Alabama Education Accountability Act: Does the Alabama GOP Think They're Above the Law?

On Wednesday, March 13, the Alabama Supreme Court lifted an injunction to allow governor Robert Bently to sign Alabama’s Education Accountability Act passed last week.  The state is attempting to do major education reform to move its placement out of the bottom rankings for education nation-wide. The problems with this act are many, but the Republicans potentially violated Rule 21, which requires legislators to be notified that new language has been added to an appropriation bill in conference committee. The legislators went into conference committee with a 7-page bill and came out with a 27-page bill 30 minutes later. The additions to the bill added appropriations and numerous changes. This bait and switch is a primary example of the dirty politics that happen when one party dominates a state. While dirty politics are important, the main issue at play here is how the judicial system plays a large role in the creation and manipulation of policy.

In attempts to create a school choice system in the state, the legislature created a tax credit for any student that is zoned for a failing public school. There are 202 schools in the state that meet the failing standard. The amount of the tax credit is $3,500 per student, and could cost the state upwards of $367 million. There is no income limit on who can get the tax credit, and it can be applied to households with children attending a private school or another public school. This is a classic example of the GOP giving tax breaks to the rich. Taxpayer money being applied to public institutions is also a problem. If this is a statewide problem, then a tax credit is just a way to go around the national increases in taxes President Obama has initiated. Furthermore,neither of these provisions were not in the House or Senate version of the bill.

On March 5, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) filed suit to stop Governor Robert Bently from signing the bill until a judge decides whether Rule 21 was broken. On the same day, Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price issued an injunction and stopped Bently from signing the bill. The next day, the GOP filed suit in the constitutionality of the injunction to the Alabama Supreme Court. The Alabama Supreme Court has overturned Judge Price’s decision.

The AEA is a teachers union that aligns themselves with the Democratic values. They got assigned a judge that was a Democrat, therefore the injunction was likely to be granted. The Supreme Court of Alabama is 100% Republican, which makes it clear that they are just playing politics with the law. The simple fact is that the Alabama GOP has so much control over the state that regardless of the minority party’s concerns, they think that the rules do not apply to them. This control is problematic because actions like these could happen in the national legislature if people allow any party to have complete control over all branches of government.

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Steven Romeo

Steven Romeo is a senior at The University of Alabama. He will graduate in August of 2013. He is the founder of The Change Project, a photography based social justice non-profit that takes revolutionary art off of the walls and onto our bodies. He is a member of the 2013 Alumni Board for Young People For. He went through the Young People For Fellowship Program in 2010. He has been on the Fellowship Selection Committee for 3 years and was a mentor and Blueprint reader for the 2012 Fellowship Class. He currently serves as the Program Director for Equality Alabama's Board of Directors.

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