BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The bill that passed the Legislature late last night to provide parents with tax credits for private school vouchers was accomplished secretively and is a direct assault on all Alabama public schools, Alabama teachers union leaders said today.
"This bill was passed under the cloak of darkness without any public hearings, public input or a copy of the bill available to anyone," said Vi Parramore, president of the Jefferson County AFT. "By the time this 'flexibility' bill passed last night, the only flexibility was the bill's authors' ability to keep its anti-public schools content hidden from teachers, parents, and even other lawmakers."
The final version of the bill was so onerous to State School Superintendent Tommy Bice that he dropped his support, saying it would have a negative impact on public schools.
"This is a direct assault on public schools and will do serious harm to students," said Richard Franklin, president of the Birmingham Federation of Teachers. "It sets up voucher schools as the silver bullet, but not one credible study has shown that students do better at voucher schools."
The fallacy of voucher programs, Parramore said, is that they are basically a system to transfer money, not to improve education.
"Parents want schools fixed, not closed. They want great neighborhood public schools that are safe, focus on high-quality instruction and curriculum, and provide wraparound services to address kids' unmet needs. You see none of that in the tax credit legislation, and that's why it won't move the needle at all," Parramore said.
Parramore and Franklin said the tax credits would starve public schools and limit the kinds of programs, services and resources that schools, teachers and students need to excel.
The bill creates two voucher systems that would allow students to attend private school in Alabama. One will provide parents with a tax credit if they remove their children from a "failing" school and enroll them in a private school. The other allows businesses and individuals to get tax credits for contributions to a scholarship fund for vouchers.