Plain and simple, the Alabama Accountability Act is a voucher program where the state OK’s using money that should be spent in public schools to be spent on private school scholarships.

As a taxpayer, you can decide where your taxes are spent,  Instead of sending a check to the Alabama revenue department, you send it to a scholarship granting organization instead and the state gives you 100 percent credit against your tax liability.  Since the state never took procession of your money, which allows any constitutional prohibitions against using public monies in this face, the scheme is legal.

But as we’ve often heard, “If it walks like a duck………..”

The public was told repeatedly when this law was passed in 2013 that it was all about helping “struggling students trapped in failing schools by their zip codes.”

So has AAA done what it promised?  Even though we are supposed to check test scores of students getting scholarships to find out how they are performing, to the best of my knowledge this has never been done.

But according to this article in The Economist,  a recent study by researchers at Duke, MIT and the University of California-Berkley, the same program in Louisiana is not helping students.

“IN THEORY it works perfectly. Rather than oblige parents to send their children to the nearest state-run or –funded school, give them a voucher to be spent at a private school of their choice.  As part of its recovery from Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed many schools in New Orleans, Louisiana undertook one of America’s largest school-choice schemes. According to a new paper by Atila Abdulkadiroglu of Duke University, Parag Pathak of MIT and Christopher Walters of Berkeley, it has not gone well

Increasing school choice is a favourite policy of Republican governors and state legislatures. Since the party’s bumper election year in 2010 the number of voucher schemes has increased from 25 to 59, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.  Yet the evidence from the voucher programmes that have been evaluated has been underwhelming: parents like them, but they often do little or their children’s test scores.

It turned out that this was a lottery to lose. The three economists found that those who received vouchers and moved to private schools had worse test scores in maths, reading, science and social studies than those who missed out.

Schools in New Orleans have improved dramatically since Hurricane Katrina: high-school-graduation rates have risen from 55% to 73% and drop-out rates have fallen by half. But this has been a victory for central control rather than the market: bureaucrats at the state’s powerful Recovery School District have closed many schools and presided over the opening of many more. More parental school choice seems to have had little to do with it.”

Bloomburg News also covered this story.

Their summation is quite blunt and to the point:

“Speculation aside, the evidence is clear that vouchers are a policy with underwhelming potential. Chalk this finding up as another success for the empirical economics revolution, and for well-designed policy experiments at the local government level.  The evidence is by now fairly clear — if the U.S. cares about academic success, policy makers should focus not on turning the school system into a marketplace, but on reforming existing schools to improve their quality.”

But in Alabama we amended the original accountability act in 2015 to take more money from the education trust fund.  Isn’t it time we look at research and data and see if we, like Louisiana, may be throwing good money after bad?