A Montgomery County circuit judge today temporarily blocked Gov. Robert Bentley from signing a controversial bill that allows students to transfer from public to private schools.
Responding to a complaint filed this morning by Lynn Pettway, a Montgomery County resident, Judge Charles Price scheduled a hearing at 1:30 p.m. He issued an order preventing the House clerk from transmitting House Bill 84 to the governor until after the hearing.
"Union boss Henry Mabry will use whatever tactic, no matter how frivolous, to preserve the broken status quo that has failed our state for decades," said House Speaker Mike Hubbard in a statement. "An effort to ensure a quality education for every children is something that deserves support, but Mabry's misguided priorities have led him to believe failing schools are acceptable. This is a lawsuit against every Alabama student and parent who wishes for a better future and a better public education."
Mabry is head of the Alabama Education Association. The AEA is not a party to the lawsuit, but AEA lawyers are among several that filed the complaint.
A spokesman for Bentley said he had planned to sign the bill into law at 1 p.m.
"It's unfortunate that anyone would try to stop a bill that gives students in failing schools more options to receive a quality education," said Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
The Alabama Association of School Boards also has come out against the bill. The state Department of Education issued a list of concerns with the bill Monday and said the bill could drain as much as $367 million from the Education Trust Fund.
State Superintendent Tommy Bice supported the bill's original version, which gives city and county school systems flexibility in complying with state education laws. On Thursday, the bill was changed in a conference committee and grew from nine pages to 27.
The extra pages added tax credits for parents who move their children from a failing public school. It also created a scholarship program to help parents who otherwise couldn't afford to send their children to another school. Businesses and individuals would get tax credits for contributing scholarship money, which could pull up to $25 million a year from the Education Trust Fund.
Bice told lawmakers as they were voting Thursday that the bill hadn't been vetted by his department and was not what he'd supported.
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