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Ivey working on school choice expansion in 2024

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Gov. Kay Ivey says her office is working on legislation to create education savings accounts for next year’s legislative session.

In an interview for Capitol Journal on Alabama Public Television, Ivey said she wants to build on the incremental expansions of school choice taken by the Legislature this past session by allowing parents more options.

“It is very important for our parents to have choices of where to send their children for school. Whether it’s public, private, home schooled or whatever,” Ivey said. “The goal is to get our children a quality education.”

“We are working now, already, on an ESA bill, an education savings account bill to present to the Legislature in the next session and I’m very optimistic that will pass.

Capitol Journal will air Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Alabama Public Television.

ESAs, often called voucher programs, allow parents to use state funds to send their children to schools of their choice, including private schools, other public schools or homeschool. Lawmakers this year considered but did not pass legislation that would have allowed parents to use up to $6,900 for such purposes. The bill ultimately stalled over concerns the plan didn’t include accountability provisions to measure student success.

The American Federation of Children has advocated school choice legislation in several states in recent years. AFC Governmental Affairs Director Ryan Cantrell said Ivey’s comments were welcome news.

“Governor Ivey has long been a supporter of educational opportunity in Alabama,” Cantrell told ADN. “We look forward to helping her follow through on this crucial goal.”

Ivey also vowed to veto any further delay of the Alabama Literacy Act. Recent testing scores shared with the Alabama State Board of Education showed that several thousand third graders could have been held back from advancing to fourth grade this year had the retention provision been in effect. That provision is set to go into effect for the upcoming school year. 

“We do no service to a child by just passing them along grade after grade without getting them to read proficiently,” Ivey said when about the prospect of the Legislature again delaying the law as it did in 2021. “If the members vote to delay that part of the Literacy Act, I will veto it.”

Passed in 2019, the Literacy Act introduced an intensive statewide effort to improve reading proficiency in Alabama schools. It includes regular reading assessments for K-3 students, expert reading coaches deployed to priority schools and summer reading camps to help get struggling readers up to speed.  Largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers postponed one provision of the law – which would mandate that students who cannot read proficiently by the third grade be held back – until 2024. 

Ivey also talked about the importance of her relationship with the Legislature and takeaways from the Regular Session, including the tax rebate and fentanyl bills, as well as the rebuilding of the state’s prisons.

Learn more on Capitol Journal on Friday.

ADN Publisher Todd Stacy contributed to this story. 

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