Governor Robert Bentley's plan to introduce an executive amendment that would delay the Alabama Accountability Act's tax credits and scholarship program for failing schools by two years is dead.
Thursday afternoon, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said that he plans to either override the Governor's executive amendment or let the existing version of the law stand. The amendment will not be brought of in the Senate.
"We only have one constituency when it comes to education in Alabama and that's the children. For too long, students in failing schools have been stuck with the status quo and denied the opportunities they deserve," Marsh said.
Marsh said there are two options: "Override the Governor's executive amendment or not take the executive amendment out of the Senate basket."
"Since the Accountability Act is already law, both of these options ensure that parents of children stuck in failing schools have school choice now, not in two years, and finally have the opportunity for a better education," Marsh said, adding that, "I refuse to kick the can down the road any longer. This is a good compromise bill and I'm disappointed that the Governor has proposed this executive amendment."
Governor Bentley signed the bill into law on March 14, and lawmakers approved several changes to the law last week. The governor had hoped lawmakers would approve his amendment to the "fix" to the Accountability Act.
The law provides tax credits to parents of children in failing schools, to send them to non-failing public schools or private schools. The law also allows school systems to apply for waivers from the Alabama State Board of Education from some state laws to improve the way they instruct children.
Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R – Montgomery, told WSFA 12 News earlier Thursday that he expected the executive amendment to fail during the legislature's final day. He added that the governor signed the bill so long ago that there was ample time to propose changes.
"If (the governor) thought House Bill 84 was a bad bill, he should have vetoed it" Sen. Brewbaker said.
Sen. Brewbaker also disagreed with the governor's proposal from the moment he heard about it, saying two years wasn't a realistic timeframe for poor-performing schools to improve.
"Well the majority of failing schools have been failing for a long time and the idea that waiting two more years is somehow going to be magic and make them all improve, I just don't think that carries much water."
Late in the day, Thursday, Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement, "The Governor has received positive feedback from legislators and the public and hopes that all legislators will listen to the people and give the executive amendment an up or down vote on Monday."
The governor said he viewed his executive amendment as an opportunity to keep the state on a financial track to pay back the remaining balanced owed to the Alabama Trust Fund from the education budget. Lawmakers borrowed $423 million to balance the Education Trust Fund during the economic downturn and the entire sum is owed in 2015.
To date, $14 million has been paid back to the Alabama Trust Fund.
Gov. Bentley's Education Trust Fund proposal included $100 million to go to the ATF but lawmakers pared down that figure to $35 million in the version it passed last week.
In his statement, the governor said he would continue to discuss the issue with the leadership and with House and Senate members.
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