Schools must cope with cuts

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

By Staff
School officials across Alabama probably felt sucker punched on Monday when Gov. Bob Riley announced 12.5 percent cuts in their budgets.
While they knew proration was coming, many did not expect the cuts to be so deep. Original predictions had proration around 5 or 6 percent, which might have been offset entirely by the state's rainy day fund for education.
As it stands now, the state will use that reserve money - but it won't be nearly enough to avoid big cuts.
In Brewton and Escambia County, we're lucky. Our local school officials and school boards have planned ahead well, and they don't expect to experience shortfalls because they have reserve funds built up to handle this year's cuts.
But next year is a worry for everyone. Proration has been precipitated by the economic downturn, and it's not clear how quickly the national economy will improve. While we may be further along in the crisis than we think - especially since we've been in a recession for a year but no one wanted to admit it - it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.
But as Riley said Monday, Alabama is in a better position than most states. We have seen job losses, but we also have companies expanding and hiring, even amid the poor economic news.
While no one welcomes cuts - especially in an area as important as education - the fact is, state law requires proration. Alabama must operate under a balanced budget, and when revenue falls short of expectations, this is what happens.
All of us are operating under leaner budgets. How we cope with that reality - and how we work to succeed despite the cuts - is what will set us apart.

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