Alabama School Choice

Boyd v. Magee
Alabama School Choice


Dalphine Wilson

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


School choice is constitutional in Alabama!  That’s the result of IJ’s successful legal defense of that state’s first school-choice program, the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA). 

When the Alabama Legislature passed the AAA in 2013, Alabama joined the growing list of states providing low-income families with greater school choice.  The AAA’s school-choice provisions focus on students who are trapped in chronically underperforming public schools, particularly those rated by the state as “failing.”  The AAA 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, the AAA offers 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 tried 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; in addition, the AEA threw in a kitchen sink full of other claims of alleged constitutional violations.   The AEA feared that if low-income families began to follow their wealthier peers to private schools that offer an education superior to that of these failing public schools, the public schools would no longer have a captive clientele with no alternative but to accept the inadequate education offered in these public schools.  Simply put, the AEA wanted to protect the old way of doing things, in which the lack of competition faced by public schools meant that they were not forced to respond to parents’ concerns about the quality of education offered their kids.  That old way may have been comfortable for the AEA, which views competition as a threat to its power, but it was intolerable for Alabama 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 several parents who were making use of the program and represented them in the defense of the AAA.  In an 8-1 decision it issued in March of 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed with IJ that the program is constitutional.  As a result, the AAA survived.  So did the opportunity for thousands of Alabama children to get a quality education in the school of their parents’ choice.  


Essential Background


Background: Alabama Parents Join Legal Battle To Protect School Choice

Client photo for media use

Client video - none available

Latest Release: Victory for School Choice in Alabama (March 2, 2015)

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



Case Filed

Next hearing date: To be determined

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

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


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)

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Op-eds, News Articles & Links 


Article: In Alabama, a Victory for School Choice National Review (March 4, 2015)


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 (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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