Alabama Senate passes education budget; changes likely in House

State K-12 and higher education funding next year would remain far lower than it was before the recession under the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget that the Alabama Senate passed 21-10 Thursday. The $5.9 billion budget is identical to the version that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday, but changes likely are ahead in the House.

K-12 schools and two-year colleges would get slightly more ETF support next year under the budget, while universities would receive slightly less. The Senate plan includes money to hire more middle school teachers and give all K-12 teachers a one-time 1 percent bonus next year.

Alabama State University (ASU) would lose about one-fourth, or $10.8 million, of its ETF support next year under the budget, accounting for almost the entire overall funding cut to universities. The budget would include $10 million for ASU as a “first-priority conditional,” meaning Gov. Robert Bentley could release the money to the university if ETF revenue collections exceed budgeted spending next year.

Bentley has said he does not support the proposed ASU cut. Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, who chairs the Senate’s ETF budget committee, said after Thursday’s vote that he will work with a House colleague to restore ASU’s funding, according to

Senators rejected a proposed amendment by Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, to shift $3 million from state-funded teacher liability insurance to ASU. The chamber also refused a proposal by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, to use that money to help K-12 schools buy toilet paper and paper towels instead.

Pittman said he tried not to overestimate future economic growth while working on the ETF budget. “Revenue doesn’t just happen,” Pittman said. “The reality is that we’re in a very difficult financial situation.”

Lawmakers will return Tuesday for the 20th of 30 allowable meeting days during the 2014 regular session, which is expected to last until early April.

By Chris Sanders, communications director. Posted Feb. 27, 2014.