Alabama judge delays enforcing ruling on school tax credits law

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama — A judge said Monday he would delay enforcing his decision outlawing tax credits for private school students in Alabama while appeals courts are considering the law.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese issued a hand-written order agreeing to delay implementation of his ruling against the Republican-based Alabama Accountability Act.

The judge agreed with the state to block his order, meaning the tax credit program can go ahead while appeals courts consider the issue.

The law allows state tax credits for parents who move their children from failing public schools to private schools.

Attorneys for parents who intervened to preserve the law called Reese's decision a victory.

"The trial court's ruling means that parents across the state can continue to rely on the Accountability Act's school choice programs while this case moves forward on appeal," said Bert Gall, a lawyer with the Virginia-based Institute for Justice.

The Alabama Education Association contends legislators passed the law illegally. The state argues that stopping the program while the future of the law is in court would harm parents and result in some students being sent back to failing schools.

Last month, Reese ruled that the Legislature violated the Constitution by putting more than one subject in the law and by changing the legislation from its original purpose of school flexibility, which had virtually no cost, to tax credits, estimated to cost $40 million annually.

The 2013 law violates the constitutional prohibition about providing public funds for private education, Reese said, writing that the Legislature can't avoid the prohibition "by instead reimbursing parents the cost of their tuition payment at such institutions."

AEA, the state's largest organization for teachers, had asked Reese to keep the decision in place while appeals courts considered his ruling.

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