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Education budget one step closer

The Alabama Legislature is one step closer to finalizing the state education budget as the Senate passed a budget that is larger than the current year’s spending level and will save teacher’s jobs once thought to be at risk.

Senators voted 32-0 Tuesday night in favor of the 2009-2010 school year, approving a $6.3 billion education budget.

The Senate-approved budget is up $418 million from the current year’s prorated spending level, but it includes $513 million in federal stimulus money.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D- Luverne, said he was really pleased that the Senate was able to pass the budget in four hours.

“There was a lot of discussion, but there were no changes because everyone did such a good job packaging,” Mitchell said.

According to Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, the budget passed the House Education Committee early Wednesday morning and is scheduled to go to the House floor Tuesday.

“I think it’s as good as we can do in these times,” Boothe said. “However, I’m not completely satisfied with the fact that we didn’t get our AMSTI program completely funded.”

“We did put a first-year conditional provision that will fund the program back to its original level if the funds come available,” Boothe added.

Still, Mitchell said nothing was completely funded, but said the AMSTI people were pleased with the results.

“This was far better than the governor’s budget he submitted,” Mitchell said. “All the people lobbying were satisfied.”

“We can’t give more if we don’t have the funds,” Mitchell added.

Overall, Boothe said the process is moving along smoothly, and the Legislature is working on the General Fund budget, as well.

As for the university and the local school systems, Boothe said they seem to be OK with it and said Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell was in Montgomery for the meeting and seemed pleased with the results.

“The University seems to be OK, as do the school superintendents,” Boothe said.

*The Associated Press contributed to this article.