Alabama passed a school-choice plan last Thursday that The Foundry hails as "historic." The Cato At Liberty blog is almost as optimistic, calling the legislation "a good start" and criticizing only the fact that it may inadvertently encourage schools to waste more time "teaching to the test."
In brief, the new legislation will allow students who currently attend a "failing" school to attend a "non-failing" school via income tax credits.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) plans to sign the bill into law today, but the Alabama Education Association (AEA) has other ideas. They are suing to block Bentley from signing the bill because:
They maintain the bill has several problems, including being so broad that a family zoned for a failing school could get the private school tax credits without even sending a child to the failing school.
The plan defines failing schools as:
…those in the bottom 10 percent on statewide reading and math assessment scores, with three consecutive D's or one F on the school grading card, or labeled 'persistently low-performing' on the state's School Improvement Grant application.
In other words, when the state-run education system that you're funding with your tax dollars fails your children for a few years running, you will be permitted to keep a portion of your money to send them to a better school.
It's nothing new for heavily-entrenched public education unions to oppose competition and innovations in teaching methods that can benefit children. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) devoted the first two pages of its January 2013 newsletter to bad-mouthing charters and complaining about reform movements.
Groups like the AEA and the NJEA are trying to protect their members from budget cuts and lay-offs. That's what unions were created to do, and they're remarkably good at it. But when that gets in the way of a child's education, it is up to parents and legislators to put them back in their place.