Another lawsuit filed over controversial accountability act - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Another lawsuit filed over controversial state accountability act

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Alabama's Accountability Act is in the spotlight again as another group tries to prove it's not a legal piece of legislation.

"It is our belief that the role of government is to educate our children and not provide tax welfare to private schools," says Dr. Gregory Graves with the Alabama Education Association.

Dr. Graves is helping represent three plaintiffs--State Senator Quinton Ross, Anita Gibson, President of the AEA and Dr. Daniel Boyd, Superintendent of Lowndes County Schools.

The lawsuit names the State Department of Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and the State Comptroller Thomas White, Jr. as defendants.

The plaintiffs claim because the accountability act provides state tax credits for parents to use at private religious schools, it violates the separation of church and state.

"The framers of the Alabama constitution have strictly prohibited using public funds to fund private schools," adds Graves.

But the law's supporters see nothing wrong with it.

"Just because a parent chooses a religious school is not in and of itself...I just don't think that's gonna be grounds to find it unconstitutional," says State Senator Dick Brewbaker.

The lawsuit also claims children in failing schools are already at a disadvantage because non-failing schools--public or private--aren't required to accept them.

"Why have a provision that says you can be denied?" says Graves.

"It was superintendents, public school superintendents, who objected to that and lobbied very forcefully that we would remove that because they said they just could not absorb the number of students that might want to transfer," adds Brewbaker.

The plaintiff's ultimate goal is for the court to find this legislation unconstitutional.

However Brewbaker doesn't see that happening especially since he says the tax credit provision was already deemed legal.

He also says state money has already been used for children to go to private, and possibly religious schools.

For instance, if a private school offers a special needs program that a public school does not, he says state money can be allocated for a student to attend the school offering the specialized program.

WSFA 12 News reached out to Governor Robert Bentley for a statement, but have not heard back from his office.

Copyright 2013  WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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