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Legislature passes largest education budget in state history

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a $7.1 billion education budget Thursday. The 2020 fiscal year Education Trust Fund budget is the largest in state history.

Both Houses of the Alabama Legislature approved the conference committee report on the budget on Friday, just hours before ending the 2019 regular session.

The final ETF budget for 2020 totals $7,113,109,253. The 2019 budget was just $6,621.280,483. The Legislature is anticipating an increase in revenues of $491,828,770. Last year, the Legislature had over $280 million in extra revenues that was spent in two supplemental appropriations bills.

The ETF budget includes a 4 percent raise for all education workers.

Teachers’ salaries had been flat for years following the Great Recession. That, recession-related layoffs and frugal school boards laying off young teachers before they could get tenure resulted in much fewer young people choosing education as a profession they wanted to be in. This has caused a teacher shortage. The Legislature raised teacher pay last year but felt the need to follow that with the 4 percent raise to try to improve teacher recruitment and retention efforts in a much more robust economy.

The budget also includes more money for pre-K classrooms. On Thursday, Ivey announced the state would be adding 164 new pre -K classrooms.

“Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is truly the model of the nation,” Ivey said. “By adding 164 classrooms, we are ensuring more of our youngest learners are getting a strong start to their educational journeys, which will lead them to an even stronger finish in their careers. Other states across the country want to emulate what we are doing with early childhood education here in Alabama, and much of that is thanks to the tremendous leadership of Secretary Jeana Ross.”

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For a few highlights of the 2020 fiscal year ETF budget:

$64,328.146 is appropriated to the Alabama Department of Commerce. $49,522,811 of that is for workforce development.

The Alabama Community College System received an appropriation for $416,931,242, which includes $12,533,615 for prison education.

The Legislative branch of state government will receive $18,869,836, up substantially from the $12,574,578 they received in 2019. Much of that increase is for new line items for a Pilot Program Appropriation Bill Drafting System $3,755,000, $200,000 for software and public hearings for the 2020 Census and $750,000 for a State Department of Education Evaluation and Reorganization Study.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs received a new line item in the ETF for $26 million, and $20 million of that is for the Rural Broadband grant Program, while $5 million is for a new Research and Development Grant Program.

The State Department of Education itself is getting $251,723.084 a $34,203,365 increase from last year. That includes $800,000 for the State Charter Schools Commission, which is up from $200,000 last year but down from the $1.4 million the Senate had requested in their budget. The governor had requested just $200,000 for the commission in her budget. The larger items in the SDE budget includes $19,405,117 for the statewide student assessment, $51,299,601 for the Alabama Reading Initiative, $30,299,318 for the Alabama Math and Science Initiative, $24,381,092 for Department O&M, $20,165768 for distance learning, $53,851,158 for the Financial Assistance Program, $5,623,062 for the pre-school program for special education — which received a $4 million increase, $11,427,424 for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, $2,759,080 for teacher in-service centers, $8,112,239 for the Career Tech Initiative, $2,398,919 for teacher professional development training, $3,750,000 for the gifted students program, $8,440,628 for the teacher’s liability insurance program and $7,980,287 for the Governor’s Hope for Alabama Students.

The state is spending $35,032,715 for debt service out of the ETF.

The Educational Television Commission is receiving $8,952,810.

The State Executive Commission Community Service Grants is getting $14,031,798

The Alabama School of Fine Arts is receiving $8,647,417.

The Fire College and Firefighters Standards and Education Commission is getting $5,248,437.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has been appropriated $16,551.167 out of the ETF.

The Alabama Commission on Higher Education is receiving $40,630,027. The largest earmarks in the ACHE funding are $17,839,237 for student financial aid programs, $7,115,120 for support for other state programs, $5,216,083 for the Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance and $2,552,915 for support for other educational activities and programs.

The Alabama Historical Commission has a $2,042,038 appropriation from the education trust fund.

The Department of Human Resources has an ETF appropriation of $31,424,165.

The Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention received $2,505,232.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has an ETF appropriation of just $580,242 for school safety training.

The Alabama Public Library Service receives $12,880,391 from the ETF.

The lieutenant governor has received a new ETF appropriation of $250,000 for his Commission on the 21st Century Workforce.

The Marine Environmental Science Consortium/Dauphin Island Sea Lab has an appropriation for $5,203,025.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health has an ETF appropriation of $56,865,882. That includes $47,061,719 for the institutional care for the intellectually disabled and $5,448,163 for the institutional care for the mentally ill.

The Alabama School of Math and Science is receiving a 2020 appropriation of $8,647,417.

The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services receives $48,476,518.

The Alabama Department of Youth Services has an appropriation for $57,154,071.

The colleges and universities will receive $1,203,909,819 in this budget. That is their largest appropriation since the Great Recession but still trails their 2008 level of state support.

The settlement with the PACT program parents is going to cost the state $60,738,300 in the 2020 budget. The parents and their attorneys argued that the program was misrepresented as prepaid college tuition and not a risky investment scheme. After 2024, those settlement payments should start to decrease.

The state is supporting the Southern Research Institute, the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology and the Neurology Research Project at $1,000,000 each in 2020.

The state is supporting private schools at just $1,284,437 in a separate appropriation from this budget. Those schools are Lyman Ward $357,290 and Talladega College $927,147.

The governor had requested that the ETF fund a portion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program as the federal government has passed more costs of the program to the states. The governor requested $36 million for CHIP. The legislature rejected that plan and CHIP is being funded out of the $2.1 billion state general fund budget instead. The full cost of CHIP is expected to be in excess of $110 million in 2021.

The Department of Early Childhood, which is over the pre-K program received a substantial boost in this budget. Early childhood received $98,977,756 in the 2019 budget. This budget raises that to $127,265,130. That is an increase of $28,287,374, 28.6 percent. This will allow the state to add many more pre-K classrooms going forward.

Local school boards will also receive more money in this budget. Local K-12 education will receive a 2020 appropriation of $4,397,357,999. They received $4,170,480,632 in the 2019 budget. That is a $226,877,367 increase 5.44 percent increase. Transportation received a major boost in funding to $375,781,440. The school nursing program will receive $32,993,095. School libraries will receive a one-time enhancement of $6,000,000. The at-risk student program was cut from $20,267,734 to $19,517,734

U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the state dead last in education and 49th in pre-K through grade 12 education.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee is chaired by State Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.

“This is a positive budget for the state,” Poole said. “But I want to emphasize that money alone will not solve all of the problems in the Alabama education system.

The conference committee report on the education budget passed the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote.

The governor signed the budget on Thursday. The fiscal year 2020 budget goes into effect on Oct. 1 of this year. If the state were to fail to meet that $7.1 billion revenue projection, then the governor would either have to tap the rainy day fund or prorate the budget.

For the sake of brevity, this is an overview of the budget and does not include every line item, earmark and appropriation — just the highlights.

 

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