Legislature can’t fix broken bill

Published 6:52pm Monday, April 29, 2013

Once again, the Alabama Legislature is being asked to “fix” a bill that was rushed through without taking the time to think it over or debate it. This is a disturbing trend that has repeatedly taken place too many times since the Republican Supermajority took control in Montgomery. In fact, if there has been a theme for the past three years, that theme would be, “unintended consequences.”

This week, the Alabama House of Representatives will begin considering the first of the series of bills that are meant to “fix” the so-called Accountability Act. However, the truth is that the Accountability Act cannot be fixed. It is a broken piece of legislation, and no amount of new legislation or regulations can make it better. What I find interesting are the proposed solutions that Republicans in Montgomery think will fix this bill.

The first “fix” bill would make it so that “non-failing” public and private schools do not have to accept students from failing schools. I’m sorry, but wasn’t the whole point of the vouchers to give students in “failing schools” a school choice? School administrators are under extreme pressure to keep their student test scores up. If they don’t, then they might also become a “failing school.”

This is not the only “fix” the Republicans in Montgomery are trying to pass. Another Republican proposal would expand the tax breaks given to those who contribute to the new scholarship funds.

A third “fix” that Republicans are proposing would guarantee that the vouchers can be given to those who already send their children to private schools, even if their children never attended a failing public school. The Republican chairman of the House’s Ways and Means – Education Committee, which writes the education budget each year, estimates that at least 25 percent of the children already in private schools will be eligible for the tax credit. The point of the vouchers was supposed to make it easier for kids in “failing schools” to transfer to “non-failing schools.” How does a voucher for those already sending their kids to private schools help these kids? How many more millions of dollars will be diverted from our public schools to pay for these unnecessary vouchers?

Alabama legislators should have never passed a bill that they did not read or understand, but that has been a consistent theme since the Republican Supermajority took control of the legislature: just get something passed and fix it later.

We cannot have responsible education reform if the Republican leadership in the Alabama legislature cannot also be responsible in how they lead and conduct the state’s business.

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