Editorial: A policy left behind — Very few take advantage of Accountability Act transfer provisions
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Sep 05, 2013 | 2280 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Republicans in the state Legislature passed the so-called Alabama Accountability Act, this page criticized them for the underhanded way the legislation was pushed through without input from the public, for the lack of precision in defining a “failing” school, and for the negative impact the law would have on students in schools that did not live up to GOP expectations.

For good measure we threw in how the bill provided public funds for private schools and the financial burden that would likely fall on public education.

What we failed to realize was that in addition to these criticisms, we could have added that all the effort that went into the passage of the Alabama Accountability Act was a colossal waste of legislative time.

Tuesday the Alabama Department of Education released figures showing that 719 students used the school choice provision of AAA to leave a “failing” school for another school in the same district.

Commenting on the report Sen. Del Marsh, the architect of AAA, found it “encouraging to see so many children taking advantage of the opportunity to leave a failing school in favor of a better education thanks to Alabama’s school choice law.”

However, if Sen. Marsh, R-Anniston, had looked more closely he would have discovered that last year, under legislation already on the books, over twice that number of students transferred from schools that “need improvement” to schools that don’t. In other words, as far as school choice is concerned, “No Child Left Behind” provided much the same opportunity as AAA.

Yes, there are significant differences between NCLB and AAA, especially in the method of determining which schools are “failing” or “need improvements” — schools from which transfers are allowed. The point, however, is that a lot of legislative time was wasted and a lot of ill will created, to craft and pass a bill that is proving less successful than what was in place already.

Add to this the report that the parents of only 52 students have taken advantage of the $3,5000 tax credit to leave a “failing” public school for a private school, and it becomes apparent that the initial financial impact is less than critics predicted — though the $182,000 it cost the public schools could buy a lot of pencils and paper.

Of course, it’s only fair to concede that this policy only became law a few months back, and that it’s at least possible there might be more transfers in future.

So, as the smoke clears and the dust settles, we are left to ponder the words of a poet long ago who could have been writing about the passage of AAA.

“ ‘But what good came of it at last?’
‘Why that I cannot tell,’ said he.
But ‘twas a famous victory.’
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