Senate Committee Passes Reduced Education Trust Fund Budget

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee passed its version of the Education Trust Fund budget for fiscal year 2013. The $5.5 million budget is roughly $150 million less than this year’s budget.

“It’s lean, but we’re maintaining the critical and essential parts of education in this state,” said committee chairman, Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Daphne) in the Associated Press story used by the Montgomery Advertiser. According to the AP, the budget would allot more for K-12 schools and less for two-year and four-year colleges than Gov. Bentley’s recommended budget, which legislators criticized after its release in February.

Maintained in the budget is funding for the Alabama Reading Initiative, distance learning through ACCESS, and the state’s pre-k program. Two successful programs credited with helping improve Alabama’s schools received increases in funding: the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative and Advanced Placement. Both the governor’s proposed budget and the senate committee’s budget included these allocations, based on requests from the Alabama State Department of Education.

Due to a lack of revenue, the governor’s budget recommended reducing class size by one-half of a student per class (eliminating roughly 1000 teaching positions), but the Senate committee reduced this to four-tenths (eliminating 800 positions). Pittman noted that he hoped this could be accomplished through attrition, according to the Advertiser.

The committee’s budget also removed an allocation from the governor’s office for $158 million to be spent on Medicaid.