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Judge Strikes Down Alabama's Tax-Credit Scholarship

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A state judge in Montgomery, Ala., has struck down a school-choice law that provides tax-credit scholarships for students at failing public schools to switch to higher-performing public or private schools, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Gene Reese ruled Wednesday the relatively new—and controversial—Alabama Accountability Act, passed in 2013, violated the state constitution on a few procedural matters: the law had more than one subject, the legislation had changed from its original purpose, and the bill had not been given enough readings in the legislature. 

The initial bill allowed some schools to apply for relief from state laws under certain circumstances, but then Republican lawmakers attached the tax-credit program to the legislation, angering some Democrats and the Alabama Education Association who said the program would divert critical funds away from public schools. 

Under the tax-credit scholarship program, students assigned to schools to which the state had given a D or F grade, could get up to 80 percent of the state's per-pupil allowance, which is about $3,550, to spend on tuition at a private school or to offset additional costs in attending another public school. Businesses and individuals who gave to a scholarship-granting organization were eligible for a 100 percent income tax credit. 

This was the second lawsuit targeting the school choice law.

Judge Greene wrote that the ruling will not affect tax credits for the 2013-2014 school year.

"I respect the process, but I feel strongly that parents and students should have choice when it comes to where to attend school," Lt. Governor Key Ivey said in a statement. "I anticipate an appeal will be filed in a timely manner and I will continue to do all I can to ensure our children have access to the best education possible." 

State Sen. Del. Marsh, a Republican and a backer of the law, called the judge's ruling "unfortunate" and told the Associated Press he believes the law would be upheld should the ruling be appealed.

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