State BOE Approves FY21 Budget Request
The Alabama State Board of Education worked its way through a lengthy meeting agenda Thursday, approving numerous resolutions honoring educators named as Presidential Award for Excellence finalists and Alabama Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year. Several resolutions proclaiming various education-related observances for the month of October also were approved, including a resolution in recognition of Dyslexia Awareness Month, which drew a large contingency of parents and students to Thursday’s meeting.
The board unanimously approved the department’s FY21 budget request, which includes an increase of more than $300 million over last year’s budget. Much of the request for additional funding is spread among the following line items:
- An additional $49.8 million in per-teacher unit funding for student materials and professional development;
- A $37 million increase for special education, including $25 million for a high-needs special education grant program and $12 million in additional funding for the special education preschool program;
- A $25 million increase for the Alabama Reading Initiative, including funding for summer and before and after school programs the board requested be added during discussion at the September work session; and
- A $16 million increase for transportation operations.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey pointed out the increases being requested for divisors, instructional supplies and the retirement program are grouped together in the line item for foundation program expenses. He also called the board’s attention to a line item requesting additional funding for a new stipend program for certified language therapists, explaining the amount is equal to the stipend provided to National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT).
Mackey stressed the budget request process is still in its early stages, moving next to the executive budget office before the governor’s office and legislative leadership work together on the version that will go before lawmakers early next year.
Dr. Cynthia McCarty (District 6) applauded the department for its work on the FY21 budget request, expressing appreciation for increases to programs such as LETRS training, NBCT, summer OGAP training for math and science educators, career tech and more. Dr. Yvette Richardson (District 4) thanked Mackey for breaking out the special education budget request in an easy-to-understand manner.
The board also approved the intent to adopt a new Alabama Administrative Code rule pertaining to a legislative school performance recognition program. This year, the legislature approved $250,000 to be disbursed to schools with top scores and schools with the most improvement on the State Report Card.
Other board action included approval of updated accountability standards for regional in-service centers, the selection of Jackie Ziegler (District 1) to serve as a delegate for the Alabama Association of School Boards’ upcoming convention and delegate assembly and selection of McCarty to serve on the Computer Science Education Task Force.
Mackey announced in his superintendent’s report that State Report Cards will be released to the public October 18.
The board work session following Thursday’s meeting included several updates from ALSDE staff:
- Alabama Teacher Shortage Task Force – Assistant State Superintendent of Education Dr. Jeff Langham gave an overview of the Teacher Shortage Task Force's work and shared the group’s 33 recommendations for improving teacher recruitment and retention, including higher salaries, scholarship and loan forgiveness programs, support for the growth of Teach for America in the state, improved retirement benefits with a Tier III retirement plan, expanded mentoring programs for new teachers and more. View presentation.
- Computer Science Education Task Force – Dawn Morrison, education administrator for finance and information technology, provided an update on the ALSDE’s work to implement the Computer Science Act, described as one of the most robust computer science education bills to pass in the nation. The board discussed the timeline of requirements for computer science courses in schools, the first of which is the requirement for each public high school to offer at least one authentic computer science course by the 2020-21 academic year. Morrison said 174 of the approximately 400 high schools in the state already have met this requirement. The Computer Science Education Task Force will convene next month to develop a strategic plan focused on 1.) developing/sustaining the teacher pipeline; 2.) strengthening student pathways; 3.) aligning secondary/post-secondary career pathways; 4.) expanding computer science coursework; and 5.) maintaining industry support. View presentation.
- Division of Instruction – Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd provided updates from the Division of Instruction, including a comparison of Alabama Daily Membership rates, an analysis of college and career readiness indicators for 2016-17 and 2017-18, and timelines for release of the State Report Card and the “failing schools list” required by the Alabama Accountability Act. Boyd said the “failing schools list” will be released Nov. 1, which will be the first time the list has been released by the deadline required under the law. View presentation.
- Strategic Plan – Director of Communications Dr. Michael Sibley updated the board on the status of the state’s strategic plan for education. He said more than 20,000 people have responded to the ALSDE’s Take 10 Survey. After results from the survey have been reviewed, the department will follow an aggressive timeline with initial development of the strategic plan set to begin in November, followed by completion of the plan in December and implementation in January 2020. Stephanie Bell (District 3) expressed concern that the board has not been included enough in the process. Mackey explained that the board’s feedback from last year’s retreat is being incorporated into the plan and the board still will have an opportunity to give additional feedback before the plan is finalized. View presentation.
- Dyslexia Therapist Certification Endorsement – Educator Certification Coordinator Shavon Cummings delivered a presentation about the proposed requirements of the dyslexia therapist certification endorsement, which is mandated by the Alabama Literacy Act. Requirements for the endorsement will include a valid Alabama professional educator certificate, completion of an International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council-endorsed training course and a passing score on the Academic Language Therapy Association’s Certified Language Therapy Assessment or the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Examination of Effective Reading Instruction. The board will vote on this endorsement at its December meeting. View presentation.
- Mathematics Course of Study – Representatives from the Math Course of Study Committee provided an in-depth update on the proposed math course of study. Opelika City Schools math coach and committee member, Gayle Holladay explained proposed high school math course progression options and discussed the committee’s efforts to review and incorporate NAEP’s mathematics framework. The board will review a full draft of the proposed math course of study at its November meeting. View presentation.
The board also received an update on the health and physical education textbook recommendations that will come up for a vote at the next board meeting.
In other news, Mackey informed the board that the Boston-based firm, Public Consulting Group, has secured a contract to conduct a review of the department, mandated by the state legislature, to determine how the ALSDE’s structure compares to that of top-performing states in the nation. Representatives from the firm will conduct in-person interviews in November with board members, department staff and leadership. The firm will operate out of the Board of Public Examiners office, and Deputy State Superintendent Andy Craig will serve as the point person.
The meeting ended with Governor Kay Ivey’s education policy adviser, Nick Moore, distributing copies of the instrument the board will use to conduct Mackey’s annual performance evaluation to be completed by the November board meeting.
Next State Board Meeting and Work Session
The board will hold its next meeting November 14 in Montgomery at 10 a.m., followed by a work session. The board also will hold a retreat that afternoon at the office of School Superintendents of Alabama.