The 2020 Legislative Session began on February 4th, and A+ hit the ground running advocating for great schools for every child. Last year during the 2019 Legislative Session, the Alabama Legislature passed two new policy bills, The Alabama Literacy Act and the Computer Science Education bill, to improve outcomes for students in school and beyond. This year, our work in the Legislature is all about ensuring proper funding for implementation of these bills and other important education policy decisions our legislators will make about math, career opportunities for teachers, Pre-K, Advanced Placement (AP), and more.
Proper implementation starts with a well thought-out plan and adequate funding. This year, A+ is advocating for the following budget allocations in the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget as a part of our legislative agenda:
1.The Alabama Literacy Act and the Alabama Reading Initiative
$80.6 million in total funding for the Alabama Reading Initiative, including $10M in new money for regional coaches and $18M in new money for summer learning
An additional $21 million in supplemental funds for LETRS Training for all K-3 teachers
The Alabama State Department of Education outlined their plan for implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act during legislative budget hearings over the last two weeks. This plan includes hiring more regional literacy coaches to assist schools, providing extensive teacher training in the science of reading, and expanding summer learning for students who need it.
2. Professional Pathways for Alabama Teachers
$700,000 to fund a new pilot program creating career advancement pathways for teachers.
Alabama is facing a teacher shortage crisis that requires immediate action to both recruit and retain talent. The top two reasons students surveyed by the ACT in 2018 say they are not interested in becoming teachers are low pay (63%) and lack of career advancement opportunities (43%). Providing effective teachers with more growth opportunities, such as becoming Master Teachers, allows them to expand their impact and earn higher salaries without going into administration. This funding will create a pilot program to test a professional pathways program in a few school districts across the state with the goal of future statewide expansion.
3. Advanced Placement (AP)
$7.4 million in total funding for Advanced Placement
This budget request is the same as the FY2020 budget. This line item in the overall education budget provides for the expansion of the Advanced Placement program across the state, including the work of our program, A+ College Ready, and covers the costs of exam fees for all low-income students in Alabama.
4. Computer Science Education
$2 million dollars for the expansion of Computer Science education (a $1 million increase over this year)
With the passage of the Computer Science Bill last legislative session, all Alabama high schools are required to offer a hiqh quality computer science coding course by next school year (2020-2021), followed by all middle schools and elementary schools in the following two years.
$33.6 million dollars for the Alabama Math Science Technology Initiative (AMSTI)
$2.7 million in supplemental funds for teacher training
Alabama currently ranks 52nd in the nation in both 4th grade and 8th grade math achievement. The Alabama State Department of Education has requested funding to ensure teachers receive high-quality professional development and support from well-trained coaches. Click here to read more about this plan.
6. Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program
$25 million increase for the First Class Pre-K program
Studies have shown that children who have access to Alabama’s high quality Pre-K are more likely to be proficient in reading and math and are less likely to have discipline infractions later in school. These gains are sustained through 8th grade, according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA).This budget increase will ensure more 4-year-olds have access to this nationally-recognized program.
Other Education Budget Topics to Follow:
Student Mental Health Services: Increased funding for mental health services for students in schools has been discussed by the legislature in budget hearings. This is a priority for many educators and students across the state, including the high school students participating in our A+ Student VOICES Team. Governor Ivey has recommended an increase in funding for this in her budget for 2021.
Teacher Pay Raise: Governor Ivey is requesting a 3% pay raise for teachers from Pre-K through the community college system
Increased Funding for English Language Learners: Schools districts are seeing a growth in students who are English language learners. With this growth comes a need for more resources to ensure students are receiving the support they need to become proficient in English.