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2016 Session Begins

05-Feb-2016

Lawmakers convened Tuesday for the 2016 Legislative Session and learned revenue will be available to begin rebuilding basic operational budgets for public K-12 schools.

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2016 Session Begins with Budget Forecasts, Ed Standards

Lawmakers convened Tuesday for the 2016 Legislative Session and learned revenue will be available to begin rebuilding basic operational budgets for public K-12 schools.

Although the education budget cap, calculated through a newly revised Rolling Reserve law, would authorize lawmakers to spend up to $6.4 billion in FY17, the financial projections fall short. Because the projections are lower than the cap, lawmakers are limited to the average of certified projections made by the Legislative Fiscal Office and Executive Budget office. For FY17, lawmakers may appropriate $6.327 million which is a $370 million increase for all of public education.

Gov. Robert Bentley presented his budget, but expect major changes to his plan to raid the Education Trust Fund by $181 million. The plan moves all of the use tax and insurance premium tax revenues from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund. Bentley would empty deposits from the Rolling Reserve to offset the loss in the current year.

The governor’s education budget, H.122 (Poole), is a placeholder, traditionally substituted quickly in the legislative process. The budget will start in the House Education Ways and Means Committee.

Legislative leaders tell local school leaders they have no appetite to balance the General Fund with education dollars. That aligns with the recent PARCA survey results that found Alabamians understand the critical role of public education and believe increased education funding is needed to secure the state’s future. See AASB Executive Director Sally Smith’s op-ed on PARCA results.

 

Education Pay Raise Likely

 

Support to increase salaries for education employees is strong. The placeholder budget includes a 2 percent increase, and H.4 (Sells) proposes a 3 percent increase. While the state Board of Education budget proposed a 5 percent increase, the financial outlook appears unable to sustain that increase and other needs over the next several years.

For K-12 employees, each 1 percent salary increase would cost $36 million. That figure goes up to about $40 million when two-year community college employees are included.

Line items such as transportation and Other Current Expense (OCE) must increase to reflect any pay increase for support workers. It is essential to understand that the larger line item reflecting a salary increase has no impact on operational costs which are critically underfunded. Look for a realistic percentage for the raise to be hammered out as the budget process begins.

 

Education Standards Repeal Threatens Student Progress

 

Legislation to undo Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards struck early this session. Education and business leaders, teachers, parents, students and community development recruiters all testified to oppose S. 60 (Glover), a bill to repeal the education standards.

A public hearing in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee drew a repeat crowd of opponents. This year, however, lawmakers noted reports from constituents and educators about how the standards are helping students think critically in the effort to become more globally competitive. Kudos to Angel Brown, a Booker T. Washington (Montgomery) senior recruited by AASB to testify in support of the standards. Brown explained how the standards and measures helped her to identify weaknesses and focus her learning efforts to achieve her goal—admission to Auburn University by increasing her ACT score to 30.

After another year of implementation, students continue to benefit from the critical analysis and problem-solving skills as they master basic concepts. Parents report students have greater mental agility to work problems and deeper math content knowledge than past generations.

“Is it working?” asked Sen. Trip Pittman. Local school leaders are delighted to report: Yes, it is!

Oppose S.60 (Glover).

 

Support School Wi-Fi Infrastructure

Local school leaders urge strong support for H.41 (Chesteen), the Alabama Ahead Act. The proposal to provide high quality Wi-Fi to every classroom in every local K-12 school is a model template for a strategic investment by lawmakers. AASB testified on behalf of local school board members and superintendents urging lawmakers to move forward with the infrastructure to provide students statewide with wireless connection to worldwide learning.

The investment would ensure every local school, despite a wide disparity of local resources, has equal access. Local systems collaborated to collect the exact needs for every school to calculate the $12 million to $16 million investment required to capture federal matches through E-rate. The initiative would place Alabama as a national leader in providing equitable Wi-Fi access to its public schools statewide. A different but similar proposal, S.17 (Dial), is pending in the Senate.

 

Alabama Longitudinal Data Proposal Includes Defining “Remediation”

 

A new Alabama Office of Education and Workforce Statistics would be created in the Department of Labor with H.125 (Collins/Baker). The office would be tasked with creating and operating a longitudinal data system to match information about students from early learning through post-secondary education to employment in the workforce. The proposal would enable the state to generate timely and accurate information about student performance and movement into the workforce with data. The bill proactively safeguards confidential student and workforce information.

Public K-12 data are already collected and protected by the state Department of Education as are data by other entities. However, currently missing is the ability to link and align the data to draw insights and guide policy.

The bill requires the state Board of Education, Community College System and Commission on Higher Education to define “remediation.” Without a common definition, high school graduates run into very different treatment as incoming students in college. Students face differing standards applied by each college to identify need for remedial coursework. Without a set definition, K-12 can’t properly identify and address student preparation. The impact is costly for students and their families. Remedial courses require payment for a course that is not credit-bearing and does not count toward earning a degree. H.125 is pending in the House Education Policy Committee.

 

Education Savings Accounts Bill Proposes Voucher Program

 

H.84 (Johnson, K) would create a voucher-style program to allow 1,000 students per year to receive a grant and draw 90 percent of a student’s public school funding. Those state dollars would be deposited into an account to be used to pay private school tuition, tutoring and related expenses. Eligible students would include special education students, children of military parents on active duty (or a parent killed in the line of duty), foster children that are adopted/attain guardians; and siblings of current participants.

Local school leaders oppose students using state education funds to attend non-public schools. Local school leaders urge critical funding be provided to address these student needs and every student’s need through Alabama’s public schools. Providing public schools the necessary resources is essential to educate Alabama’s children.

Oppose H.84 pending in the House Education Policy Committee.

 

Oppose Bill to Divert Education Revenue

S.16 (Sanford) would create a “Shared Revenue Fund” to pool revenue to be distributed to the Education Trust Fund and General Fund. The proposal adds no new revenue but simply works to benefit the General Fund at the expense of public schools and students. Oppose S.16.

 

Education Legislation of Interest                         

H.23 (Hanes) —School Intruder Alert — would make a $225,000 appropriation to develop a statewide alert system for K-12 schools, through a cell phone application, to trigger a lockdown and notify local authorities of an intruder on school property.

H.47 (Poole) — Warrantless Arrests — would authorize law enforcement to arrest a person, without a warrant in certain conditions, for trespassing on school property.

S.11 (Allen) — Youth Suicide Prevention — would establish the “Jason Flatt Act” to require certificated public school personnel to receive annual training through existing in-service in suicide awareness and prevention; additionally requires each local school board to adopt a suicide prevention policy.

S.84 (Livingston) — Public Records — would exempt specified school safety documents and records from the public records act.

S.86 (Orr) —Restrictions on School Leader Advocacy — would prohibit local boards, higher education and schools from using public funds or property to advocate regarding ballot measures.

 

 

Get the New AASB App

Track bills, contact legislators, stay up-to-date and more using the free mobile app. Just search for "Alabama Association of School Boards" in the AppStore or for "AASB" in the Google Play Android Market.

 

Legislative & Policy Agenda

AASB helps local education leaders improve student achievement through advocacy for Alabama’s public school students. AASB’s more than 800 members represent every public school board in the state. AASB’s agenda represents their collective voice.

 

AASB Advocacy Days

Join AASB March 1 and 16, April 20 and May 3 for Advocacy Days in Montgomery. School board members can earn 2 training hours by participating in the effort to advance public K-12 education and student achievement at the State House. Register today.

 

2016 Legislative Session

 

28 Days Remain

 

-Lissa Tucker, AASB Director of Governmental Relations