Bell addresses Rotary Club

Published 10:27 pm Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It’s no secret the Alabama Legislature is looking at significant cuts in the state education budget in the coming year.

But District 5 State School Board representative Ella Bell, who represents Pike County, is advocating those cuts place little burden on teachers and students in the state.

“I’m going to be disheartened if I see a pupil-teacher ratio increase in Alabama, especially in District 5,” Bell said, while visiting the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday. “I will be disheartened if we lose teacher units, especially in District 5.”

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And so Bell said she will work with local legislators to urge them to do, at least, those two things.

“Probably more than anything, I will be more vocal with legislative delegates,” Bell said. “Our district’s already at a point where we don’t need anything to change that at all.”

Bell, whose district spans 20 counties in Alabama, said she hopes legislators, if nothing else, will be able to pass a budget at least matching 2009’s, which has undergone one of the most severe overages in Alabama history this year.

And while Gov. Bob Riley said in his State of the State address he is asking for, above all else, no cuts in the Alabama Reading Initiative and the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative,” Bell said she would hope those would come before teacher cuts.

“I think the ARI and AMSTI are probably the most effective new programs in the state,” Bell said. “However, I’m thinking the priority has to be for the masses. We need to remain constant in funding if an increase would cause us to lost teacher units in regular programs.”

Bell said she wasn’t sure specifically how the proposed budget would impact Pike County, but the county is likely looking at some cutbacks.

Bell also told Rotarians the bar needs to be raised on some of the state’s education decisions.

“The state has to make sure every student in this state has the minimum of everything,” Bell said.

And, with an economic stimulus potentially around the corner, Bell said perhaps some of that money could benefit Pike County’s education system.

“Our congressmen need to be called. We need to know what we can expect,” Bell said. “Pike County has got to have some money to help with construction and renovations.”