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House passes education budget

The Alabama House passed a budget that won’t cut any state-funded teacher jobs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean no jobs will be lost in local school systems.

Both Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell and Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith said there is a possibility funding will not be available for all teacher positions.

Even though divisor levels are kept the same by the state budget, Felton-Smith said a decrease in enrollment this year could leave the school system without funding for about four jobs.

“The question is, will we be able to pick up those teacher units with our stimulus money?” Felton-Smith said.

Pike County Schools had a different story for how teacher positions could lose some funding.

Bazzell said state-funded jobs should remain the same for the next year, but the school system may not have the money to fund all its local positions.

“We’ve been carrying about 13 local funded teacher units,” Bazzell said. “We could probably sustain those through 2010 but would do so at the expense of our reserve.”

Bazzell said school officials will begin seeking other revenue sources to prevent any job loss.

Also in the budget, the schools will see some cuts in funding for classroom supplies and textbooks. But, superintendents said they will work to keep those funds available at the local level, as well.

Felton-Smith said the state will only provide funding for about $17 per student in textbook money, and so the purchase of new math books, which are next in line, may not be possible next year.

As for classroom supplies though, Felton-Smith said that will not go without funding in some capacity.

Bazzell said Pike County Schools will likely use stimulus money to compensate for those lost dollars in textbook and supply funds.

And, while the state education budget did cut some of the funding for the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) and distance learning, those programs locally will likely remain unaffected.

The state budget did not cut any funds for the Alabama Reading Initiative.

Both superintendents said they are overall pleased with the budget and are hopeful it will meet its final approval in the Senate Thursday.

“We’ll be glad when we can see the final numbers, but it appears under the circumstances this is going to be a very good budget,” Bazzell said.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) said he will vote for the budget to pass, as he did before.

“I’m absolutely excited in the bad times we’re in, we’re able to get a budget that services needs,” Mitchell said.

Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said he supports the budget, which was the best it could have been in hard economic conditions.

“It was obviously not idea, AMSTI and the HIPPO program were cut some, but overall, I think we did the best we could based on the amount of money we had,” Boothe said.