Friday, March 1, 2013

Our Stand: Conned by the Alabama Legislature

  After the antics that unfolded Thursday in the Alabama Legislature, no citizen of this state should trust their lawmakers again… and we certainly shouldn’t trust our representatives with our tax dollars.

  For months Republicans in the “super majority” assured us that a bill they were pushing, specifically called “school flexibility,” was not to open a back door to private school vouchers or charter schools. They insisted that we trust them, though their Democratic counterparts voiced honest concerns… then they effectively pulled a cheap, dishonest hoax on every citizen in our state.

  With no warning, and cowardly behind closed doors, Republicans leaders completely altered the so-called “school flexibility bill,” drastically ballooning the legislation to include publicly-funded private school tax freebies. The provision was added even after the House had passed a much different form of the bill.

  The conspirators then rushed the bill to the floor of the Senate – inexcusably calling for a vote before the bill could be properly vetted – then passed it, at which time Governor Robert Bentley promised he would sign it into law and said he was proud of it. Rep. John England (D-Tuscaloosa) insisted a majority of lawmakers hadn’t even read the latest version of the bill.

  Even State Superintendent Tommy Bice immediately responded by calling them out. He stated he did not support such a bill, nor had he been able to read it either. According to Bice, the version of the bill passed hadn’t even been seen by the Alabama Department of Education. The Alabama Association of School Boards also withdrew its support for the bill.

  The bill, which will assuredly become law, offers a whopping 80 percent tax credit to families who want to send their child to a private, for-profit school if their child is currently attending a “failing” school as defined by the U.S. Dept. of Education. The credit isn't based on a family's financial need either as wealthy families would receive the same tax giveaway.

  How can a state whose leaders insist our state coffers are empty afford to cut off even more revenue for offering such tax breaks?

  How is it equitable to force taxpayers to subsidize a child’s voluntary, non-essential private school education?

  How does it not qualify as “redistribution of wealth” to take from Alabama taxpayers and give their money to a private, for-profit business operating as a school? Isn’t that an undeniable example of “corporate welfare?”

  And if our state has the resources to dole out such freebies, then why aren’t we applying those resources to improve our “failing” public schools?

  Like adulterous lovers sneaking around seedy parts of town and meeting at scummy fleabag hotels to evade public scrutiny in an effort to conceal their dirty deeds, no different are the actions of the majority party in the Alabama Legislature. If these lawmakers genuinely felt they were doing the right thing for Alabamians with this bill, then they wouldn’t be completely altering legislation in secret, passing bills without giving ample time for review, and they certainly wouldn’t have been lying to the citizens of Alabama all these months.

  Citizens of Alabama should always be inquisitive when it comes to the actions of their elected leaders. With the passage of this bill we must go further and regrettably treat every bill introduced in either chamber from this day forward as suspect. Our trust has been violated and exploited to pass a bill which does little more than line the pockets of private school owners and further erode support for our public schools.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press

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