Education budget revisions ‘best we can hope for’

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rep. Jay Love is making another pass at the state’s education budget, and it’s an interesting proposal.

Love, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is proposing revisions to the Senate’s $5.5 billion education budget, which called for eliminating more than 600 teaching positions in the upcoming year.

By comparison, Love’s version — which he presented to the House Way sand Means-Education Committee on Tuesday — calls for only about 350 job cuts. He proposes, instead, that the state sell $30 million in bonds to fund the $20 million bus purchase line item.

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By tapping those bond funds, instead of relying on tax revenue, Love believes the state can allocate more resources toward saving teachers’ jobs.

It’s an admirable approach.

There’s no doubt that Alabama’s education budget is in dire distress, as are the state’s finances. This proposal reduces education spending by only 4 percent from the prior year and dovetails with Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed budget, which also calls for increased class size as teacher positions are reduced.

And while those among us who advocate for education can plead that reducing the number of teachers can be a detriment to the school systems, in reality the 350 positions are less than 1 percent of the state’s teacher population. It’s not ideal, but it is, as one state education official said, “the most we could hope for.”