A total of 10 Birmingham schools were included on the list of failing schools presented in June 2013 by the Alabama Department of Education. Parents with students attending those schools were given an option under the Accountability Act to transfer their children to other non-failing schools in the district; enroll their children in private schools and receive a $3,500 tax credit; or seek to enroll their children in non-failing schools in neighboring school systems.
Each of the options falls short in remedying the problems that cause schools to fail, while two of the options bring a loss of funds for school systems at a time when we can not afford to reduce the dollars spent on public education in urban and rural settings.
The Alabama Accountability Act, passed by a Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature in 2013, harms instead of helps a large number of students whose opportunity for success rests with the educational preparation they receive in public elementary, middle and high schools.
Consider these facts:
All of the 78 failing schools in the State of Alabama are located within high poverty or rural communities, where 94 percent of the students receive free or subsidized lunch.
In Birmingham, 62 students transferred within the system to non-failing schools, and only two students transferred to private schools, granting their parents the opportunity to take advantage of a $3,500 tax break for tuition.
But, more than 3,000 Birmingham students, and thousands more throughout the state are enrolled in schools dubbed failing.
We must support the enhancement of public education in this state, but we should do so by developing initiatives that lift the masses instead of rewarding a few while destroying others.
We must call on the Alabama Legislature to take another look at the Accountability Act, and focus on what’s best for all of our children. We must encourage educational accountability that builds success by strengthening our local schools instead of removing the funds they need to survive and thrive.
Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt