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Governor signs controversial school choice act into law

MONTGOMERY – In what has been described as a body blow to Alabama public education, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the CHOOSE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Students’ Education) Act she put at the top of her to-do list this legislative session.

Public school educators have expressed fear the education savings account bill will not just steer students toward private schools but take much-needed, already stretched funds away from public education.

The bill first passed the Alabama House and Senate and Thursday was signed into law by Ivey.

“We did it! President Pro Tem (sic) Reed, Speaker Ledbetter, Chairmen Orr and Garrett – thank you. Thank you for your leadership in getting the CHOOSE Act passed,” Ivey said in a statement released by her office. “Today is a historic day as we officially sign our education savings account bill, the CHOOSE Act, into law. Alabama is only the 14th state in the nation to provide families with an education savings account option.

Our plan will not only work for Alabama families – it will work for the state and will be effective and sustainable for generations to come. With the CHOOSE Act, Alabama will now be a leader when it comes to school choice. And I am hopeful that this will make a difference for Alabama families.”

Last week, at a State of the Schools event, superintendents from Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County all pilloried the CHOOSE Act.

“I’m disappointed in our legislative body for passing a law that provides funding to private and parochial schools while public education is not fully funded,’’ Madison County Schools System Superintendent Kenneth Kubik told 256 Today.

One source familiar with state politics told 256 Today they were “surprised” that Orr (R-Decatur) was a strong proponent of the bill. 

“It was an honor to work with Governor Ivey and her team to swiftly pass a school choice bill that she declared her number one priority this session,” Orr said Wednesday in a news release. “I believe Governor Ivey desires nothing but the best for all Alabama’s school children and their families both today and in the years to come.”

Reed was equally ecstatic about the passing of the bill.

“Alabama put school children and their families first,” he said. “Children are our future, and there is no greater responsibility for lawmakers than ensuring our kids have every resource needed for academic success regardless of their ZIP Code. We want our children to achieve their dreams and reach their full potential, and the CHOOSE Act provides this opportunity in a fiscally responsible way. I am proud of the investment we are making that will have a positive impact on our young students across Alabama.” 

The CHOOSE Act will allow for up to $7,000 per student to spend on tuition for private and/or parochial school tuition or public school costs, and includes a $2,000/$4,000 stipend per family for homeschool students.

Other families opting into the CHOOSE Act program must have children who attend a private or public school through an education savings account (ESA), which is funded by a refundable tax credit.

According to the bill, families cannot earn more than 300% of the federal poverty level, which is less than $77,460 for a family of three, according to the Associated Press.

The first 500 slots will be reserved for families of students with disabilities.




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