The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 14, 2013

UPDATED: Ala. governor signs private school tax credit bill

(Continued)

The Alabama Education Association sued to keep the governor from signing the law, saying the Legislature violated the open meetings law and its own operating rules when passing the legislation. A Democratic judge in Montgomery barred the governor from getting the bill while the suit was considered, but the all-Republican Supreme Court lifted the order and dismissed the suit. The justices said the suit was premature because the bill hadn't been signed by the governor.

AEA attorneys Bobby Segall and James Anderson said a new suit will raise constitutional issues, including whether the dramatic change in the bill's content at the last minute violated the state constitution. Anderson said the law might also be challenged in federal court on grounds that the transfers within the public school system could violate federal school desegregation orders that still cover about one-third of Alabama's school systems.

Critics of the law complained that the tax credits could go to parents who have always sent their children to private school if the children are zoned for a failing public school. The legislation's sponsor, Republican Rep. Chad Fincher of Semmes, said his child attends private school, but he would never benefit from the law because no public school that his child would attend from K-12 is rated as failing.

Fincher said he and his wife chose the school that they thought would provide the best education for their child. "I wanted to give that opportunity to parents whose children are struck in failing schools," he said.

State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice supported the flexibility part of the law, but opposed the tax credits. He said Thursday some Alabama schools "are woefully underperforming," and his staff will develop rules to implement the new law.

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