On Wednesday, State Reps. Pebblin Warren, D-Birmingham, and Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, led a discussion about the Education Trust Fund budget that was passed on Tuesday.
“Our future is only as strong as our education system is today,” Warren said at the Democrats’ weekly press conference.
The education budget, Senate Bill 199, is marked at $7.1 billion, the largest in state history.
“Prioritizing high quality public education has always been a core Democratic value, but for too long our state has been forced to operate with grossly inadequate funds,” Warren said. “While there are certainly some gaps in this budget, overall this is a positive step forward for Alabama, and there is much to feel good about.”
Increases in funding are allotted to many different programs under the ETF. It includes a 4 percent pay increase to all education employees in the state.
“A 4 percent raise is a good place to start, and I hope that we can continue to support our educators by making sure they are paid a salary commensurate to their work and increased cost of living,” Warren said. “There are few professionals more integral to a well-functioning society than our teachers, and Alabama House Democrats believe it is essential that we support those who have dedicated their lives to educating our youth.”
“I am particularly pleased to see additional funds have been allocated for our world class Pre-K program,” Hatcher said. “Unfortunately, our public universities – HBCUs in particular – did not receive the same attention that pre-K did in this budget.”
All colleges across the state did receive an increase in funding, but some are still grossly underfunded.
“Our budgets are a reflection of our values, and we must prioritize quality, affordable higher education that trains and retains young people in Alabama. Our HBCUs are in dire need of funding, and we are disappointed to see that they were again categorically left out in this budget,” Hatcher said.
Improving education is a priority for House Democrats, and Warren said they pledge to continue to prioritize education in the years to come.
“I do appreciate the work that this budget does in moving us closer to fair compensation for our educators,” Warren concluded. “However, I feel that we must acknowledge the work we still have to do, and I look forward to continuing to work alongside my colleagues in the House to push us to where we need to be.”