The Alabama Accountability Act of 2013
The Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 does three things:
- Allows for flexibility contracts between the State Board of Education and local school districts
- Creates tax credits for families with students in a (chronically) failing school to attend a nonpublic school or non-failing public school
- Creates tax credits for taxpayers (individuals and businesses) who donate to a nonprofit “scholarship granting organization” that provides scholarships for students to attend a nonpublic school or non-failing public school
1. Allows for flexibility contracts between the State Board of Education and local school districts
- Local school systems create a flexibility plan that includes the particular laws, policies and regulations that they would like to flex out of, as well as the progress they will make as a result of that flexibility.
- The local system implements a thorough feedback process, including a public hearing, where stakeholders can give feedback on the plan.
- The local superintendent and local school board both sign off on the plan and submit it to the State Department of Education.
- The State Superintendent reviews each plan and makes a recommendation to the State Board of Education whether or not to approve or deny.
- The bill makes several stipulations:
- No flexibility can be granted that forces any employee to involuntarily relinquish their tenure rights.
- No flexibility can be granted that results in an employee making any amount less to their salary according to the State Minimum Salary Schedule.
- A school system cannot waive requirements imposed by federal law, requirements related to the health and safety of students or employees, requirements imposed by open records or open meetings laws, requirements related to financial or academic reporting or transparency, requirements designed to protect the civil rights of students or employees, the state ethics law, or requirements related to the state retirement system or state health insurance plan.
- No system can use this bill to authorize the formation of a charter school.
- Nothing in the bill prohibits a failing school from applying for flexibility to create a “dual-track” tenure system, where potential, current, or future employees are given the option to voluntarily waive their tenure rights, provided that the same employee is also given the option to acquire tenure under the Students First Act.
- This type of flexibility is not granted to a school that isn’t a failing school.
- A failing school is labeled as “persistently low-performing” on the state’s School Improvement Grant application, is in the bottom 10% on statewide reading and math assessment scores, has earned three consecutive D’s or one F on the school grading report card, or is designated by the Department of Education as failing.
- The bill has multiple checks and balances (local board, superintendent, State Superintendent, State Board) and explicitly ensures that flexibilities detrimental to the rights of teachers cannot be granted.
2. Creates tax credits for families with students in a (chronically) failing school to attend a nonpublic school or non-failing public school
- Objective: to provide families “stuck” in a failing school with another option.
- Families with students who are zoned for a chronically failing school may receive an income tax credit to offset the cost of sending a student to a non-failing public school or a nonpublic (private or parochial) school.
- The income tax credit is equal to 80% of the average annual state cost of attendance for a public K-12 student.
- Families will continue to receive the tax credit until their student completes the grade levels at that school.
3. Creates tax credits for taxpayers (individuals and businesses) who donate to a nonprofit that provides scholarships for students to attend a nonpublic school or non-failing public school
- The Department of Revenue shall setup a process to approve the formation of non-profit scholarship-granting organizations that pay for students in failing schools to attend nonpublic schools or non-failing public schools.
- Businesses who donate to these organizations will get an income tax credit equal to 50% of their donation, up to 50% of their tax liability.
- Individuals who donate to these organizations will get an income tax credit equal to 100% of their donation, up to 50% of their tax liability.
- Combined, these tax credits cannot exceed $25 million annually.
- To remain certified by the Department of Revenue, these organizations must strictly adhere to the parameters set forth in the bill:
- The organization must expend at least 95% of its funds on scholarships.
- At least 75% of the funds must be used for scholarships for students who were enrolled in a public school.
- The organization must allocate a large portion of its funds for low-income eligible students.
Alabama Accountability Act of 2013
Frequently Asked Questions
How do we determine whether or not a school is failing?
A school is defined as “failing” if it is listed as “persistently low-performing” on the state’s School Improvement Grant application (i.e., they’ve performed in the bottom 5% of schools in the state for three years in a row), if it is ranked in the bottom 15% of schools based on annual reading and math assessment scores, or if, once the school grading system is in place, it has earned a “D” for three consecutive years, or if it has earned an “F”. Student achievement scores in these schools are the worst in the state.
How do we know that these students are going to better schools?
Nonpublic schools must be accredited by a state-recognized accrediting agency or meet a specific set of ten criteria outlined in the bill. The nonpublic schools must be in existence for at least three years, have a minimum 180-day (or hourly equivalent) calendar, and have a day that is at least six and a half hours long. A family may not receive a tax credit for sending their child to a “home school”.
Isn’t this taking money away from the local school system?
Taxpayers deserve to spend their tax dollars in a place that best serves their student. If that student isn’t being well-served in the school they are zoned for, parents deserve to send their child to a school that addresses their child’s educational needs as they see fit. In addition, the school district will not lose the entire state allocation for that child – they will retain 20% of the state allocation and no longer be responsible for serving the child. This 20% should off-set the fixed costs of managing the school district.
What if a parent owes less than the tax credit?
If a parent owes less than the tax credit owed to him/her, the parent will receive a refund or rebate equal to the balance of the unused credit with respect to that taxable year.
How do we ensure that parents who need it are receiving the tax credit?
There is a protocol in place to prove that a child is zoned for a failing school. In order to receive the tax credit, the parent must provide certification that the student was enrolled in or assigned to attend a failing school and was then enrolled in a nonpublic school or non-failing public school. Plus, the parent must show that it actually expended money on transferring the student.
What if the feeder pattern (the elementary, middle and high school that the student is assigned to) that a student is zoned for only has one failing school in it?
A family only qualifies for a tax credit as long as the student is zoned for a failing school. If a student is zoned for a failing elementary school, but the middle school is non-failing, the family only receives the tax credit for the period of time the student is in the elementary school.
What if the school a student is zoned for becomes a non-failing school while the student is receiving the tax credit?
The family continues to receive the tax credit until the student reaches the last grade in the failing school.
What if the family of a student in a failing school does not want to send their student to a private school?
The family can choose to send their child to a non-failing public school, assuming that the non-failing school agrees to accept the student.
How do we know that middle-income families won’t be the only ones benefitting from the scholarship organization?
Scholarships must be granted to low-income eligible students at a percentage equal to the percentage of low-income eligible students in the county where the scholarship granting organization is located. Low-income eligible students are part of a family whose income is at or less than twice the federal poverty level.
Who is eligible to receive a scholarship?
Each scholarship granting organization must determine its own specific application process, but can only give scholarships to eligible students, i.e., students from low-income families who are zoned to attend a public school in Alabama. However, scholarship organizations are forbidden from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, and disability status of the applicant or parent. Educational scholarships cannot be granted to students to attend a school with paid staff or board members in common with the scholarship granting organization.
What happens to tenure flexibility if a school moves to non-failing status?
The school loses its ability to grant new tenure flexibility. However, teachers who have opted out of tenure may continue on a non-tenure track as long as they are at the school.
To download the facts of the accountability Act of 2013, click here: Fact Sheet: The Accountability Act of 2013 (2603)
To download FAQs on the Accountability Act of 2013, click here: FAQs on the Accountability Act of 2013 (2100)
To download the full text of the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013, click here: HB84- Alabama Accountability Act (Full Bill Text) (2301)
To download the list of schools that are considered failing under the Alabama Accountability Act, click here: Accountability Act: List of Schools that meet Definition of Failing Under HB84 (6164)
To download a one page (front and back) handout to distribute to your organization or club, click here: Accountability Act: One page handout (1648)
To download Myths vs. Facts, click here: Accountability Act: Myth vs. Fact (1902)