Local school officials watch as education budget goes to House

Published 12:21 pm Monday, April 27, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean
and Lisa Tindell

Local school officials and legislators are hoping a proposed education budget will prevent pink slips for  teachers at the end of the school year.
That’s because the budget — helped by $500 million in federal stimulus funds — will likely save most education  jobs in the state, and quick passage gives local school  boards time to plan their budgets for the coming year.
The state Senate on Tuesday passed a $6.2 billion education budget which uses more than half a billion dollars in federal stimulus funds to help education employees keep their jobs. The House Education Appropriations Committee approved the budget Wednesday, and the full House will vote next week.
If the budget passes, Escambia County will be able to save teacher positions, Escambia County School Superintendent Billy Hines said.
But Hines cautioned that the budget likely would not come without some sacrifices, such as teaching materials, technology and professional development.
State Rep. Alan Baker said cuts could be minimized if the budget passes as quickly as he hopes.
If the budget fails to pass quickly enough to avoid that issue, Baker said the strain could be tough on any school system.
Hines said he hopes the budget passes not only so that the school system can save teacher units but also so that school officials can start planning for next year.
With only a few weeks left in the school year, officials need a budget to begin planning for the next fiscal year, Hines said.
Baker said he believes the proposed budget has a good chance of being passed by the full house when it comes up for a vote.
Last fall, Gov. Bob Riley announced proration for the current fiscal year education budget — meaning schools would receive less money than they had budgeted because of shortfalls in state revenue. Lawmakers budget for education and the general fund based on projected revenue.
With reserve funds to fall back on this year, Escambia County and Brewton City schools have not had the same problems as some other school systems. Just last week, Baldwin County voted to close a school, and Mobile and Monroe counties have made similar moves.

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