School Flexibility Bill Passes Despite Uproar In Senate

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By Ashley Thompson

There were fireworks in the Senate as lawmakers for and against this new expanded bill went back and forth...debating what's best for Alabama's school system.

"It's the most significant piece of legislation that's been passed in this legislature in years," says Governor Robert Bentley.

Tempers flared and emotions ran high in the Senate while debating the newly expanded school flexibility bill. The expanded legislation includes tax credits for parents who choose to move their children from failing public schools to private schools. After hours of arguing, the bill was approved by the Senate 22-10. But not everyone is pleased.

"In the conference committee, the majority, and might I add of all white men, who left the minority party sitting in a room with members of the press. They went and had a side bar committee to decide to bring a totally different piece of legislation with some of the elements incorporated into the bill," says Senator Quinton Ross.

Opponents say they were blindsided by the expansion and say this new bill is no longer the bill they once supported.

"Never before has the Senate seen such mob rule by this Republican super majority. They have raided every public school system in the state with this special interest legislation that they developed in a closed door meeting with a bunch of lobbyists," adds Senator Roger Bedford.

But Governor Robert Bentley says the decision to exclude certain representatives was necessary.

"I think the conscious decision to not include them was to pass the bill," he says. "I think they did oppose it so I think that sometimes you have to do what is necessary to get a piece of legislation passed and that's exactly what was done tonight."

Others who support the expanded bill say the tax credit was added to help push the bill through.

"The truth is, we didn't have the votes in the Senate to pass the bill when it came out of the House," says Senator Del Marsh. "And it's a strange thing the way you have to turn things, bend them, and make them work but by creating the tax credit, it gave the Senate the ability to bring the votes forward to get the job done."

 

"Finally, these failing schools will have extra incentive to improve, which is in the best interest of the people and the students and the parents and all the taxpayers in the state of Alabama," says House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

But others don't believe the new bill is what's best for Alabama's schools..

"What we don't support is the wholesale of our children's education by raiding the educations' trust fund, by creating these situations where proprietary companies can come in and just suck out the money of our education trust fund," explains Quinton Ross.

State Superintendent Tommy Bice supported the original bill but does not support this newly expanded, revised bill that was passed.



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