Education budget means advancement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2006

“What does the education budget do?”

This question came from a high elected official, and I shared the vision.

Now, I want to share that vision with you.

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When I look at the education budget adopted by the House budget committee, I see advances for public education at all levels.

I see advances for K-12, for two-year colleges and for four-year colleges and universities.

I see advances in education as never before.

I see K-12 advancing through the additional 180 special education teachers and 180 physical education teachers, both of which are solely needed.

I see the school nurses program being fully funded.

I see five additional days for the school year, bringing Alabama from a low 175-day school year close to the national average.

I see teachers, support personnel and retired school employees getting a much-deserved 5 percent raise.

I see teachers moving up from a dismal low salary of 47th out of 50 states.

I see additional raises for teachers with 21-24 and 24-27 years of service, helping slow the outflow of Alabama’s experienced teachers.

I see advancements in school transportation and programs such as the Math and Science Initiative, the Reading Initiative and in the at risk area.

I see advancement in “other current expenses,” which provides for buildings to be maintained and water, power and gas bills paid.

I see everything the State Superintendent requested for K-12 funded and a lot more.

I see the proposed education budget advancing education in community and other two-year colleges by fully funding workforce development and adult basic education.

I see increased funding for two-year colleges in so many areas.

I see advances for four-year colleges and universities with the Unified Budget Recommendation fully funded.

I see advances well beyond what was requested as we met special needs at various universities.

I see so much in so many areas.

I see the proposed budget protecting education at all levels from the vagaries of unpredictable swings in the economy.

I see the Proration Prevention Account (savings account) of $250 million helping prevent us from going into proration or reducing the next budget.

I see the same savings account making it possible to do a billion dollar bond issue for capital improvements next year.

I see a strong safety net catching us if we fall toward proration, which does so much damage each time it happens.

I see this education budget helping fend off the ravages of proration if it comes in spite of our best efforts.

With a $70 million repayment, the Rainy Day Fund is fully funded so another $250 million can be borrowed if the need arises.

When the Rainy Day Fund was created, $250 million was 6 percent of the education budget.

Because the budget has grown, it is now just 4 percent.

We will have to repay every dime we borrow, but it’s there if we need it.

Both funds are absolutely needed.

One, the Proration Prevention Account, is a “rain stopper.”

It helps prevents us from going into proration.

The other, the Rainy Day Account, is an umbrella.

If the rains of proration come in spite of our best efforts, the Rainy Day umbrella keeps us from getting soaked through and through.

Said another way, our schools only risk catching a funding cold, rather than suffering fiscal pneumonia.

Few of these advances in education could be achieved with Governor Riley’s proposed budget and the accompanying $500 million capital improvement plan.

This budget achieves a lot more right now while making it possible to have a much larger capital improvement bond issue in the coming year.

I see so much advancement in the education of our children.

I believe that leaders in every strata of education also see education advancing via this budget.

K-12 sees it; two-year colleges see it; and traditional higher education sees it.

That is why such a strong and happy consensus has developed.

A few others see a different vision, but that is alright.

Sometimes we see from where we stand.

I see so much advancing via this budget.

I feel good that so many others see the same advances from different viewpoints.