House passes #036;4.2 billion education budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 15, 2002

BNI Newswire

The State House passed its education budget that includes a 3 percent teacher pay raise Thursday.

State Rep. Betty Carol Graham said Tuesday "predicted growth" would pay for the raise without worry of another year of proration.

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The first budget the House Ways and Means Education Committee (of which Graham is a member) passed called for an increase in funds for textbooks, school supplies, transportation and maintenance. The committee came up with a substitute budget and decided to use money from predicted growth that would have funded these increases to fund a teacher pay raise.

Money was cut from textbooks, schools supplies, transportation and maintenance in order to come up with the $80 million needed to fund the raise.

The $4.24 billion budget passed by a vote of 85-14, and now goes to the Senate.

Some lawmakers and state officials have said if growth does not increase as predicted, public school systems may go through another year of proration, according to House legislators who opposed the raise.

"It’s hard to predict what the Senate will do," Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, said. "We want to grant a pay raise, but right now we may not have the money."

Little said he believed the Alabama Department of Education, and by extension state Superintendent Ed Richardson, as well as the Alabama Education Association, might be vocal in response to the proposed cuts by the House.

The bill, Little said, probably had its first reading Thursday, after which it went into Senate committee meetings.

It will receive its second reading a week from now and will enter floor debate in the Senate at that time. "If we don’t pass it, we’ll come up with a substitute and send it back to the House. If they don’t pass it, it’ll go to a conference committee, and if we still can’t pass it, we’ll end the session without a budget," Little said.

The Alabama Association of School Administrators said superintendents support a teacher pay raise and restoring funding to pre-proration levels.

"Alabama must be willing to provide for the future by investing in education," said AASA president-elect Dr. Charles Mason of Mountain Brook.

Richardson was unavailable for comment Thursday, as were Graham, Alexander City Superintendent of Schools Jim Nabors and Tallapoosa County Superintendent of Schools David Baker.