Langham: Responsibility is to citizensPublished 4:27am Sunday, July 7, 2013
When the State Department of Education released its official list of failing schools under the Alabama Accountability Act, Elmore County School System officials were happy to be left out.
The families of schools on the list would be eligible to enroll in private schools or non-failing public schools. But that raised another problem for the local educators.
What if hundreds of students from Montgomery County’s long list of failing schools were to seek enrollment in greener pastures to the north?
“We will continue to follow our policy that students and their parents or guardians must be residents of Elmore County to attend our schools,” Superintendent Jeff Langham said. “As a local school district, our first responsibility is to our citizens.”
Langham said the system is currently able to “comfortably accommodate” the county’s existing enrollment and handle “moderate growth” as new families settle in Elmore County the next few years.
But, “even if we were accepting transfers,” he wrote in an email to The Herald, “we do not have room for a major migration from non-resident students that would absorb the space intended for our Elmore County residents!”
Langham and other county school officials were outraged at the passage of the accountability act, which was initially billed as a measure to provide new flexibility from state education mandates.
But in the conference committee designed to settle differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, the flexibility measure was replaced by the accountability act, which extended tax credits to families in “failing schools” to offset the cost of sending their children to private schools or non-failing public schools.
Langham said his “negative feelings” about the process and resulting law have not changed, but he feels it will have “minimal impact” on the state’s public education system.
“I believe this ill-conceived act will most likely implode due to potential legal challenges, the confusion over the tax credits, the failing schools debate and limited opportunities for transfers,” he said. “These are just a few of the pitfalls of the act that concern me.”
Among the nearby schools listed as failing were Montgomery Countys’ Bellingrath, Brewbaker, Goodwyn, Southlawn and Capitol Heights middle schools and Floyd Elementary School.