GOP Senator: Revenue Dept. got school accountability law wrong - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

GOP Senator: Revenue Dept. got school accountability law wrong

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Sen. Dick Brewbaker says the Revenue Dept. got the AAA law wrong. Sen. Dick Brewbaker says the Revenue Dept. got the AAA law wrong.
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Sen. Dick Brewbaker vowed Thursday to do everything within his power to change the rules and regulations laid out by the Department Revenue pertaining to how the Alabama Accountability Act will be put into practice.

"I think their interpretation is wrong" Sen. Brewbaker, R – Montgomery, said.

Brewbaker chairs the Senate Education Policy Committee, which was the panel that approved the original school flexibility bill, before Republicans in the House and Senate made drastic changes to the bill during a conference committee, creating the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

Sen. Brewbaker contends that the tax credits should be able to go toward the parents of children in nonpublic schools, contrary to the regulations and qualifications laid out by the Department of Revenue earlier in the week.

"I believe in equal treatment under law" Brewbaker said. "Those families ought to have options."

The Department of Revenue, tasked with assigning the rules and regulations of the tax credits, unveiled that there are essentially three scenarios where a family could be eligible for the tax credits.

A child must be a rising kindergarten student who is zoned for a failing public school, a child must have finished at least one semester in a failing public school, or if a family moves to an area that is zoned for a failing school that their child would normally enroll are the only scenarios, as laid out by the Department of Revenue, for a family to qualify for the tax credit.

Julie Magee, the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue, said her department concluded that the clear interpretation of the law was aimed at providing tax credits to the parents of children that transfer from a failing public school to a nonpublic school.

Gov. Robert Bentley was asked about the regulations at a groundbreaking Thursday and he defended the Department of Revenue.

"That's the way I read the bill. I read the bill ten times at least," Gov. Bentley said. "They're the legal people, I let them make the final decision on that. I do agree with it and the rules that they have put out, I agree with every one of those rules."

Sen. Brewbaker even went so far as to say the entire situation reeks of political gamesmanship, but wouldn't mention Gov. Bentley by name, who has been a vocal critic of the tax credits, even though he praised the Accountability Act when he signed it into law three months ago.

"Someone made a decision beforehand to keep the parents of children in a nonpublic school out."

Brewbaker didn't stop with criticisms of tax credit eligibility either. The Department of Revenue also determined that only nonpublic schools that participate in the scholarship program portion of the law would be eligible to receive students whose families would be eligible to receive the tax credits. Put another way, a parent can only earn the credit if a child attends a school participating in the scholarship program.

"I just don't know what participating in a scholarship program for businesses has to do with that eligibility" Brewbaker said.

The law does not require nonpublic schools to participate in any portion of the Accountability Act either. Lawmakers approved an amendment to the legislation that allowed any school, public or private, to reject any student even if they're attempting to transfer from a failing school.

Brewbaker said he's exploring the notion of changing the regulations from the Department of Revenue through the Legislative Council, a panel of lawmakers with some authority over agency regulations to legislation. Any major changes that council approved would have to go back to the legislature for final approval.

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