Ivey supports education scholarship accounts, lottery

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(The Center Square) – If Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has her way, lawmakers will send her bills that would create an education savings account program and allow voters to decide on a possible state lottery.

The second-term Republican governor delivered her State of the State address on Tuesday. The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Students’ Education Act, her top priority, would create a $100 million fund for annual scholarships of $7,000 used by parents for tuition and other educational costs.

“Passing an education savings account bill that works for families and for Alabama is my No. 1 legislative priority,” Ivey said. “My goal is to put us on a trajectory to make our program fully universal, while also maintaining our full and total support for public education.

“This program will be effective and sustainable, and it will serve as the catalyst for making Alabama the most school choice friendly state in the nation for years to come.”

Ivey also said she wants starting teacher salaries increased to be the highest among Alabama’s neighboring states.

Americans For Prosperity-Alabama State Director Adam Thompson supported the governor’s push.

“Seeking out the best education for your child can be a daunting task filled with barriers and frustrations,” Thompson said in a statement. “Thankfully Alabama has committed leaders such as Governor Ivey and others in the Legislature who put the needs of families first. Every student learns differently, and ESAs can provide all students and families with the flexibility to meet their specific educational needs.

“That’s why we’re thrilled to hear that education reform will be prioritized this session. We look forward to working with the Legislature and Governor Ivey to make sure Alabama’s students are on track for a brighter future.”

Democrats didn’t oppose the proposal, but wanted accountability to ensure wise spending of taxpayer dollars.

“We already have school choice,” Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said to WSFA 12 News. “We passed the accountability bill last year, we have charter schools, private schools. As long as there is some equality there, making sure there is equity and it is fair.”

Singleton also told the news station that he wanted solutions for children in failing schools and wants accountability “of where that money is being spent.”

Ivey supported the creation of an Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences high school that will be located in Demopolis. The school will be a public, tuition-free boarding school similar to the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and the Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile.

Ivey says the state-of-the-art school will expose students, especially those from rural areas, to various health care fields and allow them to earn a credential to get to work immediately or continue their studies at a college or even go to dental or medical school.

As for the lottery, Alabama voters would have to amend the state’s constitution. Lotteries and “games of chance” are prohibited.

“I believe the current proposal being contemplated by the Legislature is good for Alabama, and I will be carefully watching it move through the process,” Ivey said. “It will crack down on illegal gambling, and it will responsibly regulate limited forms of legal gaming, including a statewide lottery.”

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