Report news by calling (205) 932-3300

Questions, comments, corrections?  E-mail

Copyright © 2007 The Times-Record Inc. • P.O. Drawer 159 • Fayette, Alabama 35555  All rights reserved.
This information contained herein is protected by copyright laws of the United States.  

The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistribution, retransmitting, broadcasting, or repurposing of any copyright protected material.

The Times-Record is a member of the Alabama Press Association.


Area Resources

West Alabama
Economic Development

Fayette Area

Chamber of Commerce

Alabama High School
Athletic Association

Fayette County Schools

City of Fayette

Fayette County

Sheriff’s Office

Bevill State

Community College

Last Updated Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Contact Us







Click on the e edition
icon and see what
you’ve been missing!

Now you can
read the
whole paper


You have to tip your hat to Bob Riley’s Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund and the great
job they do with public relations. Hardly a day goes by without someone trying to convince us the
best way to help kids in struggling schools is to take resources from them and give tax breaks to
big business.

A few days ago Cameron Smith, an columnist told us that Riley’s AOSF has awarded
2,800 scholarships and is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  

Next came a column in the Birmingham News from the executive director of Riley’s group. She
said they have awarded 2,700 scholarships through the Alabama Accountability Act and that too
many folks opposed to it twist facts.

Of course, she had to take a political shot by saying the Alabama Education Association was
opposed. However, she failed to mention so was the state school superintendent, state board of
education, school board association and superintendents association.

(For the record I am not, nor have I even been, a member of AEA. I am retired and do not get a
salary from anyone. I have driven more than 10,000 miles this year visiting schools and studying
education. I buy my own gas.)

She implied that the $25 million taken from the state education trust fund for business tax breaks
was no big deal and no one should squabble about sending this money to private schools.

She needs to go to Winston County and tell this to Amy Hiller, the principal at Meek
Elementary.  I will never forget the day I asked Amy if I were to give her a blank check, what she
would spend it on.

“I would run the heat and air-conditioning when it should be run,” she quickly replied. Her
school system was scrimping every dollar it could and not having a cool or warm school was one
of the consequences. But then I suppose the folks at AOSF probably don’t worry much about their
utility bill.

You see, last year Riley’s SGO raised $17,825,594 from 25 donors. They keep five percent to
run their program. That’s $891,279.70 to pay for power bills, salaries, slick videos, direct mail,
robo calls, travel, food, lodging, etc.

When we pay our state income tax, it goes straight to the education trust fund--unless you are a
contributor to an SGO. Then you send the money to them and in return, you get a dollar for dollar
tax break on your state taxes.

This means that every penny of the $891,279.70 to run AOSF is a penny straight out of the ETF.  

The fact that someone professing to be concerned about education would trivialize the value of
$25 million when there are elementary classes with 30+ students, when neither libraries or
technology have not been funded in six years and when rural school systems are struggling to run
buses is very telling.

It is also telling that someone applauds taking money from 733,000 public school students to
send only 2,700 of them to private schools

Now let’s look at some “non-twisted” facts:

In 2013, the Riley SGO raised $17.8 million and did not award a single scholarship according to
their annual report filed with the revenue department.

The AAA was passed without input from Alabama educators. Legislative leadership boasted
they kept professional educators in the dark. Would the legislature pass a law impacting business
and not consult with the Business Council of Alabama or Manufacture Alabama?

AAA has been ruled unconstitutional by a Montgomery circuit court. Thirty superintendents
have filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting this decision. Only eight of them have failing

According to superintendents in 20 counties with 37 failing schools, only 40 students have
received scholarships because of AAA.  

Which begs the question? Who are these kids getting scholarships? Local school systems can’t
find them, the state department of education can’t find them, the revenue department can’t find

Do we need an Amber Alert? Or will AOSF tell us who they are and what failing schools they
came from? Until they do, it’s all just more PR.

Larry Lee led the study, Lessons Learned from Rural Schools and is a long-time advocate for
public education and frequently writes about education issues.  Email him at