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Ivey: AAA expansion to ‘create more choices for parents’

An expanded Alabama Accountability Act, signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, served as the final waypoint for a high-visibility discussion this legislative session surrounding the topic of school choice.

The AAA, enacted in 2013, was a landmark piece of legislation for Alabama that worked to improve educational standards and increase school choice by providing tax credits to parents who chose to send their children to private schools or to public schools outside their zone if the zoned school was considered “failing.” It also provided scholarships for low-income students to attend non-failing schools.

RELATED: School choice reform, expansion clears Senate 

That language changed under the reform signed Thursday – a redefinition of schools previously categorized as “failing” – the Alabama State Department of Education will now use the term “priority” to describe the lowest-performing schools, which will include any school that has received a D or F on the state report card.

More significantly, the law expands the definition of an eligible student.

To be considered eligible under the AAA, the household income for a family of four needed to be below $55,500. The newly signed legislation raises this threshold to $75,000, allowing a larger pool of students to qualify for scholarships and educational options.

It now also includes students with disabilities and outlines qualifications for private tutoring and educational service providers for this category of students – regardless of attendance at a “priority” school.

RELATED: School choice takes center stage in committee hearings 

Ivey expressed the importance of improving school choice in her Inaugural and State of the State addresses while continuing to address opportunities for public schools to make gains through educator pay increases, the Literacy and Numeracy Acts.

“While some parents in other states are finding themselves being forced aside, here in Alabama, we believe strongly that a parent should be able to decide what is best for their own child’s education,” Ivey said Thursday. “To help support high quality education and create more choices for parents, I have prioritized improving school choice.”

Ivey praised the effort and dedication of the bill sponsors, Rep. Terri Collins, and Sens. Donnie Chesteen and Will Barfoot, in getting the legislation passed.

“I am proud to put my signature on these two bills so that more students have an opportunity for a strong educational experience,” she said.

In addition to the amendments to the AAA, Ivey also promoted additional funding for charter schools.

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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