For the purposes of this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
(1) ACADEMIC YEAR. The 12-month period beginning on July 1 and ending on the following June 30.
(2) DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE. The Alabama Department of Revenue.
(3) EDUCATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP. A grant made by a scholarship granting organization to an eligible student to cover all or part of the tuition and mandatory fees for one academic year charged by a qualifying school to the eligible student receiving the scholarship; provided, however, that an educational scholarship shall not exceed six thousand dollars ($6,000) for an elementary school student, eight thousand dollars ($8,000) for a middle school student, or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for a high school student per academic year. The term does not include a lump sum, block grant, or similar payment by a scholarship granting organization to a qualifying school that assigns the responsibility in whole or in part for determining the eligibility of scholarship recipients to the qualifying school or any person or entity other than the scholarship granting organization.
(4) ELIGIBLE STUDENT.
a. A student who satisfies all of the following:
1. Is a member of a family whose total annual income the calendar year before he or she receives an educational scholarship under this program does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level, the federally recognized threshold for receiving free or reduced priced lunch, as established from time to time by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
2. Was eligible to attend a public school in the preceding semester or is starting school in Alabama for the first time.
3. Resides in Alabama while receiving an educational scholarship.
b. A scholarship granting organization shall determine the eligibility of a student under subparagraph 1. of paragraph a. every other academic year in which a student receives an educational scholarship; provided that if the annual income of the family of a student who has received at least one educational scholarship exceeds 185 percent of the federal poverty level, the existing student shall remain eligible to receive educational scholarships until and unless the annual income of the family of the student exceeds 275 percent of the federal poverty level; provided, further that no student who has received at least one educational scholarship shall be eligible to receive educational scholarships if the annual income of his or her family exceeds 275 percent of the federal poverty level.
(5) FAILING SCHOOL. A public K-12 school that is either of the following:
a. Is designated as a failing school by the State Superintendent of Education.
b. Does not exclusively serve a special population of students and is listed in the lowest six percent of public K-12 schools based on the state standardized assessment in reading and math.
(6) FAMILY. A group of two or more people related by birth, marriage, or adoption, including foster children, who reside together.
(7) FLEXIBILITY CONTRACT. A school flexibility contract between the local school system and the State Board of Education wherein a local school system may apply for programmatic flexibility or budgetary flexibility, or both, from state laws, regulations, and policies, including regulations and policies promulgated by the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education.
(8) INNOVATION PLAN. The request of a local school system for flexibility and plan for annual accountability measures and five-year targets for all participating schools within the school system.
(9) LOCAL BOARD OF EDUCATION. A city or county board of education that exercises management and control of a local school system pursuant to state law.
(10) LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEM. A public agency that establishes and supervises one or more public schools within its geographical limits pursuant to state law.
(11) NONPUBLIC SCHOOL. Any nonpublic or private school, including parochial schools, not under the jurisdiction of the State Superintendent of Education and the State Board of Education, providing educational services to children. A nonpublic school provides education to elementary or secondary, or both, students and has notified the Department of Revenue of its intention to participate in the scholarship program and comply with the requirements of the scholarship program. A nonpublic school does not include home schooling.
(12) PARENT. The parent or guardian of a student, with authority to act on behalf of the student. For purposes of Section 16-6D-8, the parent or guardian shall claim the student as a dependent on his or her Alabama state income tax return.
(13) QUALIFYING SCHOOL.
a. Either a public school outside of the resident school district that is not considered failing within the meaning of subdivision (5) or any nonpublic school as defined in subdivision (11) and that satisfies the requirements of this subdivision. A qualifying nonpublic school shall be accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies or the National Council for Private School Accreditation, AdvancEd, the American Association of Christian Schools, or one of their partner accrediting agencies. A nonpublic school shall have three years from the later of the date the nonpublic school notified the Department of Revenue of its intent to participate in the scholarship program or June 10, 2015, to obtain the required accreditation and shall thereafter maintain accreditation as required by this subdivision. During the three-year period described in the immediately preceding sentence, a nonpublic school that is not accredited shall satisfy all of the following conditions until the nonpublic school obtains accreditation:
1. Has been in existence for at least three years.
2. Has daily attendance of at least 85 percent over a two-year period.
3. Has a minimum 180-day school year, or its hourly equivalent.
4. Has a day length of at least six and one-half hours.
5. Requires all students to take the Stanford Achievement Test, or its equivalent.
6. Requires all candidates for graduation to take the American College Test before graduation.
7. Requires students in high school in grades nine through 12 to earn a minimum of 24 credits before graduating, including 16 credits in core subjects, and each awarded credit shall consist of a minimum of 140 instructional hours.
8. Does not subject special education students to the same testing or curricular requirements as regular education students if it is not required in the individual plan for the student.
9. Maintains a website that describes the school, the instructional program of the school, and the tuition and mandatory fees charged by the school, updated prior to the beginning of each semester.
10. Annually affirms on forms prescribed by the scholarship granting organization and the Department of Revenue its status financially and academically and provide other relative information as required by the scholarship granting organization or as otherwise required in this chapter.
b. A nonpublic school that is not accredited and that has not been in existence for at least three years shall nevertheless be considered a qualifying school if, in addition to satisfying the requirements in subparagraphs 2. to 10., inclusive, of paragraph a., the nonpublic school operates under the governance of the board of directors or the equivalent thereof of an accredited nonpublic school. For purposes of the immediately preceding sentence, the term governance shall include, but not be limited to, curriculum oversight, personnel and facility management, and financial management. If, at the conclusion of the three-year period in which a nonpublic school is required to obtain accreditation, a nonpublic school is not accredited, the nonpublic school shall not be considered a qualifying school and shall not receive any funds from a scholarship granting organization until the nonpublic school obtains the accreditation required by this subdivision.
(14) SCHOLARSHIP GRANTING ORGANIZATION. An organization that provides or is approved to provide educational scholarships to eligible students attending qualifying schools of their parents' choice.