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Our Opinion: Education Budget

It seems like it&8217;s not so hard to pass an education budget after all.

After a full session of wrangling and accomplishing nothing, the Alabama Senate finally passed an education budget on the third day of a special session called by Gov. Bob Riley.

The measure passed 32-1, with Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) casting the lone dissenting vote.

But Beason had some reasonable worries that went along with his vote.

Beason told the Associated Press that the budget spends $120 million more than legislative fiscal experts predict the state will receive in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

“I don’t think the people of Alabama expect us to come down here and pass a prorated budget,” he said.

Senate budget committee Chairman Hank Sanders, D-Selma, guided the budget through the Senate. He said the budget equals revenue projections made by Gov. Bob Riley’s fiscal team.

But he said he agrees the budget may not be fully funded and state officials may have to dip into a “rainy day” fund to try to balance the budget, which has already been done with this year’s education budget.

The proposed budget of $6.36 billion is down from $6.73 billion this year due to the economic slowdown. Sanders said a cut of $368 million was hard enough for public schools and colleges to handle, and the pain of cutting $120 million more would have been too severe.

In light of this reduction, the decision by the county and city school systems to go ahead and cut positions &8212; regardless of whether a new state budget was in place &8212; certainly seems wise.

As one school system superintendent said, it&8217;s better to be proactive when dealing with the state. Let&8217;s just hope that the proactivity is enough to keep schools out of proration for the 2008-09 academic year.