At The Blount Countian’s request, Blount County Schools Superintendent Rodney Green provided some additional details following the school board’s passage last week of a resolution requesting the Legislature to repeal the Alabama Accountability Act. The act, passed in 2013, has diverted millions of dollars over the time it has been in effect from public schools in Alabama to provide scholarships to students to attend private schools.
The protest at the accumulating harm to public systems – $1.5 million shortfall over six years in state funds to Blount County Schools and $140 million to systems statewide – began last year when three of the state’s largest school systems passed resolutions similar to the one passed by the Blount County Board of Education and reprinted in these pages last week. Since that time, more public systems have passed repeal resolutions. The number of resolutions for repeal is now up to 21 systems across the state, Green said last week. It’s reasonable to expect more of the state’s 137 public systems will follow suit.
The original legislation was intended to encourage school flexibility, innovation, and creativity in methods of instruction and other educational services. As altered and amended in the final hours before passage, the legislation became “seriously detrimental” to the state’s public school system, in the words of the repeal resolution.
According to Green, the act provides a method for students attending “failing” public schools to transfer to non-failing public schools or to private schools with the assistance of scholarships intended to defray costs associated with the transfer. The process further damaged the failing public schools – along with non-failing public schools – by diverting significant amounts of resources from both to support a scholarship program for kids to attend other, usually private, schools. However, data shows that only about a third of the scholarships went to children from failing schools. The remainder went to public school children attending non-failing public schools whose parents opted for them to attend private schools.
Meanwhile, the failing public schools suffered not only from loss of per-pupil funding from the state from those kids who transferred elsewhere, but also did not benefit from additional resources focused specifically on improving physical conditions, curriculum support, and instructional methods responsible for their failing performance in the first place.
“I just feel like there should be a different strategy to fix this problem,” Green said. “It should be one that would help all the children attending failing public schools, not just a few.”
And it would not penalize all 722,000 students attending public schools statewide by systematically reducing the state’s annual allocation to them (amounting to about $250,000 annually in the case of Blount County Schools).