GOP, Dems offer competing bills on dual enrollment for high schoolers
by Tim Lockette
tlockette@annistonstar.com
Feb 04, 2014 | 2953 views |  0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — Republican members of the Alabama House of Representatives announced a plan Tuesday to create a $10 million scholarship program to help students pursue a two-year college degree while attending high school. The program would be funded by donations.

“This will be a chance for Alabama to fight poverty by using a conservative, tax-credit approach,” said Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman. “It’s something that would make Ronald Reagan proud.”

Buttram is sponsoring a bill that would offer tax credits to businesses and individuals who donate to scholarship programs that would fund dual-enrollment for Alabama high school students. Many K-12 schools allow students to enroll in high school and college classes at the same time, allowing them to prepare for college. Buttram’s program would fund scholarships for students in two-year college programs that qualify them for a job.

Buttram and other lawmakers present at a Tuesday press conference said dual-enrollment programs are underused, in part because students can’t afford tuition, and such programs would help the state create a workplace-ready workforce.

Donors to the proposed scholarship program would receive an income tax credit equal to half their donation. Tax credits would be limited to $5 million per year.

Income taxes go to the Education Trust Fund, which pays for schools. Democrats have criticized Republicans in the past for their willingness to offer tax credits that cut into the state’s school funding — but House Speaker Mike Hubbard said the $5 million in tax credits would bring in twice as much money which would be paid to the state’s two-year college system.

“It’s not going to cost the Education Trust Fund anything,” Hubbard claimed.

Democrats last month offered their own proposal for dual enrollment — a bill that would provide $5 million per year to dual enrollment programs by eliminating a $5 million teacher liability insurance program created by the Legislature last year. Critics of that program said it was a thinly-veiled attack on the Alabama Education Association, the teachers’ association that has historically provided representation for teachers facing legal issues.

“We’re all for dual enrollment,” said Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden. “We’re just not for doing it at the expense of public education.”

Buttram’s bill is expected to come before the House Ways and Means Education Committee Wednesday.

Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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