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Proration: The new four-letter word

Proration may be a new four-letter word in Alabama educators’ lexicon.

What is becoming an annual burden for local school systems worsened exponentially this week, as Gov. Bob Riley added 2 percent additional proration to the existing 7.5 percent cuts to the fiscal year 2010 state allocations. The upshot is that local districts would feel the entire effect of that annual cut in their September allocation, the last remaining in this fiscal year.

With warnings ahead that fiscal year 2011 will bring a minimum of 3 percent proration to the state funding programs, local school officials are left tightening already snug belts; scratching their heads; and wondering how much longer reserves will last.

Thankfully, both the Troy City Schools and the Pike County Schools have benefitted from sound fiscal management throughout the years. Both have been able to put aside funds in good times, building reserves on which to draw when proration hits. And, by taking a lean approaching to operating each year – deferring maintenance whenever possible; unfilling positions left open due to attrition; making due with less, whenever it doesn’t affect a student or a teacher in the classroom – the systems have thrived. We suspect they’ll be just fine in the months ahead, as well.

But the larger question remains unanswered, and it must be resolved. The state Legislature must address the continued shortfalls in education funding. School districts around Alabama cannot continue to operate under the threat and burden of year-to-year proration. Trying to scramble for cash in the last two weeks of a fiscal year, just to make payroll, takes valuable time and resources away from what should be the priority of the school systems, and that is educating all of Alabama’s children.

It’s the responsibility of our state lawmakers and governor, and us as taxpayers, to ensure that our educational system is properly funded.