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Pols Pull Fast One for School Vouchers

Circuit Court Judge Charles Price slowed a bill to give tax credits for private school tuition before the state Supreme Court handed it back to the governor.

Circuit Court Judge Charles Price slowed a bill to give tax credits for private school tuition before the state Supreme Court handed it back to the governor.

AP Photo/Dave Martin

In a behind-closed-doors session that left legislators no time to read a bill before voting, Republicans eased through a new law that takes public money to support private schools, even those with little or no state oversight.

Parents who choose to take their children from “failing” public schools and transfer them to private schools can deduct tuition costs from their tax bill — a move critics described as potentially devastating to schools that already are reeling because Education Trust Fund support is down by more than $200 million.

“They took a bill that was sold as motherhood and apple pie and they turned it into this three-headed monster to allow for public school money to be given to private schools and private companies,” Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry told CBS-TV 8 in Montgomery.

Republican legislators met behind closed doors, amending a bill to give school districts flexibility in meeting state standards so that it created a new system that’s tantamount to school vouchers. State school officials immediately expressed outrage, but Gov. Robert Bentley was ready to sign the bill immediately when the process moved abruptly from statehouse to courthouse.

The teacher organization filed suit and Montgomery Judge Charles Price stopped action on the bill until mid-March, prompting Senate leaders to appeal to the state Supreme Court, where they prevailed, sending the bill back for the governor’s signature. The AEA promptly filed suit against the new law.

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