Selma City Schools turn eye to new law

Published 11:03pm Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation Thursday to provide Alabama’s first tax credits for private school attendance.

The bill started out as legislation to allow city and county school systems to get approval from the state school board to have flexibility in complying with state education laws. Its goal was to encourage innovative approaches to education.

However, on Feb. 28 a legislative conference committee controlled by the Republican majority vastly expanded the bill and added state tax credits for parents who chose to send their children to a private school rather than a public school rated as failing.

Bentley said the flexibility portion of the law gives failing schools the opportunity to try new ways to improve, get out of failing status, and keep their current students. “Our goal is not to support private education. Our goal is to make every school in this state a non-failing school,” he said.

Families with children assigned to a failing public school can get a tax credit for moving to a private school — a credit equal to 80 percent of the average annual state cost of attendance for a public K-12 student. That would have been $3,553 for the 2011-2012 school year.

A failing public school is defined as persistently low-performing by the state Department of Education in the then most recent U.S. Department of Education School Improvement Grant application; is listed in the lowest 10 percent of public K-12 schools on the state standardized assessment in reading and math; has earned a grade of “F’’ or three consecutive grades of “D’’ in Alabama’s school grading system; or is designated a failing school by the state school superintendent.

Selma City School’s that meet the Legislature’s definition of a failing school include R.B. Hudson Middle School and Selma High School. Dallas County Schools considered failing schools include B.K. Craig Elementary, Brantley Elementary, Dallas County High, Salem Elementary, Southside High, Southside Primary, Keith Middle-High and Tipton Durant Middle.

Labarron Mack, Alabama Education Association UniServ director addressed the new law at the Selma City School Board Thursday.

“They’re saying if it’s a failing school, the [students] can leave that failing school and go to a school that’s high performing,” Mack said. “What this has done, is you’ve given other entities the opportunity to come in and take that money away from public education.”

“I think [the lawmakers] feel like we have all of these failing schools, so if we give the children an option, then education can improve. But the children who are really struggling are from low-income families,” Selma City School Board attorney Katy Campbell said. “They’re not going to be able to move because it’s a tax credit, so they’re not going to be able to send their child to Morgan [Academy[, because that $3,500 tax credit does not come near to what the tuition would be.”

“But I really don’t think in the beginning that you’re going to see a mass exodus of students leaving our schools and enrolling in the private schools,” Selma City School’s Superintendent Gerald Shirley said. “A student who’s currently enrolled in a private school could come to our public school [that meets the criteria of a ‘failing school’], stay a week or two weeks and then go back to the private school. And the parent has a right for the $3,500 tax credit.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

  • acourtland

    I would love to see the ruddy faces of the school folk at the integration of Morgan Academy when all the little black children come with their vouchers in hand. One question. What about the vast majority of the students abandoned in the “failing” schools? Our erudite governor hadn’t thought of that. You get what you vote for. This is just another example of our great state’s race to the bottom. Anybody remember the 2011 immigration law?

    • MO-OF-it

      You might want to check your stats

      There are more children of color at Morgan than there are Caucasians at Selma High.

      I wonder what your face look like now…..
      Perhaps surprised?

  • Kimesha Sunshine Alvarado

    You guys voted for people who don’t care about the education of all children. They only care about how they look in pictures. These people are going to keep getting a check while ruining Selmas public school system

    • MO-OF-IT

      Be Careful who you call “you guys”…..

      Seems to me the majority in Selma voted for someone just like them to lead the school board? How do they expect different outcomes?

      Perhaps it’s time for our leaders to realize that Selma is
      located in the heart of a RED STATE and they should get on board with the majority of citizens if “they” want a bigger slice of the pie. Might just be a better tactic than the constant complaining…

  • MO-OF-IT

    Amazing how out of touch these folks are…. Including Pops.

    $3,500 is more than enough to send a child to Morgan. Ellwood and Tabernacle both have tuition of $2,100 per year. So it covers that too.

    With regards to busses maybe the child’s parent(s) could
    drive them there. They drive everywhere else don’t they?

    Poor arguments from the folks delivering the failing schools. Perhaps they should care more about the children than their own paycheck.

    • popdukes12

      But, if you don’t file a long form, a tax credit doesn’t do you any good.

      • MO-OF-IT

        Then explain to me how all these folks who pay little tax get more back than they pay in….

        Tax credits translate to tax refunds.

        How do you think all the tax preparers and used car dealers stay in business?

      • popdukes12

        Line 38a “Earned income tax credit”. Young single moms with a qualifying child use this line. I’m sure there may be others that use this also. pops

  • captain113

    you need to take a long hard look at your city school board

  • popdukes12

    So, R.B. Hudson Middle School and Selma High School are both considered as “failing”. This should really make the Selma City school Board proud. There are several deterrents for inner city kids going to Morgan: 1) The tax credit can only be taken on a 1040A Federal Income Tax form (where one can take itemized deductions). Considering the inner city income levels, that won’t happen. 2) There is no school bus system from the inner city to Morgan Academy. Next, I would hate to be a parent trying to explain to my child why he was made to go to Selma High in order for me to get a $3,500 tax credit. pops

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