As soon as the 2013 accountability act met the light of day (remember it was crafted behind closed doors with no input from educators), the public was told that its only purpose was to help students stuck in “failing schools”.
In fact, “failing schools” are mentioned on line 16 of the first page of the original act and are referenced numerous times in the following 26 pages. And no doubt many of the lawmakers who voted for this bill actually thought this was the case. After all, many later admitted that they did not read the bill before voting to pass it and believed what leadership told them..
But time has proven that this contention is just a sham.
The terminology of “failing schools” was inserted in the bill so that parents of students in one of these schools could apply to the state for an income tax credit to offset the expense of moving a child to a non-failing school. (The bill arbitrarily says that the bottom six percent of all schools will be deemed as “failing.” Why six percent? Apparently someone’s Ouija board suggested it.)
So every year the state department of education releases a list of schools (he most recent has 76 schools on it) they determine are “failing.” (However, two of the current schools on the list received a B on the A-F school report card grading system.)
There are about 40,000 students in these schools. These are the students we were told that the scholarships to private schools created by the accountability act would benefit the most.
But that has never been the case. For instance, in the fall of 2018, the seven scholarship granting organizations handing out scholarships only had 3,685 students as recipients. Of these, only 1,235 were identified as “zoned” to attend a failing school. That was 33.5 percent of all scholarships. Even this number is suspect because a student may be “zoned” for a “failing school” without ever having set foot in one.
And what about those parental tax credits? In 2018, just 120 parents claimed a credit on their state income tax.
That’s 120 out of a potential of about 40,000. The most that have ever been claimed was180 in 2016.
Yet, we are still supposed to believe that this law’s primary purpose is “to help poor kids stuck in struggling schools by their zip code.”
Governor Ivey has said that she does not like the label of “failing schools.” Nor does anyone else, especially educators.
There is a simple solution. In the next legislative session this law should be amended and all references to “failing schools” eliminated. As the numbers show, only a handful of parents are using the tax credit while 40,000 students are being labeled as “failing.”
It is time to end this charade.