Advocates for Labor and Progressive Institutions

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Alabama Circuit Court Finds Unconstitutional State Law Diverting Taxpayer Money From Public Schools to Private Schools

May 28, 2014

On May 28, 2014, the National Education Association and the Alabama Education Association, through several individual plaintiffs, prevailed in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Alabama, on a challenge to the constitutionality of the Alabama Accountability Act.

The Act created two new tax credit programs that enabled diversion of taxpayer funds from the public schools to pay for the education of certain Alabama schoolchildren in private schools. These provisions were added in conference committee to an unrelated bill that had already been adopted by both houses of the legislature. In Boyd v. Magee, the plaintiffs, represented by Bredhoff & Kaiser, successfully argued before the Circuit Court that the manner in which the Act was enacted violated multiple provisions of the Alabama Constitution. In addition to these procedural flaws, the court also agreed with the plaintiffs that the Act violated substantive restrictions in the Alabama Constitution on the use of taxpayer funds. Having struck down the Act on each of these grounds, the court found it unnecessary to reach plaintiffs’ further contention that, by channeling taxpayer funds principally to religious institutions, the program violated the Alabama Constitution’s provisions governing the separation of church and state. The case is now on appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, where Bredhoff & Kaiser, on behalf of the plaintiffs, will defend the Circuit Court’s judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court has scheduled oral argument in the case for December 3, 2014.