Universal school choice legislation may be tried again in the 2024 legislative session with some possible tweaks.
The legislature passed an expansion of the Alabama Accountability Act tax credit program during the 2023 regular session. The Alabama Accountability Act is an educational tax credit program that provides scholarships for students attending failing schools to transfer to non-failing public or private schools. The program was established in 2013.
However, the program is only available to certain students in school districts deemed failing by the state.
Broader school choice legislation known as the PRICE Act that would've established universal education savings accounts never received a vote in the Senate after passing out of committee.
State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) told 1819 News on Wednesday he planned to bring similar universal school choice legislation in 2024.
"The main thing is that we pass comprehensive school choice legislation and exactly what it looks like…it may be a little bit different than the PRICE Act. We may take some things out (and) put some other things in. It may be tweaked just a little bit," Stutts said. "We did a lot of work on it and I think it was a very good bill, but I'm not opposed to tweaking a couple of things on it if there's a couple of issues that we need to change. The overall concept of universal school choice needs to be passed. That is the one thing that will move the needle improving educational outcomes in the state. Some of these other things we did expanding the Alabama Accountability Act and all those things…they may be important but it doesn't affect enough numbers and the entire state enough to make an overall difference. The issue is going to be back. There's going to be some legislation. There are people right now looking at a couple of different options. We're continuing to look for the absolute best way to do it. I think the PRICE Act was real close to the best way to do it, but we're going to try to make it even better."
Stutts continued, "We want to look at making the school choice (bill) very accountable and if we have to tweak that a little bit to make it more accountable…I wasn't opposed to that last year and I'm not opposed to it now, but it's got to be done the right way."
"I expect to pass a school choice bill next year and am open to tweaks that will make it better, but I'm not open to tweaks that will just water it down," Stutts said. "The issues that people voiced with it was what was called accountability which translates to some type of testing. I feel like the parents being ultimately responsible is actually a better way of being accountable than just mandating testing. We have mandated testing in all the schools now and that's not translating to better performance. That's not making the outcomes better. With the majority of the mandated testing that we're doing across the schools all over the state, all we're really doing with that is documenting poor outcomes. I want something to improve outcomes."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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