit at the last minute. Others are applauding the effort because it blatantly ignores the AEA’s traditional influence over the lawmaking process in Montgomery.

The positive points in this bill include allowing local school boards to reach higher education standards by having more flexibility in meeting the usual regulations from the state level, and that parents can finally have an option to get their children away from schools that continually fail to do a good job.

Crying out about the loss of money for public schools comes late in the game. Many well-intended efforts to bring reforms aimed at higher standards in education have been cast aside through the years because of the inflexibility and influence of the AEA.

While the bill that Gov. Bentley signed may have some flaws, it at least places some alternatives in the hands of tax-paying parents across the state.