MONTGOMERY — Several groups collecting donations and distributing Alabama Accountability Act scholarships will hurt their ability to keep doing so if they don’t file required reports by Thursday.

The 2015 reports were due to the Alabama Department of Revenue by Sept. 1 and covered activities for the first half of the year. As of Tuesday afternoon, only three organizations had filed the reports, according to the department. This past summer, eight organizations filed similar information for 2014.

Lawmakers changed some of the filing requirements in the spring and added quarterly reports, but those have not yet come due.

If groups don’t turn in the 2015 information by Thursday, they’ll be removed from Revenue’s online contribution site, which would impact their ability to collect donations.

“When we delist them, we take them off of our website for contributions,” Deputy Revenue Commissioner Curtis Stewart said Tuesday. There is a process to get back in good standing, he said, including catching up on reports.

“We don’t want to kick them off the list, but if they don’t comply, we will,” Stewart said. “We’ve notified them that the reports were due.”

The three organizations that filed the reports, available on Revenue’s website, were AAA Scholarship Foundation, Scholarships for Kids and Rocket City Scholarship Granting Organization.

The largest scholarship granting organization, Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, planned to turn its report in Tuesday and gave The Decatur Daily a copy of it. Alabama Opportunity Executive Director Lesley Searcy said the delay was because the Revenue Department wanted audit information in an accounting method different than the one the organization originally had used.

New on the 2015 reports was a question about student achievement test results and whether it was being collected from the private schools their scholarship recipients were attending. The three organizations that had filed their reports all said “no.”

“I don’t think (Revenue is) at a point where they’re attempting to collect that data yet,” said Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships for Kids in Birmingham. That group gave out 841 scholarships between January and the end of June.

Callaway and Stewart also said a third-party evaluator for the data hadn’t yet been selected.

In the spring, lawmakers modified the Alabama Accountability Act to say Revenue will select an “independent research organization” to analyze the results of standardized tests that are required to be given to scholarship recipients to measure their achievement.

But Stewart said the groups are supposed to be collecting achievement data.

“The problem is, what we do with them when they don’t and what do we do with it if they collect it,” he said. “We’re tax people, not educators.”

“… This was a short year. We understand that this is a transition year,” he said. “We’ve got to get that evaluator in place so we can then look for some meaningful results next year.”

The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which gave out nearly $17 million in scholarships at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, said in its report it was collecting achievement data, but an Aug. 15 reporting deadline in the act caused some complications.

“Some schools did not have test results by Aug. 14th of this year because the law was passed after the school year when testing was completed,” Searcy said. “Also, some testing companies are requiring privacy releases from parents to release the data.”

The Alabama Accountability Act was passed in 2013 and gives a tax credit of about $3,500 to families of students leaving the state’s worst public schools. The act also provides for a tax-credit-based scholarship program. Combined, the scholarship granting organizations can collect up to $30 million in donations each year. The tax credits scholarship donors receive, as well as the one families receive, come from the state’s education budget, which supports public schools.

Opponents of the act have said public dollars shouldn’t go to private schools.

Get Unlimited Access
$3 for 3 Months
Subscribe Now

After the initial selected subscription period your subscription rate will auto renew at $8.00 per month.

Mary Sell covers state government for The Decatur Daily. She can be reached at msell@decaturdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @DD_MarySell.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.