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Alabama

Constitutional Provisions

Compelled Support Clause

“That no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry ….” Alabama Const. Art. I, § 3.

Blaine Amendments

“No appropriation shall be made to any charitable or educational institution not under the absolute control of the state, other than normal schools established by law for the professional training of teachers for the public schools of the state, except by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house.” Alabama Const. Art. IV, § 73.

“No money raised for the support of the public schools shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian or denominational school.” Alabama Const. Art. XIV, § 263.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes


Existing Private School Choice Programs

Alabama Parent-Taxpayer Refundable Tax Credits

Alabama Code Sections 16-6D-1 to -9

Education Scholarship Program

Alabama Code Sections 16-6D-1 to -9

Relevant Case Law

Magee v. Boyd, 175 So. 3d 79 (Ala. 2015)

The Alabama Supreme Court upheld both of Alabama’s tax credit programs against several claims under the Alabama Constitution raised by the plaintiffs. Among other things, the Court held that neither of Alabama’s tax credit programs violate either of Alabama’s Blaine Amendments, since tax credits are not appropriations and are thus not governed by either provision. Furthermore, the tax credits are given to parents of students or taxpayers, not to religious institutions. Finally, the programs do not violate Alabama’s Compelled Support Clause because the programs are neutral toward religion, and any benefit to a religious institution from these programs is due to the choices of individuals, not the government.

Alabama Education Association v. James, 373 So. 2d 1076 (Ala. 1979)

After a change in U.S. Supreme Court Establishment Clause jurisprudence, the Alabama Supreme Court held that tuition grants to students attending private schools are constitutional  under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Alabama’s Blaine Amendment (Article XIV, Section 263) because the aid goes to the student, not the school.

Opinion of Justices, 280 So. 2d 547 (1973)

Following then-current U.S. Supreme Court Establishment Clause precedent, the Alabama Supreme Court opined that tuition grants to students attending “church colleges” would violate both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and one of Alabama’s Blaine Amendments (Article XIV, Section 263) because they would excessively entangle the state and religion.

Analysis and Recommendations

Tax credit programs and vouchers are both school choice options for Alabama. Although the Alabama Constitution contains both a Compelled Support Clause and Blaine Amendment language, the Alabama courts have not interpreted these clauses expansively to prohibit school choice. Indeed, in 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Alabama’s tax-credit-generated scholarship and refundable tax credit programs that raised claims under these (and several other) provisions of the Alabama Constitution in Magee v. Boyd.

To avoid potential problems with the second of Alabama’s Blaine Amendments (Article XIV, Section 263), voucher program funding should explicitly come from sources other than the state’s public school fund.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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