More teacher jobs safe?|Schools hopeful about budget

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean

Local superintendents are cautiously optimistic that a proposed education budget for the next fiscal year will save teacher jobs.
Escambia County Schools Superintendent Billy Hines said the school system had assumed it would have to cut some teachers at the end of the school year because of looming budget cuts.
Gov. Bob Riley has proposed a budget that would allocate the vast majority of discretionary federal stimulus dollars to education, both kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education.
If that budget is passed, Hines said, teacher funding ratios would stay the same — which would help save teacher jobs.
But Hines cautioned that the Legislature still has 17 more days in session — and lawmakers haven’t even begun to discuss the education budget yet.
Hines and Brewton City Schools Superintendent Lynn Smith were among the school leaders across the state who met Monday with state Superintendent Joe Morton to discuss Riley’s proposed education budget. While they did not receive specific figures for their school systems, they did receive the assurance that the governor wants to use federal stimulus money for education.
Brewton City Schools, which have seen a drop in enrollment in the past few year, will lose state funding for teacher units, but Smith said local funding can make up some of that money.
School systems receive money for teachers and support staff — such as secretaries and janitors — based on student enrollment from the previous year.
Smith said he is predicting Brewton City Schools could lose state funding for five and a half teacher units. In recent years the school system has been able to account for those losses through retirements and attrition, by simply not replacing those teachers who leave.
If the governor had not proposed using stimulus funds for education, Brewton City Schools could have lost funding for up to 12 teacher units, Smith said.
For now, he is predicting local funds will have to cover three to four teacher units next year.
Schools across the state are already in proration — mid-year budget cuts — in the current fiscal year.
Both county and city schools have made up the difference by using reserve funds, with most of that money accumulated through local ad valorem tax revenue.

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