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Alabama to consider $11 billion education budget, 2% teacher raises

Alabama lawmakers got a first look Thursday at proposed changes to Gov. Kay Ivey’s education budget proposal.

A House committee is considering a state education budget that would add up to $11 billion and could lead to 2% educator raises, more money for higher education and more money for charter schools.

The House proposal consists of three separate allocations: a $9.3 billion regular budget (HB145) and two supplemental appropriations totaling $1.7 billion. The $11 billion total is $300 million higher than Ivey’s proposal.

The 2% pay raise for education employees is expected to cost $92 million.

House Education Budget Chairman Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said the committee received a printout of the bill Wednesday night and he expects some changes could be made. “At this point,” Garrett said, “we’re still negotiating what we have here.”

Garrett then walked committee members through the proposed changes.

The regular education budget for fiscal year 2025 allocates the same amount Ivey proposed, a record $9.3 billion. The biggest change was dropping $25 million Ivey proposed for rural broadband.

“At this point,” Garrett said, “we have hundreds of millions of dollars that we’re investing in broadband all through the state and so this is really not needed for this particular grant program.”

Garrett read the names of a dozen or more programs and initiatives that would benefit from redistributing that $25 million, including:

  • funding for gifted students,
  • a new pre-K pilot program in Montgomery,
  • a youth leadership development program and
  • Liberty Learning, a character development program.

Garrett proposed spending $11 million from the regular budget and $8 million in a supplemental allocation to hire 200 assistant principals in schools with 300 or more students. Currently a school must have 500 students to earn state funding to hire an assistant principal.

The $8 million supplemental allocation can be distributed as soon as lawmakers approve it.

“That means we can hire the assistant principals this school year,” Garrett said.

A second bill in the budget package, HB147, is a supplemental appropriation from the Advancement and Technology Fund, which currently holds a balance of $1.75 billion. Lawmakers did not release any money from the fund during last year’s budget process.

Garrett proposed allocating $1 billion from the fund for use this year. That’s $300 million more than Ivey proposed. It would be split across K-12 and higher education.

As part of that increase, Garrett is shifting $135 million of expenditures Ivey earmarked for K-12 school safety and technology devices out of a third appropriations bill, HB144, which would allocate $651 million in excess revenue from last year’s tax collections..

“A lot of that [A&T Fund] money can be spent for what the governor earmarked in the ($651 million) supplemental,” Garrett said. “The school safety and the devices can be spent there if a system wants to do that.”

Moving to HB144, the $651 supplemental bill, Garrett kept some of Ivey’s proposal intact, including $22 million for school nurses and $15 million for summer reading camps. It also sets aside $51 million to fund education savings accounts in the 2025-26 school year.

Lawmakers expect to allocate $50 million for education savings accounts next year, too, bringing the total set aside to $100 million.

Garrett proposed changing Ivey’s proposal for other programs, including:

  • $20 million to replace old school buses where Ivey proposed $50 million,
  • $20 million for the new school for healthcare sciences, where Ivey proposed $30 million,
  • $100 million for the community college system, where Ivey proposed $50 million, and
  • $210 million for four-year colleges and universities where Ivey proposed $175 million.

The House proposal tacked on two dozen additional line items, including:

  • $20 million for the new statehouse building,
  • $40 million for a grant program for community colleges,
  • $20 million for the Lt. Governor’s K-12 Capital grant program
  • $7 million for capital expenditures for public charter schools,
  • $5 million for programs to help struggling readers beyond third grade,
  • $10 million for the American Village,
  • $13 million for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education,
  • $5 million for the ReEngage Alabama initiative

Many more students currently enrolled in public schools will be eligible for tax credit scholarships in 2024-25. Beginning in 2025-26, some Alabama families will receive $7,000 tax credit scholarships.

Committee members were given drafts of the proposed bills, but the public will not have copies until they are formally adopted, which should happen Tuesday, Garrett said.

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