Vote ‘yes' on school ballot amendment
Published 2:01 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Please do not forget to turn your ballot over next Tuesday. In addition to the national, statewide and county elections on the front of the ballot, six amendments are listed on the back.
The most important of these is Amendment One, which would revise an earlier amendment that allows the state to borrow money from the Alabama Trust Fund for an educational rainy day fund.
The new amendment simply increases the amount the state can borrow from the trust fund - which is made up of oil and gas royalties - to make it up-to-date to the growth in the state school budget. The amendment also would create a General Fund Rainy Day Account.
This is not money being given to the schools without consequence. The state department of education will have to pay back the money within six years, so borrowing indiscriminately is inherently impractical. And, no, unlike certain big corporations, state education leaders aren't going to make off to a California spa with taxpayers' money.
Proration is all but inevitable, with or without Amendment One. Lawmakers last year predicted a 4.5 percent growth rate in Alabama's economy, but the growth rate is currently at about 1.5 percent. That simply isn't enough to prevent the mid-year budget cuts known as proration.
But the state's ability to borrow from its trust fund can ease the pain of proration, spreading out the cuts over six years rather than cutting off necessary education programs and laying off teachers cold turkey.
Everyone is in a difficult situation with today's economy, but this is one way that we can ensure our schools remain strong in the face of difficult times.