Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has signed a $5.9 billion education budget into law, offering funding for classroom supplies but no pay raises or additional money for insurance for teachers in the state.
In all, the budget includes $13 million in extra funding for textbooks, which brings the total per-pupil textbook funding in the state to $52 from $35. Classroom supplies will see an additional $3 million in funding, and transportation funding will see an increase of $4.5 million.
“The FY2016 Education Budget is a significant accomplishment and supports many important programs and initiatives that prepare students for success,” Bentley stated today. “The best investment we can make as a state is to invest in our students and their education. I appreciate the legislators prioritizing many initiatives and programs that support education in Alabama.”
Funding will also increase for Alabama’s pre-kindergarten program by $10 million, which may allow the number of children enrolled to grow by an additional 3,600. Republican leaders would like to see the program fully funded within the next decade, writes Brian Lyman for The Montgomery Advertiser.
Bentley recently announced over 200 new grants that would provide 3,600 additional spots for 4-year-olds in top-rated volunteer programs. In all, 51 counties across the state will benefit from the grants.
“The most important part of a child’s education is a solid foundation at an early age, and our First Class voluntary pre-k program provides just that,” Bentley said. “All children, regardless of where they live, deserve the opportunity to excel. A high-quality, voluntary pre-k program improves their chances of success in school long-term. This is a wise investment that will benefit children and families throughout Alabama for years to come.”
However, a pay raise for teachers was not included in the budget, nor were any additional funds for the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP). An increase on fees for spouses enrolled in the program was added in a vote by the board who governs PEEHIP, as was an increase on co-pays for a number of medical procedures, as well as a smoker surcharge. Monthly premiums for both individuals and families were left unchanged.
While Amy Marlowe, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Education Association, said the budget is a “good first step” to bringing more money into Alabama’s classrooms, she added that she would have liked to see a pay raise for teachers. While a 2% raise was added to the fiscal year 2014 budget for teachers, the cost of benefits increased by even more that year. “We’re hoping we make revisions to the Rolling Reverse Act, and build up funds toward a significant pay increase,” she said.
While the Education Trust Fund went quickly through the legislative process, passing the Senate on April 14 and the House of Representatives in a unanimous vote on May 21, the General Fund budget is not moving so easily, and may need a special session of the Legislature in order to pass.