State Department of Education's Analysis of the
Alabama Accountability Act of 2013
mission of Alabama's public school system has always been and will forever be
to provide all of Alabama's children access to a quality education and to prepare
them for college, work, and a future of their choosing.
The vast majority of our schools are meeting this
challenge, and Alabama's academic outcomes are at their highest level in
history. Regretfully, however, meeting
that mission has not always been a reality for some students, for a variety of
reasons that we must own collectively as a state. We must work collaboratively to ensure those
impediments no longer exist.
Accountability Act of 2013 passed by the House and Senate poses two
distinctly different concepts:
supported openly as a catalyst for innovation and reform.
2. A tax credit
tuition concept for student choice that contains yet-to-be-determined financial implications for the Education Trust Fund.
We are in the process of carefully reviewing the
current legislation for which the State Board of Education/State Department of
Education is charged with promulgating regulations. The following areas of concern are the most
predominant findings at this point in our review.
of a Failing School. There are four fundamentally different
criteria listed in the bill, none of which are part of the State Board of
Education's new accountability plan that advances our efforts under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No
Child Left Behind. For clarity and
uniformity, we would like to see this language simplified to designate the
applicable schools as those identified as Priority
Schools under the Alabama
Choice. Currently, students who
attend schools identified under No Child
Left Behind as a School Improvement
School or System have the option
to transfer to a school within the same system that is not designated as
needing school improvement. In the event
there is not a school choice option within the system, other options could be
exercised. In an effort to lessen the financial
impact on the public school system, the first option should be to choose a
non-failing public school within the same system.
for Participating Non-Public Schools.
The bill outlines clear criteria for non-public schools that participate
in the scholarship portion of the program, but not for those that simply accept
the tax credit amount for tuition reimbursement. To assure that all state dollars are used
responsibly, all participating and benefiting schools should be held to the
same expectations. Otherwise, there will
be no accountability for the non-public schools to determine their academic
status. Parents would only be able to
make wise and informed choices if the non-public schools were to participate in
the state testing program.
- Transportation. Currently, Alabama's public school
transportation system is underfunded at $52,000,000 less than is required to
operate the system. The added
transportation costs to local school systems would impact their limited local
revenue base and would create a supplement/supplant issue related to federal
funds available for certain transportation costs.
Education. The current bill requires
that for any student identified as needing special education services that
those services remain the responsibility of the original local school system –
even though the child no longer attends that system. As a result, the LEA would receive no federal
child count funding under IDEA, nor would it receive state funding. This would require local school systems to
spend local revenue to support a student who no longer attends the local school
- Governance/Oversight. This bill establishes dual
responsibilities. There is the
requirement for the State Board of Education to promulgate any necessary rules
and regulations required for the implementation of the Act, and the bill also
assigns the State Board's authority of student data collection to the
Department of Revenue for those students participating in the program.
School Impact. For those students
and their parents who choose not to leave a Priority School, there will be a
negative impact for future funding for those schools. That exact amount is unknown because it
cannot currently be calculated since we do not have an estimate of those who
may choose the tax credit option. An
analysis of the Priority Schools and their current financial base has revealed
concerns regarding their ability to educate those remaining students with less
state and subsequently less federal funding.
Testing. Several of the references
to the testing criteria in the bill are outdated as compared to our current
testing protocol. If this becomes law as
written, we would be holding our public school students to a much higher
standard than those enrolled in non-public schools. There is also included an expense to the
local public school system for the testing of non-public school students.
on Education Trust Fund (ETF). Based
on the income tax credit for individuals and corporations there is a yet-to-be-determined
negative impact on the total potential income to the ETF. This will not only affect the K-12 budget but
also the budgets of the Department of Postsecondary Education and Institutions
of Higher Education.