Education budget fix won’t be easy

Published 7:48 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Thursday State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton outlined a survival plan for education. The proposal included five key points:

Encouraging the Legislature to appropriate at least 70 percent of all available education dollars to K-12 for FY 2011 and to support a Constitutional Amendment to allocate future funding based on student enrollments in K-12.

Funding the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance at the FYE 20101 with no increase in new state dollars. Employees could pay more monthly for insurance, since their premiums have not increased in 25 years.

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Making retirement for education contingent on 30 years of service and a minimum of age of 55, instead of the current 25 years and no age minimum.

Changing the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) to 30 years of experience and 57 years, up from the current 25 years experience and 55 years of age.

And for all education employees to pay 6 percent, instead of the current 5 percent, of their salary to the Retirement Systems of Alabama as the employee contribution. The 5 percent was adopted in 1975.

The changes, particularly when dealing with retirement options, won’t necessarily be popular ones. But as anyone in private enterprise can attest, sometimes making budgets work requires making difficult decisions and changes to the budget.

Saving education funds and, ultimately, saving educators’ jobs is likely to require some dramatic and drastic changes to the education system. “How we’ve always done it” may no longer work as we seek ways to education our children in the wake of two years of significant proration.

Dr. Morton’s proposal, while perhaps not the only options, certainly are worthy of starting a much-needed discussion.