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House to consider expansion of Alabama Accountability Act scholarship tax credits

Earlier this legislative session, a bill sponsored by State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to create education savings accounts to follow students to the schools of their parents’ choice failed to gain traction in the Senate.

However, an alternative and less comprehensive form of school choice legislation passed the upper chamber earlier this week. Sponsored by State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), Senate Bill 261 amends the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 to increase the income tax credit claimed by taxpayers who donate to scholarship granting organizations.

The legislation increases the income tax credit a taxpayer may claim, up to 100% of the individual taxpayer’s liability, in an amount not to exceed $100,000 for donations made to scholarship granting organizations.

In a statement celebrating the bill’s passage, Roberts detailed the Alabama Accountability Act’s success.

“Since the Accountability Act was passed into law in 2013, it has been [a] resounding success raising over $176 million from the private sector to provide for educational opportunities that students otherwise could not afford,” stated Roberts. “However, private sector funding of Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO) has ebbed and flowed over the years for various reasons, including changes in the federal tax code. One of the most important elements of this bill is that it allows SGOs to have financial consistency in their budgeting and planning. This means that once a child is accepted into a participating school, the parents will have the peace of mind now in knowing that their child’s scholarship will be there to support them for years to come.”

He continued, “The Alabama Accountability Act creates life-changing situations for students and their families, enabling an opportunity for school choice and enhancing the quality of life and learning for so many Alabamians. More than 97 percent of students who receive these scholarships renew them annually. That statistic alone is a true testament to the meaningful benefits this program offers to our school children.”

Roberts stated his belief that in modifying the act, that it would serve to place it on a solid funding foundation for the future.

“I appreciate my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for coming together to support Alabama students and families,” added the senator. “I am confident that the Alabama Accountability Act will continue to provide transformative opportunities for students across the state, and the modifications approved by the Senate today will ensure the program continues to serve students in the best possible way.”

Having met Senate approval, the bill is set to be considered by the House Education Ways and Means Committee.

In a conversation with Yellowhammer News, committee member State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) advised that the legislation faces a “harder vote” in the lower chamber.

Collins said she is routinely urged by voters to tackle legislation regarding the expansion of school choice across the state. The lawmaker expressed her desire for Republicans to support the measure given the widespread appeal of school choice among the conservative base.

“I hope and believe that the Republicans that are being bombarded with their base wanting to vote for school choice that this will be something that they can support,” said Collins. “But we will see.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL