The 2019 education budget unanimously passed the State Senate on Thursday.
The body approved SB165, the $6.6 billion Education Trust Fund for Fiscal Year 2019, which starts October 1 on a 29 to 0 vote. It is the largest education budget for Alabama’s schools since the great recession of 2008.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring a quality education for every student in Alabama, and this education budget is a statement of strong support for our teachers and schools,” said Decatur-Republican State Senator Arthur Orr, Chairman of the Finance and Taxation Education committee. “This is also a sustainable budget that protects taxpayers. From 2001 to 2011, proration – the midyear slashing of local school budgets because of irresponsible fiscal plans from the Legislature – occurred six times. Proration hasn’t happened once since 2011.”
The FY19 education budget includes a $18.5 million increase for First Class, Alabama’s nationally-recognized, volunteer pre-kindergarten program. A University of Alabama at Birmingham study, released in February by the Department of Early Childhood Education, showed that students who participated in First Class outperformed their peers in reading and math assessments. First Class, currently available in 941 classrooms, has been named the nation’s best pre-kindergarten program in the nation for eleven years in a row by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The $18.5 million increase will help fund approximately 120 new Pre-K classrooms.
“I want to commend Senator Orr and the Finance and Taxation Education committee for their hard work in passing the Education Trust Fund. This fiscally-responsible budget is another step in the right direction as we were able to include a pay raise for teachers, increased funds for school security, and additional money for classroom supplies,” added Anniston-Republican Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh.
The Senate’s education budget is paired with a 2.5% pay raise for K-12 and two-year college education employees, at a cost of $102 million to Alabama taxpayers, along with a $1.1 uptick for K-12 career tech and a $6 million increase for K-12 transportation.
“This budget is an investment in the future of Alabama. Conservatives in the legislature are strongly committed to fighting for Alabama’s students and teachers, and improving our schools to ensure that every student in every county in Alabama has access to a quality education,” said Jasper-Republican Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed. “We have set aside additional money for school security, given a much-deserved raise to teachers, and invested more money in our vital career tech programs.”
The $6.6 billion FY19 education budget includes funds for a new robotics program for middle and high school students, and at the request of Governor Kay Ivey, allocates $500,000 for mental health counselors to be available for K-12 students in the aftermath of school shootings. The budget boosts spending on textbooks by $11 million, along with a $4 million increase for new technologies in classrooms.
Earlier in the week, the Senate approved a proposal that will allow local school boards to use money from the Advancement and Technology Fund to improve school security by hiring new security officers and installing metal detectors at school entrances.
The FY19 education budget now goes the House of Representatives for either concurrence with the Senate’s version, or a conference committee between the two chambers before it heads to the Governor’s desk.