41 Days of School Choice: Day 36 – Alabama’s Tax Credits Allow Children to Receive a High-Quality Education
Washington, D.C. (September 23, 2014) – The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, and its state ally, the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, are highlighting Alabama’s Tax Credit Scholarship program – a program giving children educational opportunities their families otherwise could not afford.
The Alabama Accountability Act, passed in 2013, created two programs to provide children who attend under performing schools the opportunity to attend a school of their parents’ choice. The Tax Credit Scholarship program allows all low-income students, regardless of the school to which they are zoned, to receive scholarships after September 15th of each year.
“Teachers all over the country are working hard to educate our children, but the traditional environment does not work for every student,” said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel for American Federation for Children. “Alabama’s tax credit scholarship program empowers parents and offers low-income children a real opportunity to attend a quality school of their parents’ choice.”
The popularity of tax credit programs are growing across the country with 17 programs in place today.
Proponents of the status quo have filed a lawsuit to block low-income families, including those attending underperforming schools, from using the program to attend better schools. While one attempt to block the program has been thrown out, another lawsuit continues to be litigated although the court has ruled that the program can continue to offer children educational options.
Ahmon Turner, a sixth grader in Huntsville, has been continuously bullied. He and his brother Eugene have been raised by their grandparents since infancy, and recently life got a little tougher when their grandmother passed away after a battle with cancer. Their grandfather, Larry Newby, said he and his wife always wanted to make sure the boys had a good home and good education.
In December of 2013, Newby heard about the scholarship opportunity through the Alabama Accountability Act. The Newbys were one of the first families in Alabama to receive a scholarship award, and the boys were enrolled in the school of their choice within two weeks.
“It’s a great gift to those young men to have an opportunity to be out from an environment of unhappiness and not getting learning from schooling that they needed,” said Newby. “It’s all about the kids. If you got them in a situation where it’s not good learning and they’re not happy, you’re putting them in a situation to fail.”
The principal at the private school Ahmon and Eugene are attending said the boys are making good grades and are not getting into trouble. Newby feels like he can now see into their future stating, “They’re going to graduate. And I’ll be right there looking at them and smiling when they walk up on that stage.”
- $25 million statewide cap on the program
- In order to be eligible a student’s family income cannot exceed 150 percent of the median household income in Alabama ($62,361 in 2012)
- Students must also be zoned to attend a public school designated as failing until September 15th of each year, when any low-income student can be awarded a scholarship.
- Currently, 2,800 scholarships have been awarded
Throughout the 41 Days of School Choice campaign, the American Federation for Children will be promoting programs using the hashtag “#41Days”.
The American Federation for Children is the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization and works in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families.