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In Alabama, a Victory for School Choice

March 5, 2015 in Economics

By Jason Bedrick

Jason Bedrick

The Left’s war against parental choice in education suffered a major setback on Monday, when the Alabama supreme court ruled that the state’s school-choice law is constitutional.

In 2013, Governor Robert Bentley (R.) signed the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), which allows low-income students assigned to persistently low-performing district schools to apply for scholarships to attend the schools of their choice. Like scholarship tax-credit laws in other states, the AAA grants tax credits to individual and corporate taxpayers who donate to the nonprofit scholarship organizations that aid those students. Uniquely, the AAA also included a voucher-like provision that granted refundable tax credits directly to low-income families.

Predictably, defenders of the government’s near-monopoly over K-12 education immediately ran to the courts to prevent any children from escaping. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in federal court, absurdly claiming that the AAA violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it failed to rescue all children from low-performing district schools. In other words, the SPLC argued that the U.S. Constitution would prohibit any incremental reforms to address social problems. Fortunately, the federal judge dismissed the SPLC suit, holding that the “equal protection” it sought was, “in effect, equally bad treatment.”

The Alabama supreme court’s decision adds to the growing consensus of high courts upholding the constitutionality of school-choice laws.”

The Alabama Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, also filed a series of separate lawsuits challenging the AAA in state court. The Alabama supreme court dismissed the first two union lawsuits, which had challenged the law on procedural grounds. In its third attempt, the union raised ten legal claims in a desperate spaghetti-against-the-wall gamble. A few of them stuck in a lower court, but the state supreme court rejected all ten in a 222-page decision. The Institute for Justice, which successfully defended the AAA on behalf of low-income scholarship recipients, provides a helpful summary of all ten legal claims at its website, but one is worth highlighting because it is relevant to anti-school-choice cases pending in other states.

The union alleged that the AAA violated the state constitution’s two historically anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments, which prohibit the government from making appropriations of public funds to religious schools, and require a two-thirds majority to make an appropriation to “any charitable or educational institution not under …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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