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Setting the record straight on the Accountability/Flexibility bill

Published 6:00am Saturday, March 23, 2013

The most disturbing thing about how the school Accountability/Flexibility Bill was passed is that Republicans don’t seem to think they have done anything wrong and that the ends justify the means.

Well they are wrong.

Republicans like Sen. Phil Williams have made tried to claim that the Accountability/ Flexibility Bill was “passed by a straight up or down vote after several hours of debate in both the House and Senate.”

That statement is simply not true, and the public record proves that.

The Republicans in Alabama are now trying to tell us that they followed the rules. But that is clearly not true. The Republicans are also claiming that this bill will revolutionize education, which is also not true.

They have even tried to compare this deceitful bill to President Ronald Reagan telling Gorbachev to tear down the iron curtain. That’s insulting to your intelligence and the memory of Ronald Reagan.

Since all of this is definitely not true. It’s time to set the record straight.

First, this bill does not really give students a choice in where they will go to school. Only student’s in “targeted” school districts would be allowed the option of choosing a different school, and most of these students cannot afford a private school education even with the vouchers.

Second, this new law will cut funding from every school in the state. And it is the “failing” schools that will be hit the hardest. Of course, nobody knows yet just how much this new law will cost the state, but most estimates say it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And for the schools that students transfer out of, they will lose even more funding because each school’s budget is tied to the number of students enrolled. Fewer students enrolled means less funding for the school.

Now how is that supposed to help one of these “failing” schools?

Schools are already struggling with the current budget cuts, and the Republicans in the Alabama legislature want to take even more.

These cuts will not just hurt K-12 schools. Every college and university in the state, as well as state funded pre-K programs, will lose money. And that means that tuition costs will increase, which will put an even greater strain on families trying to give their children a college education.

But this new law is a disaster for more reasons than just its effect on school finances.

This bill says that any school that is in the lowest 10 percent is considered “failing.” So even if a school is improving or exceeds state and federal standards, they can still be considered failing.

And the reason that the Republicans in Montgomery chose that number is so that these elected officials could make sure that they got vouchers for their kids. So these aren’t really “failing” schools. They are “targeted” schools.

But I have to come back to the way this bill was passed. For Republicans like Sen. Phil Williams to tell us that this bill was thoroughly debated is a disheartening lie.

The bill that went into the conference committee was not the same bill that came out of it. The original bill was only 9 pages and did not include anything about vouchers or school choice. It didn’t even have the same name. The bill that came back included was three-times longer, had a new name, and included all of these new provisions – none of which had a cost estimate.

That is just not good government. It’s just not proper. Everything our government does should be out in the open. Even if it was a good bill, what the Republicans did to pass it was just plain wrong and there’s no excusing it!

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