Public schools bushwhacked by new bill
Republican members of the Alabama Legislature were very proud of themselves last week after reworking what seemed to be a routine bill on education into a bill that will allow parents of children in failing schools to move the children to other, non failing, schools. They should be ashamed.

The bill also provides tax rebates for those parents to help pay for the transfer. And, the bill allows those tax benefits to be used if those parents choose to send their children to private or parochial schools.

Clearly those legislators who voted for this bill have abandoned public schools in Alabama. Their actions show they are willing to ignore the problem of failing schools rather than help local school boards fix them. By allowing those tax credits to be used for private schools, they are in effect diverting state tax revenue to private schools.

The way this bill was passed irritated Democrats who find themselves in the minority in Montgomery.

The original bill allowed local systems to use flexibility in dealing with laws regarding education. That bill was questionable, but was widely supported, including State Superintendent Tommy Bice.

He said later he was involved in the original bill, but not in the revised version.

“This is no longer the bill I gave my support to,” he said.

Sally Howell, who works with the state school board association also worked on the first bill, but not the second and felt “bushwhacked” by the new bill.

“This is totally anti-public education,” said Henry Mabry, head of AEA, the state’s strongest teacher’s group.

Gov. Robert Bentley has promised to sign the bill and indicated the strategy of putting together a bill that would attract support and then drastically changing it in committee had been in the works for a few days. They did that because our elected representatives in the Alabama House and the Alabama Senate didn’t want to face what would have been sure opposition.

So, our Republican Legislature passed a bad bill, and did it in part by deceiving those who thought they were supporting something else.

It seems to us that anyone who works in Montgomery should be very careful when dealing with this Legislature. They will tell you one thing, then switch at the last minute, effectively “bushwhacking” you.

We don’t see anything in this bill to be proud of, and we certainly would not take pride in the way it was passed.

© 2013