The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

March 5, 2013

Voucher bill irks educators

By Adam Smith
adam@athensnews-courier.com

— School leaders across the state are still fuming over a bill passed last week that will provide tax credits to parents who want to move their children from a failing public school to a private school.

“Tyranny & Deceit” was the headline of Monday’s edition of the Alabama School Journal, the official publication of the Alabama Education Association.

The AEA is encouraging Alabamians to call Gov. Robert Bentley’s office to express frustration over how House Bill 84 was passed on Thursday night. The group contends HB 84 was “unread by almost all members of the Legislature” and represents a “complete betrayal of public trust.”

Education leaders said Bentley damaged valuable relationships when he worked in private with the Legislature’s Republican leaders to expand a school flexibility bill the educators backed into a tax credit bill they opposed.

“There is no question some bridges will have to be rebuilt,” Eric Mackey, executive director of the School Superintendents of Alabama, told the Associated Press Friday.

Limestone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Sisk said his biggest complaint about the bill was the process in which it was passed. He added that while the voucher system could have negative implications for the school system, there are benefits to the flexibility portion of the bill.

“I like the idea of 1,080 (school) hours as opposed to 180 days,” he said.

Like the AEA, however, Sisk was not pleased by the process in which the bill was approved.

“You elect government officials to represent you, and not the needs of special interest groups,” he said. “There’s that perception that these organizations have in the past been able to pull strings that have given their members some advantage.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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