This was one of those burning questions after the passage of the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA): are families of children who are assigned to “failing” schools and are already enrolled in private school eligible for the tax credits?
The Senate Education Committee approved SB360 on April 24 that clarified that families of children zoned to private schools who are already enrolled in private schools would be eligible for the tax credits. But Republican senators disagreed over whether the tax credits should be made available to current private school students. Ultimately, that bill never made it to the floor of the Senate.
In mid-May, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh stated he did not believe the legislature would attempt to determine whether families with students currently enrolled in private schools who were zoned to attend “failing” schools were eligible for the tax credit. Marsh contended that the question would be answered when the Department of Education and the Department of Revenue made the rules to go along with the law.
By the end of the session, HB658 was the only bill that passed that amended the original bill, HB84 and it did not address the question specifically. Here is the compilation of the two in one document.
However, the question of tax credit eligibility of students currently enrolled in private schools was answered succinctly on last Friday night’s edition of Capitol Journal by Representative Chad Fincher, the sponsor of the AAA. When host Don Dailey asked Fincher if families with children enrolled in private schools would be eligible for the tax credits, Fincher replied that a family must incur a cost of transferring to a private school and if a child is already in a private school, there is no cost of transferring. Thus, those families are not eligible for the tax credit.
He said he believes the “concern of public money going to private schools is off the table”. Here are his remarks (captured with my phone’s video camera from the Capitol Journal broadcast, turn the volume all the way up):
While Fincher’s words don’t necessarily carry the weight of law, it is interesting to note the original sponsor’s intention.
Capitol Journal posts full episodes on its video home page. This episode aired on May 31, 2013. Shout out to Capitol Journal: watch it if you want to know what our legislators have to say. Check your local listings. It shows on my television on Monday through Thursday nights at 10:30 p.m. on APTV. The Week in Review, an hour-long episode, airs on Friday nights at 8:00 p.m.
Just for fun, I traced the history of the various attempts to pass and amend the AAA, from original passage of HB84 to the end of the session.
|Bill||Date of Introduction||Republican or Democrat Sponsors||Purpose and Result|
|HB84||January 24||Republican||Introduction of original Local Control School Flexibility Act, different versions passed in House and Senate, went to Conference Committee, see next line of table|
|HB84||February 28||Republican||Amended HB84, Enacted as the Alabama Accountability Act|
|SB360||March 14||Republican||Amend; passed Committee, but never made it to full Senate|
|HB492||March 20||Democrat||Repeal; stuck in Committee|
|SB381||April 4||Republican||Amend; stuck in Committee|
|SB384||April 4||Democrat||Repeal; stuck in Committee|
|HB559||April 4||Democrat||Repeal, confine the Act to the Local Control School Flexibility Act; stuck in Committee|
|SB430||April 11||Democrat||Repeal, confine the Act to the Local Control School Flexibility Act; stuck in Committee|
|SB437||April 11||Democrat||Subject SGOs to audit (not review OR audit); stuck in Committee|
|HB655||April 23||Republican||Amend; stuck in Committee|
|HB658||April 23||Republican||Amend; Enacted|