Alabama School Choice

Boyd v. Magee
Alabama School Choice

 

Dalphine Wilson

IJ client Dalphine Wilson (center) with her children Evelyn Eady and Grant Eady.

 

With the 2013 passage of the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) by the Alabama Legislature, Alabama joined the growing list of states providing low-income families with greater school choice.  The Act’s school-choice provisions focus on students who are trapped in chronically underperforming public schools, particularly those rated by the state as “failing.”  The Act empowers these families in two ways:  First, it provides parents and legal guardians whose children are assigned to these schools with refundable tax credits.  Second, it also provides individual and corporate taxpayers with tax credits for donations made to qualified charitable organizations that award scholarships to similarly situated children.  In short, Alabama has offered a lifeline to families that would like to escape these failing public schools but have lacked the financial resources to do so until now.

The Alabama Education Association (AEA) and its allies are trying desperately to sever that lifeline.  Despite the rejection by the Alabama Supreme Court of the first two lawsuits it filed against the AAA, the AEA filed a third suit claiming that Act’s school-choice provisions violate the religion clauses of the state constitution; and the AEA has also thrown in a kitchen sink full of other claims of alleged constitutional violations.   The AEA fears that if low-income families begin to follow their wealthier peers to private schools that offer an education superior to that of these failing public schools, the public schools will no longer have a captive clientele with no alternative but to accept the inadequate education offered in these public schools.  Simply put, the AEA wants to protect the old way of doing things, in which the lack of competition faced by public schools means that they are not forced to respond to parents’ concerns about the quality of education offered their kids.  That old way may be comfortable for the AEA, which views competition as a threat to its power, but it is intolerable for parents whose kids have been consigned to attend failing schools.

Because the direct and intended beneficiaries of the school choice program are the families it empowers to make educational choices, the Institute for Justice (IJ) teamed with seven parents who are making use of the program and is representing them in the defense of the Act.  Although the trial court judge ruled against the AAA, he allowed its school-choice provisions to remain in operation while IJ and the State appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court.  Oral argument in the case before the Alabama Supreme Court was on December 3, 2014, and we are waiting for a final decision.

Courts in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin have upheld many similar programs to Alabama’s.  Moreover, the Alabama Supreme Court has already upheld scholarship programs allowing students to receive state funds to attend Alabama’s private colleges against challenges brought under these same state religion clauses.  Accordingly, the Institute for Justice is confident that the law is on the side of school choice—and, more importantly, the Alabama families who are benefiting from it.  

 

Essential Background

Images

Background: Alabama Parents Join Legal Battle To Protect School Choice

Client photo for media use

Client video - none available

Latest Release: Ala. Judge Allows School Choice Program to Operate During Appeal (June 9, 2014)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

none available

Launch Release: Institute for Justice Will Defend Arizona’s Education Savings Accounts For Children with Special Needs (October 10, 2013)

Case Timeline

Lawsuit Filed:

 

October 10, 2013

Court Filed:

 

Montgomery County Circuit Court

Current Court: Montgomery County Circuit Court

Status:

 

Case Filed

Next hearing date: To be determined

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Ala. Court Deals Blow to School Choice Program; Parents Announce Intent to Appeal (May 28, 2014)

 

Release: Court Allows Alabama Parents & IJ To Intervene in Defense of School Choice Program (October 22, 2013)

none available 

 

 

 

Op-eds, News Articles & Links 

 

Article: AL Supreme Court hears state's Accountability Act case Montgomery Advertiser (December 3, 2014)

 

Article: School leaders, parents await Accountability Act hearing WAFF-TV (December 3, 2014)

 

Article: Alabama Accountability Act to be argued before state Supreme Court next month al.com (November 7, 2014)

 

Article: Alabama judge halts scholarship program for low-income kids World Magazine (June 11, 2014)

 

Article: Judge delays enforcing school tax credits ruling The Associated Press (June 9, 2014)

 

Article: Lawyers for state, parents move to lift judge's ruling blocking Alabama Accountability Act Birmingham News (May 29, 2014)

 

Article: Montgomery County judge: Accountability Act unconstitutional The Associated Press (May 29, 2014)

 

Article: Tax credits for private schools struck down as unconstitutional The Associated Press (May 28, 2014)


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