The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 6, 2014

More students moving to private schools in Ala.

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — More students are moving from public to private schools with the help of scholarships provided by groups that were able to raise the maximum amount of money allowed by Alabama law.

The leader of one of the most successful scholarship groups said the number of students taking advantage of the Alabama Accountability Act has swelled in the second semester because of more donations. Birmingham lawyer Jenny McCain, president of Scholarships for Kids, cited 16 students who recently enrolled at Churchill Academy in Montgomery using scholarships from her group.

She said the students' parents had wanted to transfer them from public schools — some rated as failing and some not — but they didn't have the money for the private school that helps students with special needs. "The only reason they are able to be at the school is the Alabama Accountability Act," she said in an interview.

The Legislature passed the Alabama Accountability Act in February 2013, and it kicked in with the fall semester. It allows students in the 78 public schools rated as failing by the state Department of Education to move to any non-failing school or to a participating private school. It provides parents with a $3,500 annual tax credit to help cover their costs.

The law also allows the creation of scholarship organizations to award scholarships to children to attend private school. Until Sept. 15 of each year, the scholarships are targeted for children leaving failing public schools. After that, money can go to parents making less than 150 percent of the median household income, no matter where their children have been enrolled. That figure is about $62,000.

The law gave businesses and individuals a 100 percent tax credit for donations to the scholarship organizations, and it capped the tax credits at $25 million per year. The state Revenue Department reports business and individuals committed the $25 million limit for 2013.

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