The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 6, 2014

More students moving to private schools in Ala.

(Continued)

Scholarships for Kids reported raising $6.3 million in 2013. McCain said donations picked up after school started and more people learned about the law. She predicts her organization will have 700 to 1,000 students on scholarships by May. She said about 80 percent of them would likely qualify under the low-income provision.

An attorney for the Alabama Education Association, which is challenging the law in court, said it's deceptive to describe the money raised as contributions because the donors get every dollar back through the tax credits. "There is no philanthropy," Bobby Segall said.

For the fall semester, the state Department of Education reported 52 students left failing public schools to attend private schools under the Alabama Accountability Act. Figures aren't available for the spring semester, but supporters of the law expect a dramatic growth for the 2014-2015 school year.

"I have schools calling me every week," McCain said.

But first, the law has to get past legal challenges.

A federal judge heard arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a state court judge heard arguments Thursday in a lawsuit filed by AEA, the state teachers' organization.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Gene Reese gave attorneys two weeks to submit proposed orders and said he will rule afterward.

AEA's attorneys said the state Constitution allows only one subject in a bill, while the Accountability Act has two subjects. They said one subject gives public schools flexibility in complying with state regulations, and the other provides tax credits to parents moving children from failing public schools to private schools.

An assistant state attorney general, Will Parker, argued the bill has only one subject.

"All the provisions in the act relate to education," he said.

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