By Steve Gunn
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Supreme Court has come to the rescue.
The justices of the court ruled Wednesday that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is free to sign legislation creating a tax credit program that would help students stuck in failing public schools pay tuition at private schools.
A bill creating the program was approved by the legislature last week, and Bentley was prepared to sign it, but the process was halted by a last-minute lawsuit filed by the Alabama Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.
The union claimed the legislature violated its own procedural rules and the state’s open meetings act when approving the legislation. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Charles Price agreed and issued a temporary injunction preventing the governor from signing the bill until a hearing on the matter took place.
The governor and his allies didn’t wait for that hearing. They appealed the injunction to the state Supreme Court, and the justices ruled that the union was premature in challenging the law because the governor had yet to sign it, according to the Florence Times Daily.
The union’s attorney said another legal challenge will be filed.
The legislation would not create the type of direct private school voucher program that exists in several other states. Instead it would give state tax credits to businesses or individuals that contribute to scholarship funds that help children in failing schools attend private schools.
Under the definition provided in the legislation, at least 10 percent of the state’s 1,499 public schools are failing.
While the lawsuit challenging the legislation was procedural in nature, the teachers union’s true objections are based on its fundamental opposition to any sort of program that allows students, and the state money attached to them, to leave public schools.
If a significant number of students leave public schools, there won’t be a need for as many union teachers. If a significant number of teachers are laid off, union revenue from teacher dues will drop off.
It’s all about money.
Many Republicans were troubled by the fact that the union was able to obtain an injunction against the legislation from Price, a Democratic judge. The Democrats are traditional allies of teachers unions.
“The Alabama Supreme Court’s decision today is a loss for activist judges and status quo union bosses, but a major win for parents and children trapped in failing schools across the state,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh was quoted as saying.