Only a handful of the state’s private schools have signed up to participate and take transfers under the Alabama Accountability Act, and Chambers Academy here in LaFayette is one of them.
The Accountability Act offers tax credits to help students transfer from failing public schools. More than 70 schools statewide including three in Chambers County, Eastside Elementary, J.P. Powell Middle School and Lanett Junior High School, were listed as failing schools in a June release. The tax credits will be available for the first time in the 2013-14 school year and the students in schools listed as failing have the option to transfer to a private school or another public school.
If they choose a private school, parents will have to choose a private school that participates in the scholarship program created by the law in order to get tax credit, Department of Revenue officials have said.
“The Board of Trustees and administration believe that this move is in keeping with the Academy’s mission of serving the families of the Greater Valley Area,” CA Board Chairman Rickey Elliott said.
“All students should be provided a solid educational foundation and I believe this new law will help achieve that,” CA Headmaster Jim Childers said. “We have a 44 year track record of providing a quality education to the youth of Chambers and surrounding counties.”
To help provide a better understanding on their participation in the Accountability Act, Chambers will host an informational meeting on Monday, August 5 at 6:30 pm CST in the John Lane Perry Library on the CA campus.
The act provides a state tax credit of about $3,500 a year for parents who move their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school or a private school. For those who can’t afford tuition even with a tax credit, the new law allows individuals and groups that donate to organizations that provide scholarships to receive tax credits. So far, the state revenue department has approved two such organizations, and a third is awaiting approval.
The tax credits are not a voucher where parents are given a payment to take to a private school to pay tuition. Parents will have to pay the tuition out-of-pocket and seek the tax credit when they file their state income taxes.
For families to get state tax credits, their child’s private school must agree to accept scholarship students. It must also give the scholarship students state achievement tests or nationally recognized tests to measure learning in math and language. Results must be provided to the state.
In addition to Chambers Academy, the six schools signed on to participate in Alabama are The Country Day School in Madison, Resurrection Catholic School in Montgomery, The Capitol School in Tuscaloosa, Holy Spirit Catholic School in Tuscaloosa, Ellwood Christian Academy in Selma and Trinity Christian Academy in Oxford.
The Alabama Department of Revenue had also announced in accordance with the Accountability Act that current private school students who are zoned for failing schools will not be eligible for the state’s new school choice tax credits.
Under the act, a failing school is defined as one that has been designated as failing by the State Superintendent of Education or until June of 2017 listed three or more times in the last six years in the bottom six percent of performance on the state standardized tests in reading and math.
Eastside Elementary did not fall in the bottom six percent over the past two years, but fell into that category from 2008-2010. Powell Middle School has fallen in the bottom six percent since 2007 but has seen constant improvement in scores each year. Chambers County Superintendent Kelli Hodge noted in June that she expected Eastside to post passing scores again this year, but the criteria still will list them as failing.
If you would like more information about Chambers Academy’s participation in the Accountability Act or about the informational meeting, call the school at 864-9852 or email Assistant Headmaster John Mehaffey at firstname.lastname@example.org.