Education funding warrants attention as proration increases

Published 10:22 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

The news for education on Friday was not good news. Gov. Bob Riley released the remaining $116 million from the state’s rainy day fund for education and increased proration to 11 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The move, he said, was a result of declining tax collections, which have dropped 10 percent since December.

“No one is pleased,’ the governor said, but the move must be made “in order for Alabama to meet its obligation to taxpayers to have a balanced budget.”

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All told, Alabama is spending $5.7 billion in education this year, $1 billion less than last year.

And Gov. Riley already declared a 6 percent proration for the 2010 fiscal year budget, a budget that was set with cuts and the inclusion of federal stimulus money.

What this means for local schools systems remains to be seen. Here in Pike County, the Troy City Schools and Pike County Schools had struggled to minimize the impact of proration on the students, but declining local tax revenues had this month started to bring concerns about increased cuts in services.

We expect that the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school year budgets will feel the impact of the current economic slowdown, even as our economy begins to slowly recover.

That means proration, tighter budgets, restricted services and curtailed activities are in line for school districts. Moreover, it means state lawmakers are going to have to find ways to fund educational needs moving forward. The Legislature is expected to meet in special session in August to discuss a budget in crisis in Jefferson County, but the governor has said he hopes the lawmakers will avoid tackling the education funding issue in this session.

Perhaps he can stall the discussion for now, but we believe it’s the elephant in the room. And our state, and our school children, deserve nothing less from our lawmakers.