published Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Judge lets private school parents enter tax credit suit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A Montgomery judge is letting three parents intervene in the Alabama Education Association's lawsuit challenging the state's new private school tax credits.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese ruled Monday that Tequila Rogers of Mobile and Danyal and Mark Jones of Montgomery can become parties. They support the credits because they chose to enroll their children in private Catholic schools rather than failing public schools. They are represented by the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which has defended school choice laws in other states.

The law, known as the Alabama Accountability Act, was approved by the Legislature in February. It provides tax credits of about $3,500 per year for families that move their children from failing public schools to participating private schools.

"Parents are the direct beneficiaries of the tax credits provided by the Alabama Accountability Act, so it only makes sense that they should be allowed to fight back against AEA's attempt to eliminate those credits," Bert Gall, senior attorney at the institute, said Tuesday.

AEA, the state teachers' organization, contends the law diverts badly needed money from public schools to help private schools that may have a religious focus.

Reese also set a hearing for Nov. 14 on a request by state Attorney General Luther Strange to dismiss AEA's suit challenging the new law.

The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center has a separate suit challenging the law in federal court. The attorney general is also seeking dismissal of that suit.

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