Proration will cut education

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 4, 2001

spending by $266 million


Staff Writer

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It has been 10 years since proration was last declared.

But, a decade ago, a proration of 6.5 percent in 1990 meant cuts of more than $165 million. A year later a 3-percent proration was declared to the tune of more than $73.5 million.

The largest proration ever was declared in 1960. At that time, 14.14 percent meant almost $19.8 million.

Now, educators are being hit with prorations again.

During a Friday morning press conference, Gov. Don Siegelman announced the Education Trust Funds will be reduced by 6.2 percent.

The cut in the state’s $4.3 billion Education Trust Fund will mean a reduction of $266 million in spending over the last eight months of the fiscal year.

This year’s budget, which was approved by legislators and signed by Siegelman in May 2000, was to provide an additional $200 million over last year.

"This is a tough decision, but if we act swiftly and decisively, we can limit its effect on the classroom," Siegelman said during the press conference.

He said the upcoming budget will still include the funds for teacher testing, The Reading Initiative and increasing teacher standards, but will likely eliminate pay raises and force cost-cutting measures in administrative expense and special projects.

"We will tighten our belts," Siegelman said.

But, the governor said although the fat will be cut, the state will do everything "to ensure the most money possible goes to Alabama classrooms.

"Let me put this plainly, drastic steps that directly affect the classroom ­ such as teacher layoffs ­ are the last things local school superintendents and local school boards should ever do," Siegelman said. "And, if we set the right priorities, teacher layoffs will not be necessary. So, we have to get our educational priorities straight. Right now."

Siegelman went on to order a freeze on "all non-classroom-related items" and said he will prepare legislation "to return money from these items to the classroom, so teacher layoffs will not be necessary."

He also called on Ed Richardson, superintendent of the Alabama Department of Education, to "examine the financial records of every school system to ensure that each system is spending as much as possible in the classroom."

Richardson said the state will give school systems "as much flexibility as possible" when making cuts and anticipates some systems will seek waivers from pupil-teacher ratios.

"We are hopeful that we will be able to maintain our academic standards," Richardson said. "We are going to do everything we can to avoid cuts in the teacher ranks."

Proration was partially declared because of a downturn in the economy and no money was set aside in an account for emergency purposes. For months, budget analysts have been anticipating Friday’s announcement.