“It has never been my goal to have a bill that supports private education,” Gov. Robert Bentley said Monday, two months after signing into law a bill that supports private education.
The governor announced he may seek amendments to a bill passed last week. The bill replaces the Alabama Accountability Act, which Bentley signed in March.
The most significant change in the replacement bill was to limit the number of schools that are deemed “failing.” Under both the Accountability Act and the replacement bill, students in failing schools can transfer to private schools. If the schools accept them, the parents would receive a tax credit to offset the tuition.
None of the changes in the replacement bill affect the fundamental outline of the Accountability Act, which is to subsidize private schools with tax dollars from the Education Trust Fund.
If Bentley’s concern is that the replacement bill benefits private schools while hurting underfunded public schools — which it certainly does — why did he sign the Accountability Act in March? That law does precisely the same thing. Indeed, the law Bentley signed would almost definitely drain more money from the ETF because of its broader definition of failing schools.
Two Republican senators also voted against the replacement bill despite joining their unanimous GOP colleagues in voting for the Accountability Act on Feb. 28. Like Bentley, the concerns they expressed about the replacement bill also applied to the Accountability Act that received their vote.
Even if Bentley manages to block the replacement bill, the even more reckless Accountability Act would remain on the books.
The political question, therefore, is whether a majority of legislators now recognize just how awful both the Accountability Act and the replacement bill are. The responsible move would be to preserve only that portion of the Accountability Act that received debate before the rushed Feb. 28 passage, a provision that provides more flexibility for local school districts.
The gamesmanship in passing the Accountability Act has been an embarrassment. If Bentley is trying to undo the damage, he deserves credit from voters and support from legislators.