Tommy Bice, state Superintendent of the Alabama Department of Education, laid out his department’s budget needs for the upcoming year to the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee on Tuesday.
Bice boasted that Alabama’s graduation rate has climbed steadily from 75 percent in 2012 to 89 percent in 2015 and 70 percent of Alabama students are considered “college and career ready.” A 90 percent goal is set for Alabama’s college and career ready standards and, if met, the “economic output would be $430 million higher” and “Education Trust Fund revenues would be increased by $22 million.”
Currently, more than $1 billion in local funding is paying for instructional services, instructional support services, operation and maintenance services, transportation, and general administrative services. By contract, federal funds for those services come out to $446.6 million.
A document handed out during the budget hearing noted the disparity of per pupil spending in various counties across the state: In Homewood City, $4,859 is being spent per pupil while only $82 is being spent per pupil in Coosa County.
The department’s priorities for the upcoming school year include $70 million for transportation, $70 million for teacher units/class size reduction, $75 million for “other current expenses,” and $54 million for classroom instructional support, such as student materials, classroom technology, library enhancement, professional development, textbooks/content and common purchases.
The request for full foundation funding comes in at $269 million, with the option to fund it at $135 million over two years.
The department is also seeking a $5.5 million increase in funding for virtual learning, $2.1 million to assist educators in becoming National Board Certified Teachers, and $15 million for arts education.
In all, officials are seeking a $334.3 million dollar increase in funding for K-12 over last year’s appropriations for administration services, financial assistance programs and other programs.