Across the Board 2023: Key Takeaways from the August ALBOE Retreat

Recapping important education policy decisions for you

The Board met in Tuscaloosa on August 29th and 30th for its final retreat of the year. Retreats are held twice a year as a work session for Board members to discuss certain topics in depth. Following the January retreat in Auburn, the Board met this time in Tuscaloosa to visit Tuscaloosa City Schools’ New Heights Community Resource Center and discuss the Fiscal Year 2025 budget and legislative updates. Here are our key takeaways from the August 29th & 30th State Board of Education retreat- and what they mean for Alabama’s students.

Here are our key takeaways from the August 2023 State Board of Education retreat – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.

August 2023 Board Retreat

FY2025 Budget

The Board discussed an early draft of the ALSDE budget request for Fiscal Year 2025. The Board will continue this budget discussion at the September work session, and vote to send its request to the Governor’s office in October. After the Governor creates her recommended budget, it will be taken up by the legislature during the 2024 Legislative Session. Line items to watch include: 

  • Foundation Program: $4.7 billion suggested request, a $217 million increase. This increase would go toward Other Current Expense (OCE), and increasing the number of middle grade teachers by lowering the divisors for student-to-teacher ratios for 4th through 8th grade from 20.06 for grades 4-6 and 19.70 for grades 7-8 down to 19. 
  • Alabama Numeracy Act: Suggested $23.8 million increase, totaling $63.8 million. This increase would go toward operating expenses for the Office of Math Improvement and hiring over 200 school math coaches, as well as 33 regional math coaches. 
  • Alabama Reading Initiative: Suggested total request of $158 million, an increase of over $60 million from last year. This sizable increase is due, in part, to the cost of school-level reading coaches. The Legislature appropriated $36.8 million for reading coaches for FY2024, which covers about 460 schools. However, there are about 770 schools needing reading coaches. The state allocates about $80,000 for a coach per year. The increase will cover the cost of funding a reading coach for every K-3 school in the state, as well as other costs that have previously either been its own line item or has been covered using ESSER funds. This includes $18 million for summer reading camps required by the law to support struggling readers.
  • Principal Leadership and Mentoring Act: Suggested request of $30.8 million total. This includes a $2.7 million increase for the department to implement the new law, plus funds for the stipends in the law. The ALSDE does not know yet how many people will be eligible for the stipend, so assuming the highest possible numbers: 
    • Principal Stipends total $16.5 million
    • Assistant Principal Stipends total $8.5 million
    • Additional Hard to Staff School Stipends total $2.3 million
  • Student Assessment: Suggested increase of $3.9 million, for a total of $23.3 million. This increase would be to add 2 subject tests, to cover the costs of increased English Learner enrollment, and more.
  • Office of School Improvement: Suggested $900,000 increase of a total of $1.85 million. Increases would cover additional support for CSI schools, travel cost increases, and potentially new personnel for the Office. 

Legislative Session Discussion

The Board also continued its discussion on the 2023 Legislative Session, this time focusing on the education bills that did not pass this year that might return in 2024. Those bills included: 

  • First Grade Readiness by Rep. Pebblin Warren: this bill, filed multiple years now, ensures that every child that enters first grade has attended kindergarten or is able to show they have the skills necessary to be successful. 
  • Open Enrollment by Rep. Danny Garrett: would require school districts to enroll students living outside their geographic boundaries in their schools. 
  • Modified School Calendar Grant by Rep. Danny Garrett: would create a grant program for districts that want to experiment with different school calendars to help cover costs
  • Alabama Fits All Scholarship by Rep. Danny Garrett: would create a scholarship program for students to enroll in school options outside of their public school, based off of a law in Utah
  • SB180 by Sen. Rodger Smitherman: this bill would require that history courses be taught in a “fact based and inclusive manner”
  • PRICE Act by Sen. Stutts and Rep. Yarbrough: would create an education savings account program 

There was a more in depth discussion about school choice, which is expected to continue to be a big topic in the legislature. Some school choice bills were filed this year, but the only two that passed were the changes to Alabama’s charter law and changes to the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA). The changes to the AAA passed this session will increase the scholarship amount provided to students enrolled in a priority school and increase the number of students that would qualify for a scholarship based on their household income to those at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. It also provides scholarships to students with unique needs, including students with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. The cap for how much the state can spend on the program is raised to $40 million and can continue to grow up to $60 million if the cap is met consistently over time.

The Alabama State Board of Education usually meets on the second Thursday of each month, with the exception of the July meeting, to discuss important policies, procedures, and changes for Alabama’s K-12 public schools. The Board takes official action during their monthly meeting and then follows up with a Work Session to get updates and discuss future action that will be voted on at the next board meeting. You can watch them live and see old meetings here.

Contact Your Board Member:

Have feedback on any of the above items – or anything else? Contact your state school board member using the resources below:

-To contact your State Board of Education Member, click here.

-To find out which district you live and/or teach in, click here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your address in the “Polling Place Search” box. Once entered, it will take you to a page that shows your polling place and the districts you live in.

-To view a map of the state school board districts, click here.