In a surprising move, the Education Trust Fund budget cleared the Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday by a unanimous vote, clearing the way for a series of increases to state education funding.
HB117 by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) comes in at roughly $6.3 billion and is the largest education budget passed since 2008. Next year’s budget is likely to come in at about 4.8 percent higher than this year’s, an increase of roughly $290 million.
HB121, another bill from Poole which dictates that teachers making less than $75,000 a year should see a four percent pay raise, while those above see a two percent raise, also passed the House by a unanimous vote today.
The budget provides for a wide-array of increases for state education, including $14 million to Alabama’s top-ranking Pre-K program. Further, the budget will fully fund the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP) and provide an additional $9.8 million for transportation, $5 million for technology and $1.6 million for teachers’ supplies.
The budget also increases funding for Other Current Expenses (OCE), money that school systems can use for additional needs, by $23.9 million.
During a committee hearing last week, opponents of the bill voiced concerns over its failure to adequately address the needs of public libraries and the various programs they offer. Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) over the bill’s use of roughly $109 million allocated for departments seemingly unrelated to education.
Once approved by the Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs, the bill will go before the Senate and then on to the desk of Gov. Robert Bentley for final approval. Both chambers are still hoping to pass the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets before spring break, which begins March 21.