Advocate for Schools
ETF Budget Stalls
The Senate’s plan to approve the $6.4 billion education budget for FY18 derailed Thursday.Senators objected to the fast pace when a floor substitute was introduced to the budget, and they vowed to introduce multiple amendments to slow it down.
ETF Budget Stalls; Legislature Takes Two-Week Spring Break
The Senate’s plan to approve the $6.4 billion education budget for FY18 derailed Thursday.Senators objected to the fast pace when a floor substitute was introduced to the budget, and they vowed to introduce multiple amendments to slow it down. The Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee had approved its budget one day earlier. Committee Chairman/sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr attempted to incorporate several changes into a floor substitute that will now be considered after the two-week legislative spring break.
In the budget draft approved by committee, K-12 local schools would see a $25.9 million increase in the Foundation Program. Of that, $14.6 million is an increase in the state budget line item and $15.7 million is due to the increase generated by the required 10-mill match over the last year. (Each school system must pledge a minimum 10-mills of their ad valorem taxes to Foundation Program expenses.)
The increase would translate to 150 more teachers statewide in grades 4-6. School leaders also asked lawmakers to prioritize Other Current Expense (OCE) funding for non-certified employees and basic operation costs. The budget would increase OCE by $11.2 million, of which $3.3 million would fund increases in employee retirement and health benefits and provide a $7.9 million increase for operations. Likewise, for transportation, a $4.4 million increase would cover $1.4 million in employee benefits and leave $3 million for operations. While the budget level funds fleet renewal, it would result in a slight decrease in the rate from $6,382 per bus to $6,344 per bus due to an increase in the number of eligible buses in FY18.
The committee-approved budget provides increases for the following:
Divisors — Adjusts grades 4-6 to add 150 teachers for grades 4-6.
OCE — from $17,021 to $17,238/unit;
Student Materials — from $405 to $421/unit;
Technology — from $169 to $211/unit;
Textbooks — from $54.07 to $54.51/student;
Library Enhancement — from $21.26 to $30.43/unit;
Professional Development — from $63.79 to $77.55/unit;
Advanced Placement; English Language Learners and National Board Certified Teachers — $200,000 increase each;
Pre-K — a $15 million increase; and
State Liability Insurance Program for educators — from $2.25 million to $5 million, a 122% increase.
Alabama’s Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science & Technology Initiative and Science in Motion programs are each level-funded.
Higher ed would receive more than its historical share of the $90 million available new dollars in the FY18 budget proposal due to programs which created financial obligations the state is required to pay. A veteran scholarship program needed $4.67 million (a 649% increase) to meet commitments in the open-ended appropriation from FY17. Higher ed’s debt service also increased while all higher ed entities are level-funded. Lawmakers shifted more dollars to higher education from K-12 to fulfill those obligations.
2016 K-12 — 73.31% Higher Ed — 26.69%
2017 K-12 — 73.24% Higher Ed — 26.76%
2018 K-12 — 72.77% Higher Ed — 27.23%
The Senate returns Tues., April 4, at 10 a.m. to continue deliberation on the ETF budget.
$41 million for K-12 in current year: How should it be spent?
Senators are debating how much flexibility local school systems can have to spend some $41 million K-12 would receive from the ETF Advancement and Technology Fund monies available per the Rolling Reserve Act. S.307 (Orr)would allow local school systems to use their allotment on any expense allowable by the law. However, a competing proposal, S.287 (Dial), would specify systems must first use the dollars toward the technology goals in the Alabama Ahead Act.
Local school leaders prioritized flexibility in supplemental funding when discussing the budget with legislative leaders this year. The 2015 revision of the Rolling Reserve Act provides that funds in the account may be spent on:
Repairs or deferred maintenance;
Classroom instructional supplies;
Insurance for facilities;
Acquisition or purchase of ed technology.
S.307 (Orr) requires the SDE to verify that the funds are to be spent on one of the allowable purposes for the monies to be released. Senators debated the bill Thursday but did not vote on the measure. The bill will be considered again with the budget following the legislative spring break. School leaders support passage of S.307 (Orr).
Appoint School Superintendents as Best Governance Practice for Students
A public hearing was held by the House Education Policy Committee on H.350 (McMillan) to extend the current requirement to appoint city superintendents to all county superintendents.
The proposal would:
Make the change effective January 2021 to transition the superintendent’s position at the end of that term; and
Authorize an earlier transition if the local board offers and the elected superintendent accepts a contract to be appointed.
Elected superintendents share that every decision they make is perceived as seeking votes for the next election. Any employee who campaigned or voted for an opponent believes job
placement and disciplinary decisions are purely retaliatory. The bottom line is that the practice of electing superintendents is adult centered and emphasizes political decisions. School systems’ chief executive officer should make decisions and run the school system based on what is best for students, staff and in alignment with the local board’s strategic plan, budget and goals.
Voters elect county school board members and must hold them accountable. The topmost responsibility for local school board members is to appoint their school CEO, the local superintendent!
Thanks go to local school board members Mary Louise Stowe (Madison County) and Ronnie Owens (Lauderdale County) who testified Wednesday to support the bill. AASB Executive Director Sally Smith spoke in support as did a representative of the Business Council of Alabama which added this issue as a legislative priority in its agenda this year.
After Mississippi changed its law in 2016, only Alabama and Florida still allow the outdated and impractical model of electing superintendents.
Currently 37 out of 138 statewide superintendents are elected in Alabama. Of those, 10 face re-election in 2018 and the other 27 face re-election in 2020. The generous timeline in the legislation to transition offices was included at the request of currently elected superintendents in their feedback of the proposal.
Additional Education Legislation
H.9 (Whorton)— State Championships — would require the Alabama High School Athletic Association to adopt a rule to hold separate state championships for its public and private school members. Public hearing held in House Ed Policy Committee.
S.166 (Whatley)— Limit Local Ballots — would require all constitutional amendments be on statewide general or primary election ballots (i.e., local tax referenda.) Pending in Senate. OPPOSE
H.373 (Weaver)— Portable DNR Orders — would require student Do Not Resuscitate orders be incorporated in public school settings. Pending in House.
S.314 (Brewbaker)— Elementary Principal Incentive Program — would create a voluntary program for elementary principals to receive a salary supplement for raising student achievement. Introduced.
S.321 (Hightower)— Lump Sum Retirement Option — would create a fifth option for certain TRS/ERS employees upon retirement. Introduced.
ETF Budget Waits
The Senate adjourned Thursday without passing the education budget. School leaders have the two-week legislative spring break to discuss budget priorities with their lawmakers. Use AASB’s School System Snapshots to help highlight your system’s financial needs!
Urge Flex for $41M
The Senate will decide how K-12 school systems may spend some $41 million in supplemental appropriations in FY17. AASB supports S.307 (Orr)to allow maximum flexibility to spend those dollars.
Join AASB in Montgomery on ANY of these dates:
4/ 4 - Districts 4, 5, 6
4/18- Districts 7, 8, 9
5/ 2- All Districts Day
Participants earn two hours of training credit and fulfill a requirement for attaining Master's Honor Roll status.
2017 Legislative Session
17 days remain
Lissa Tucker, J.D.
AASB Director of Governmental Relations