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State News

May 27, 2013

Ala. Dems want to use school law in 2014 campaigns

MONTGOMERY, Ala. —

Alabama Democrats cried foul when Republicans pushed through a sweeping education law that will create new income tax credits to help some parents pay private school tuition.

Because they're an overwhelming minority in the Legislature, there wasn't much the Democrats could do. Now, with the session over, leading party figures tell The Decatur Daily they'll use the Republicans' act as a primary issue in the 2014 legislative elections.

Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville says he believes the law will lead to dozens of Republicans losing re-election. Bedford and his colleagues say Alabamians don't support the idea of steering public money to private schools, even indirectly.

Republicans argue that state voters have endorsed expanding educational options for families zoned for poorly performing public schools.

Republicans gained control of the Legislature after the 2010 elections; 2014 will be the first re-election campaigns for many GOP freshmen who were part of the takeover.

The law allows schools flexibility from some curriculum and other state regulations. But the more controversial provision grants $3,500 income tax credits for private school tuition if a child is zoned to attend a failing school, as defined by the state accountability system.

Tax credits are dollar-for-dollar reductions in a filer's tax liability, meaning the tuition credit is basically a state subsidy of private school tuition.

That's a policy that Bedford and his colleagues say voters won't stomach. The law, some Democrats say, is particularly unpopular in parts of the state where public schools and generally respected and where there aren't many private schools in the first place.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston and House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn counter that Democrats and the powerful Alabama Education Association have long blocked attempts to improve education inAlabama.

Marsh, a driving force behind the law, says voters will appreciate GOP efforts to more parents options for their children.

 

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