The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Letters to the Editor

March 31, 2013

Letters to the Editor 3/31/13

The News Courier encourages letters to the editor. Submissions should be no more than 400 words and should include a name, address and telephone number for verification. Submissions that do not meet requirements are subject to editing. Send letters by noon on Thursdays to P.O. Box 670, Athens, AL, 35613, or email to adam@athensnews-courier.com.

Bill won’t aid students

Dear Editor:

   In reading the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013, (HB 84), aka School Flexibility Bill, aka, The Private School Voucher Act, I did not see any commitment to the failing students in Alabama’s Public Schools. In my opinion, the only thing that is really guaranteed is that certain students can move from one school to another and that money will be siphoned, without limit, from tax dollars intended for the public schools.

The legislation will do little if anything to improve education overall. However, it will diminish the public schools’ ability to adequately serve their students.

I think that the above legislation is “helter-skelter” and that the social engineers that passed it intended it to be so. Being somewhat familiar with their character, I do not trust that the leading Republicans are all that concerned with helping every student in Alabama but rather are more interested in enhancing their own political and financial careers. But I would have been impressed by their honesty if they had not resorted to subterfuge and disbanded the public schools outright. Then they could create things in their own image as they will continue to do through their copious and haughty legislation.

Sincerely,

William R. Graham

Athens

HB84 will hurt schools

Dear Editor:

Attention: Education stakeholders in Athens and Limestone County

HB84 will hurt our local schools because every penny for every tax credit for families and corporate scholarship programs comes out of the Education Trust Fund. There will be less money for all public schools in Alabama, failing or not.

We are told this bill benefits the poor children of Alabama, but most private schools cost more than the $3,500 tax credit and the poorest families do not have the money to pay the tuition up front in order to claim the tax credit. It will not benefit them. But it could benefit families who already have children in private schools since there is nothing in the bill to prevent them from forming scholarship programs or corporations to give their own children scholarships.

Students with disabilities who transfer from failing schools to private schools are still entitled to receive services from the public school they leave at the expense of the school. Since the public school will lose its federal funding for this student, the cost of these services will be borne by the local school system. So the private school gets the tuition money without having to provide the services.

There are five criteria to identify failing schools and only one has to be met for a school to be labeled “failing.” They were not created by either the state department of education, the state superintendent, or the state school board. They were created by the Legislature.

One way to qualify as a failing school is to be on a list of low-performing schools on the SDE Improvement Grant Application of 2008-2009. This list is four years old and some schools have improved and should not be on that list today.

Schools who are in the lowest 10 percent of public K-12 schools on the standardized assessment in reading and math will qualify as a failing school. This ensures that there will always be failing schools even if all schools meet and exceed state standards, because there’s always a bottom 10 percent.

The superintendent of education, the state school board, the Alabama Association of School Boards, CLASS, and the Alabama Education Association all believe this bill is going to hurt all public schools in Alabama.

So who really benefits from HB84?  To answer that question, we’ll just have to follow the money.

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