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Underwhelming numbers in tax credit law's first year, but interest huge says supporters

File Photo (Source: WSFA 12 News) File Photo (Source: WSFA 12 News)

According to the Scholarship Granting Organization that is the most flush with cash, the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, more than 10,000 students have applied for 3,000 scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year.

The AOSF received a small number of donations, only 25 in all, but those donations were worth a combined $17.8 million.

Lesley Searcy, the Director of the AOSF said in a statement, "Thousands of parents with little means, from 59 Alabama counties this year, are hoping to find a better fit for their children. This program gives them the chance to do that for the first time.​"

The news from that one particular group came as a major sigh of relief for the supporters of the Alabama Accountability Act, the major education reform law that passed during the 2013 Regular Session.

The initial report on the first year of the program came out that showed a mere nine students received scholarships worth $24,290.

The Accountability Act allows children to transfer from failing schools to non-failing public schools and qualify for tax credits. In addition, the law also allows individuals and corporations to donate to Scholarship Granting Organizations for them to provide funding for children to attend participating schools.

"I think we were all pretty surprised that the number of scholarships was so low." said Julie Magee, Alabama's Revenue Commissioner. The Revenue Department was charged by the legislature with administering the program. Magee said it's easy to see why so few scholarships were granted, given the fact that the window for SGOs was so small. 

"It really was only about four months for the scholarship granting organizations to get organized and start awarding scholarships."

Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who authored the AAA in 2013 said he expects the next school year to be a banner year for the program.

"I feel confident that all of the scholarships will be utilized in the coming year" Marsh said. "It just took them some time to get cranked up."

Marsh said he believes the AAA will for the first time allow students zoned for failing schools to have the opportunity to escape a fate given to them by their zip codes.

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