County schools may see decreased funding due to new law

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Managing Editor

Local educators are still waiting to see what effect the Alabama Affordability Act will have on their schools.

While several local private schools have not received any feedback about the law, the Shelby County School System expects to see reduced funding because of it.

The law, which was passed by the state Legislature in late February, gives tax credits to parents who want to transfer their child from a failing school to a private or non-failing public school. It also allows businesses and individuals to “donate to a ‘nonprofit scholarship granting organization’ that provides scholarships” for students to transfer from a failing school, according to the Alabama House Republicans’ website.

In late May, the Legislature voted down a request by Gov. Robert Bentley to implement a two-year delay before the tax credits take effect.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller said much is still unknown about the law, but he expects it to decrease the county school system’s budget.

“AAA impact on Shelby County Schools becomes immediate as funding set aside for tax credits out of the Education Trust Fund would reduce the funding dollars sent to our system,” he said in an email interview.

During a May 7 Shelby County Board of Education meeting, Fuller cited a statement from State Superintendent of Education Thomas Bice, who said Shelby County Schools could see a decrease of approximately $2.7 million in state funding because of the new law.

The Shelby County School System does not have any failing schools, although Fuller said the Linda Nolen Learning Center, which serves special needs students, has not met state guidelines in the past. However, Fuller does not expect to receive transfers from other schools.

“Because of the growth in Shelby County and all of our schools being at or near capacity, it is our position at this time to not accept transfers from other systems,” he said.

Meanwhile, principals at some local private schools, including Ruth Gray of Kingwood Christian School in Alabaster and Theresa Sprain of Joseph S. Bruno Montessori Academy in Birmingham, said they have not received any feedback about the new law or interest from prospective transfers.

“Not one person has even mentioned it. I really expected parents to start talking about it,” Gray said.