Ala. Court Deals Blow to School Choice Program; Parents Announce Intent to Appeal

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · May 28, 2014

Montgomery, Ala.—Today, the Montgomery County Circuit Court struck down the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) as unconstitutional. The ruling will deprive thousands of Alabama families of the financial assistance they need in order for their children to escape failing public schools. The Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm that represents parents participating in the Accountability Act’s school choice program, vowed to appeal the decision to the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Today’s ruling is both disappointing and wrong,” said Bert Gall, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. “Alabama parents should be able to choose the best education possible for their children, whether that’s in a public or private school. We will appeal the trial court’s decision, and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail.”

Judge Eugene Reese ruled that the AAA, which provides a comprehensive approach to education reform, violates the Alabama Constitution. His principal reasoning for doing so was that the school-choice provisions of the Accountability Act violate the Alabama Constitution’s single-subject rule, which requires legislation to focus only on one subject. In doing so, the Court misapplied the Alabama Supreme Court’s well-established precedent that legislation that tackles an issue—in this case, education reform—through various means does not violate the single-subject rule.

“The Accountability Act was passed to empower parents to remove their children from public schools that are failing to provide a quality education, and to move them to better schools,” said Dick Komer, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. “The Alabama Education Association may have won this round of the litigation, but we’ll continue the legal fight on behalf of parents.”

The Alabama Accountability Act achieves something vitally important to parents and children across the state: It rescues kids from failing public schools. It also helps shift power over children’s education from the teachers’ union and restores it to parents, which is why the Alabama Education Association has orchestrated a series of lawsuits in 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.

Having litigated every major school choice case across the nation in the past 20-plus years, the Institute for Justice is confident that the Alabama Supreme Court will ultimately uphold the AAA. When it does, it will eventually help thousands of children who need access to additional educational options to obtain an education that will prepare them for a better life.