The House Ways and Means Education Committee met Wednesday to discuss the 2022 Education Trust Fund budget. State Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, chairs the committee. Poole said that the committee will meet again on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. to vote on the House Ways and Means Committee substitute version of the budget.
Poole said that the committee will vote on all seven of the bills that collectively make up the education budget. Poole also said that there will likely be a substitute version of the TEAMS bill that raises the pay for math and science teachers. Poole said that there has been a lot of negotiations on that bill — Senate Bill 327 by Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Dothan — and there will likely be a substitute presented at the Thursday meeting.
“This is a $7.65 billion education budget, this is the largest education budget in the history of Alabama,” Poole said. “This is very important for our state. … That budge allows us to consider some longstanding problems,”
Poole said that this budget has an additional $29 million for pre-K. Poole said that all education employees will get a 2 percent pay increase in this budget, but warned that “a lot is going to be expected as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Poole said that this budget provides $95 million for the teachers’ stabilization fund.
“This protects teacher units against the large variance in enrollment numbers due to the pandemic,” Poole said. “This prevents teachers from being pink slipped based on false or misleading numbers.”
Poole said that the budget has $100 million dedicated to the TEAMs proposal (Teacher Excellence and Accountability for Mathematics and Science).
Poole said that the budget includes more money for school nurses, transportation and IT, particularly cybersecurity, which is becoming a growing problem.
Poole said that the budget raises the per unit cost for teacher materials from $600 to $700 per unit and increases the allowance for technology from $350 to $500 per unit.
“There is an additional $2 million for the AP advanced placement program,” Poole explained. “There is a substantial investment for special ed.”
Poole said that the budget includes funding for “a remote learning pilot program.” The program creates “a hub of high quality STEM teachers primarily for our schools that cannot find science and math teachers.”
Poole said that there is an additional $90 million for colleges and university and $40 million for our community college system. Poole said that the budget includes funding for a needs based financial aid program.
“Alabama ranked dead last in providing needs based tuition assistance,” Poole told the committee. “We still have a long way to go.”
Poole said that the budget includes $2 million more for combatting child abuse and neglect.
Poole said that House Bill 609 by Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika will be on the floor of the House this week dealing with innovation “to grow our capacity to compete.”
Poole said that there “is a substantial investment in the supplemental appropriation” (for Fiscal Year 2021), adding: “It is very unusual to have a supplemental of this size and that is due to our very conservative budgeting for this year due to uncertainty about the COVID situation.”
Poole said that the supplemental appropriation includes increases for public television, for Tuskegee University, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and other state agencies.
Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, said: “The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is a statewide program.”
Poole said that the committee will meet to vote on the budget bills at 8:30 a.m.
The Education Trust Fund budget passed the Senate last month. Alabama has two budgets. Non-education funding is budgeted in the state General Fund budget.