Gov. Kay Ivey Reiterates Backing for Educational Savings Accounts

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey expressed her support for the establishment of education savings accounts during a rally at the Alabama State Capitol on Monday. However, the details of what exactly they would support on this issue were not provided by Ivey and other speakers, eliciting opposition from State Schools Superintendent Eric Mackey and other educators in the state.

During the rally for “School Choice Week,” which aims to expand nontraditional public schools and publicly-funded private school options, Ivey stated that the implementation of education savings accounts would be sustainable, responsible, and a way to shape the future of education in Alabama.

Similar to vouchers, education savings accounts allow funds originally allocated for public schools to be used for other purposes, such as private school tuition. However, unlike vouchers, education savings accounts provide the funds directly to parents, who have the flexibility to use them for various services, such as tutoring, counseling, and tuition.

Last year, Ivey made the expansion of education options a priority in the legislative session. The Alabama Legislature passed legislation that expanded the Alabama Accountability Act, a scholarship program that enables students in underperforming schools to qualify for scholarships to attend private schools.

Ivey emphasized that her main priority is to ensure that the education savings accounts bill successfully passes. However, the final outcome of the bill will ultimately be determined by the Legislature, particularly by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, who chair the legislative committees overseeing the Education Trust Fund budget, which would fund any type of Education Savings Account. Comment was sought from Orr and Garrett, but neither were present at the rally.

Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, introduced an extensive education savings account bill last year that would have allocated approximately $6,900 per student. However, the bill, introduced late in the session, did not become law.

Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, who submitted a House version of Stutts’ bill, also expressed his support for a comprehensive education savings account option, emphasizing that it would restore the free market to education.

Both Stutts and Yarbrough are known as some of the most conservative members of the Republican supermajority Legislature.

Specifically outlining his plans for “true school choice,” Yarbrough advocated for universal access to all students, flexible spending, protection of the autonomy of private and home schools, transparency in the curriculum of traditional public schools, and an absence of any intention to increase government spending.

While the bill has not been filed as of Monday morning, students and parents shared their own experiences with education options in the state during the rally.

One student, June Henninger, a fifth-grader at Montgomery Christian School, expressed her appreciation for the benefits she gained from her education and teachers and stated that she was ready for her next school of choice.

Montgomery Christian School students receive scholarships through donations and the Alabama Accountability Act.

The term “school choice” encompasses various concepts, such as charter schools, vouchers, and education savings accounts.

During a January board meeting and work session, State Superintendent Eric Mackey expressed his desire for the funds to be allocated to schools and emphasized the need for accountability.