Alabama School Choice Case Hearing Thursday in Montgomery Circuit Court;

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · February 22, 2015

On Thursday, February 6, the Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice, will ask a judge to rule on behalf of parents who are using the Alabama Accountability Act to get their children into safe and effective schools of their choice. This key hearing involves the latest lawsuit orchestrated by the Alabama Education Association, a desperate effort to block the schoolhouse doors, not with the goal of keeping kids out, but with the specific goal of keeping kids in chronically failing schools.

The AEA claims, among other things, that the Accountability Act is unconstitutional because it violates prohibitions in the state constitution against direct funding of religious schools. But as the Alabama Supreme Court has made clear, helping students select the school of their choice does not violate those prohibitions because in that case, the aid benefits the student, not the school. The union’s argument flies in the face of other similar school choice programs that have existed for decades.

Today, the Institute for Justice released a report documenting how Alabama’s new school choice program is similar to successful programs in a dozen other states, as well as at least six other school choice programs already established in Alabama that help pre-K and post-secondary students attend public, private and religious schools—in nearly every case directly benefiting students, not the institutions they happen to choose.

Having defended every major school choice program in courts nationwide in the past 20-plus years, the Institute for Justice is confident that the landmark Alabama Accountability Act will be upheld in court. “The frivolous nature of the union’s claims reveals their desperation,” said Bert Gall, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice.

The Act offers a lifeline to families that would like to escape failing public schools but have lacked the financial resources to do so until now. The Act empowers these families in two ways: First, it provides families whose children are assigned to failing public schools with refundable tax credits that the families can use to help pay tuition at private and out-of-district public schools. Second, the Act incentivizes the creation of private scholarships that families can also use to help pay tuition at private and out-of-district public schools. Individuals and corporations who donate to private nonprofit scholarship organizations, which issue the scholarships, receive a tax credit.

Arif Panju, an Institute for Justice attorney, said, “When the Act is upheld in court, it will help thousands of children who need access to additional educational options that will prepare them for a better life.”