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House passes education budget

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley 
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the largest education trust budget in over 10 years unanimously on Tuesday.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey praised the House for its passage of the education budget and pay raises for education employees.

“Today, the House of Representatives passed an education budget similar to the one I proposed in January that represents the largest investment in education in a decade,” Ivey said. “This budget gives teachers a much-deserved pay raise, provides additional funding for our proven First-Class Pre-K program and funds the efforts of my ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ education initiatives. I commend Representative Bill Poole and the House leadership for their tireless efforts to send a very admirable education budget to the Senate.”

The budget bill, HB175, had passed out of the Ways and Means Education committee last Wednesday. The bill is sponsored by committee Chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa. Poole said that this is a very good budget.

Poole said that the bill funds $500,000 for Ivey’s “Strong Start, Strong Finish” initiative among other things including:

  • Increased funding for Pre-K classrooms $20 million; increases the Alabama Reading Initiative $5 million;
  • Provided an increase for the state education, which give school boards flexibility;
  • Increased money for technology
  • Appropriated more money for school nurses
  • Included a modification to the divisor for grades four – six that will result in 179 more teachers for those grades
  • Provided an increase in money for more national board certified teachers
  • Provided another $1.3 million for career tech
  • Spends $90 million for a 2.5 percent education pay raise
  • Provided a $16 million increase for community college to improve work force development
  • Provided an additional $37 million for colleges and universities. The lowest increase for any four year college was 5.4 percent.

No one opposed the budget, but some Democrats had some disagreements with the budget.

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State Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said that she met with Ivey and state finance director Clinton Carter earlier in the day about the decision to reject the requested earmark in the budget by Alabama A&M.

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“I am looking for some fairness for the school that I represent,” Rep. Hall said.

“There are schools that get less per pupil than Alabama A&M,” Poole said in response. “Every college asked for an ear mark and every college was turned down.”

State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, said, “We were hoping that there would be a continued effort to support our HBCUs (historically Black Colleges and Universities). Tuskegee is known for the peanut I was watching television and I saw where Auburn University has taken over the peanut research. Alabama brags about the Red Tails; but Tuskegee doesn’t even have an aviation program….Auburn does. Your HBCUs have to take more of your at risk students and then they have to deal with remediation part of that is because of the problems that we have in K through 12.”

State Representative Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, objected to the failing schools list. “We can’t just let the board print this list without us asking for some return on investment from them.”

State Representative Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, urged the legislature to pass a bonus check for education retirees. “As a body we should be able to come up with a formula to help these people. We owe it to them.”

The budget passed 102 to zero.

HB175 is the budget itself. The House also passed HB174, HB176, HB177, HB178, HB179 and HB180. The seven bills combined is the total education budget. 174 is the pay raise bill. 176 is the appropriation for Lyman Ward Military Institute. HB176 is the appropriation for Talladega College. HB177 is appropriation for Tuskegee Institute. HB179 authorizes the distribution of leftover excess funds beyond what were needed for the Rainy Day Reserve fund in Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. HB180 is the distribution of leftover funds from the 2017 budget. All seven bills passed without any opposition.

The ETF budget now goes on to the State Senate for their consideration.

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