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For Immediate Release: May 23, 2013

Rich Explains Position on School Accountability Amendment

    From a legislator’s standpoint, one never makes the decision lightly to oppose a governor’s position on an issue.  But Representative Kerry Rich said in the case of Governor Bentley’s executive amendment to the Alabama School Accountability Act last week, it would have had served to kill all the clarifications that had been made to the original act. 

    Governor Bentley signed the Alabama Accountability Law earlier in the 2013 session.  Aimed at giving children in failing schools a choice, the law provides a tax credit of $3,500.00 for parents who live in a failing school district and want to send their children to a non-failing public school or a private school.  It also provides for scholarships for families who cannot afford to send their children to another school – even with the tax credit.  Rich was a strong supporter of the law.  “However, there were some valid questions and things that needed to be clarified.  So, toward the end of the session we passed another law to address many of these issues.”

Here are some of the key points covered in the subsequent bill:

•  Language to make it clear that a school system that does not have room to accept more students outside of their district does not have to do so;

•  Clarified who is responsible for transportation by saying that a school does not have to provide transportation to a student transferring from outside of their district;

•  Provides clarification as to what constitutes a failing school;

•  States that parents who already send their children to a Private School will not be allowed a tax credit.

    “Governor Bentley wanted to delay implementation of the law for two years and I did not have a problem with that,” Rich explained.  “Both the House and Senate leadership met with the Governor and tried to negotiate some changes that everyone could agree with, but those efforts to compromise were not successful.  Therefore, if the Governor’s amendment wasn’t going to get brought up in the Senate, then the bill would have died and we would have gone back to the original law leaving some important issues unclear.”

    “We don’t always get to vote on exactly what we want individually.  Given the choices before me, I felt it best to non-concur with the Governor’s amendment rather than to lose the important clarifications that needed to be made to a bill that is already set to become law.”

    “I have the utmost respect for Governor Robert Bentley.  I believe he is doing a fine job as Governor.  In this matter, I believe we took the best action.  I feel strongly that children deserve a chance to be successful, and to that end, I believe the Alabama School Accountability Act will prove to be the catalyst for improving failing schools, or at the very least, helping children who are motivated to learn to get out of an oppressive educational environment.  And the School Flex portion of the new law will be a tremendous tool to give our school systems more flexibility in how they allocate their money and run their schools,” Rich said.

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For More Information Contact: Marshall County Legislative Office, ph. 256-582-0619

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