State Rep. Wants to Use Accountability Act Money to Fund AMSTI


By Brittany Bivins

The Alabama Accountability Act is under fire by some lawmakers who say it isn't worth its price tag. The new law gives tax credits for parents to transfer their children from failing public schools to private schools. But so far, only 52 students statewide have signed up. That averages to less than one child per county.

So is it worth its price tag?

"Only 52 kids did it, so if they spent that much money, why not more kids? If more kids had done it, maybe it'd be worth it," said Frances Lucas.

"If you want to go private education and get the money out of the government's hands, I don't know if it's a bad place to spend the money," said Dicky Huff, a retired teacher.

Parents and educators are split. But House Minority Leader Craig Ford says it costs too much for public schools.

"It still affects their budget. They're still losing money out of their local system so it hurts all of education," Ford said.

State Superintendent Tommy Bice says transfers have gone smoothly so far. But it will take time for it to catch on.

"It's gonna take us a  year to really take a look at this from the child's level, from the school level, from now to see how this all went, then we can do things to make it even better," he said.

Money for those students is still in a reserve fund this year.

"Unfortunately it's going to stay in place until the next fiscal year or until the next legislative session comes and then when it comes, we're going to sponsor this piece of legislation," Ford said.

That legislation would expand another program called Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative or AMSTI. Ford says his bill would abolish the Accountability Act and put the 40 million dollars toward that program, which is in about half of Alabama schools right now.

"It wasn't left out. It just wasn't fully funded, so it's in the budget now, but we want to make it so all schools can participate," Ford said.

We spoke to state school officials about whether the 40 million from the Accountability Act would fund AMSTI for all of Alabama's about 1,500 schools. They say it will cost around 50 million dollars a year for at least 5 years to make that happen.

Representatives for State School Superintendent Tommy Bice said they could not comment on Ford's proposal until they had time to read it and review the possibilities.

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