School choice bill would give $6,900 to Alabama parents

Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 6:43 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 10:56 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - State senators heard from the public in a hearing on a bill called the Parental Rights in Children Education or PRICE Act. The Act creates an Education Savings Account that parents can pull from to send their students to a school of their choice.

According to the bill, “The annual ESA amount for each participating student shall be $6,900 for the 2024-2025 school year.”

The money would come from the state’s education trust fund.

“The Educational Trust Fund is a necessary lifeline for public schools in Alabama. In fact, we need more funding,” said Boyd English, the superintendent of Albertville City Schools.

“We have a surplus and education budget. And the bottom line is education budget is about educating the children of Alabama, and one size does not fit all,” said Senator Larry Stutts, R-Colbert County.

If Stutt’s bill passes, parents control how the money from the savings account is spent.

“We give food stamp money and don’t tell them what supermarket they have to shop at. But when it comes to education, we say, well, this is our education money, and this is the only place you can spend it,” he said. “That’s not fair.”

Supporters of school choice say this could benefit students whose physical or mental needs aren’t being met.

“Her mom could pick a private school that could meet her needs along with educational therapies that were specifically suited to her unique condition,” said Jonathan Butcher with the Heritage Foundation.

Students can transfer to more successful schools.

“We are consistently right near the bottom nationally on all education parameters. And this has the potential to change that,” said Stutts.

But opponents say charter, private and online schools already give families options. They believe this bill leaves public schools at risk of failing.

“There’s no doubt that we’ll have oversized classrooms with decreased teacher-student advisors,” said Arthur Watts, the Chief Financial Officer for Montgomery Public Schools.

The Senate committee decided to not vote on the bill. Instead, they sent it to the body’s Finance and Taxation Education committee, and it will be up to that chair to bring the bill up.

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