The Alabama House of Representatives unanimously passed a $5.9 billion education budget that includes an additional $49.6 million in funds for classrooms across the state.
The Education Trust Fund will offer an increase in textbook funding by $13 million and $3 million more for classroom supplies. Classroom technology and professional development will each receive an additional $3 million, while funding for transportation will increase by $4.5 million.
Funding for the state's pre-kindergarten program will also increase by $10 million. Officials said they would like to reach full funding for the program within the next 10 years, writes Brian Lyman for The Montgomery Advertiser. Advanced Placement courses will see receive an additional $1 million.
"We're having a good year right now," House Ways and Means Education committee chair Bill Poole said after the vote. "That's given us a little bit of new money. It is not substantial. We still haven't returned to our 08 appropriation level. We're still recovering. But we're pleased to have some new dollars this year to get into classrooms."
Lawmakers have commended Poole for his communication skills pertaining to the budget, as well as his ability to prioritize the budget in the legislative process.
"I think this is the first time in years that all minority members of the (House Ways and Means Education) committee voted in favor of the budget," Rep. James Buskey, of Mobile, said speaking of the Democrats on the committee.
Not included in the budget is any funding for teacher pay raises or money for the state's Public Education Employee Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP), which could mean additional out-of-pocket expenses for anyone enrolled in the program. The state's colleges and universities will also be level-funded.
According to Poole, there was not enough money for a pay raise, as even a 1% pay raise for teachers would cost $36 million. Revenues for the budget under the Rolling Reserve Cap are expected to increase by $53 million, with another $35 million becoming available through payments to the Rainy Day Fund within the budget.
While the budget is the largest seen in years, it is still below the all-time high of $6.7 billion in fiscal year 2008.
Any revisions made by the House will need to be approved by the Senate.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he expects the Senate to pass the budget.