To understand what the AOSF is, one must first know what the accountability act is and how it affects students. The AAA was a potential fix for the failing schools and/or school systems in the state. The definition of a failing school is, according to the Alabama House Republican Caucus website, “labeled as ‘persistently low-performing’ on the state’s School Improvement Grant application, is in the bottom 10 percent on statewide reading and math assessment scores, has earned three consecutive D’s or one F on the school grading report card, or is designated by the Department of Education as failing.”
The AAA consists of three things, which states the following: it “allows for flexibility contracts between the State Board of Education and local school districts, creates tax credits for families with students in a (chronically) failing school to attend a non-public school or non-failing public school and creates tax credits for taxpayers (individuals and businesses) who donate to a non-profit ‘scholarship granting organization’ that provides scholarships for students to attend a nonpublic school or non-failing public school.”
The third item mentioned is how Sumiton Christian School is able to play a part in the AAA regulations locally in Walker County.
Sumiton Christian Principal Cheryl Capps recently attended a meeting which discussed the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund.
The AOSF is a newly developed scholarship association that was created to award scholarships to eligible students who come from low-income families. The scholarships will pay for private school tuition or transfer fees to a non-failing public school.
“If they are looking or are wanting to attend another school, a private school and they can’t afford it, this allows them, if they qualify, the means by which they can change schools,” Capps said. “If you qualify, this organization will provide you the means by which they will pay for your tuition and fees and allow you to come to school if you meet our admission requirements.”
Capps said she once had a student from an area school who was “desperate” to leave his school and attend Sumiton Christian. She said he asked if the school had funds available, but Capps said unfortunately at that time her school didn’t. Now, thanks to this scholarship, Capps is happy to announce that there is hope for that child to be able to attend Sumiton Christian if he qualifies.
The AOSF provides private school tuition from amounts of $5,000 up to $8,000 in some schools. Sumiton Christian has joined a list of more than 90 non-public schools in the state who are participating in the scholarship fund.
According to information provided by the AOSF, “Once awarded, children receiving the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship will remain eligible until they graduate high school, as long as scholarship funds are available and they remain an Alabama resident.” Capps mentioned that applications are considered on a “first come, first served” basis and that families should apply as soon as possible.
“What sets us a part [from other schools] is going to be the Christian curriculum. The majority of our curriculum is Christian-based, faith values. Chapel is important to us, starting the day with prayer, starting the day with Bible reading,” Capps said. “Having an environment that is safe and secure. We rarely have any discipline problems, a smaller teacher-pupil ratio is important. The class size is important.
“A faculty and staff that are worried about the academics, but they also worry about the entire child — the social part of the child, the spiritual part of the child, the physical abilities of the child,” she continued.
Sumiton Christian currently serves 375 students, K3 through twelfth grade. They are also considering an addition of K2 next school year, which will also be taught using the A Beka curriculum. Capps mentioned the school will also be offering, if enough interest is shown, half days or full days in K2 through K4 next year.
For more information or if interested in applying for the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship, you may visit the website at www.alabamascholarshipfund.org. If you would like to apply for admission to attend Sumiton Christian, you may visit the school’s website at www.sumitonchristian.org or call the school at (205) 648-6643.
Sumiton Christian will host an open house Monday, May 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. for new families and anyone interested in touring the school. Also, Vanessa Watkins, North Alabama’s Outreach and Advocacy manager for the AOSF, will be available to answer any questions or to help register for the scholarship.