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Senate sends ETF to House



The Senate approved the $6.4 billion FY18 education budget Tuesday by a 29-2 vote.The Senate passed S.129 (Orr) with few changes, and you can see the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget spreadsheet HERE. The budget next goes to the House Ways and Means Education Committee.


Senate sends ETF budget to House; Expect Changes



The Senate approved the $6.4 billion FY18 education budget Tuesday by a 29-2 vote.The Senate passed S.129 (Orr) with few changes, and you can see the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget spreadsheet HERE. The budget next goes to the House Ways and Means Education Committee.

During debate, Sen. Paul Bussman offered an amendment to shift $20 million from universities to K-12 and reverse the trend toward increasing higher education’s share of the budget. While lawmakers commended his intent, they rejected the amendment. Local school leaders appreciate Sen. Bussman’s strong, vocal support for K-12.

House ETF budget committee Chairman Bill Poole said the committee will consider the budget in two to three weeks. Expect the budget to change in committee and reflect House member priorities. Local school leaders have time to share their goals and needs and inform lawmakers as they consider the FY18 budget.

However, no Senate vote was taken this week on a bill that was travelling with the budget to appropriate $41 million to local school systems. S.307 (Orr)would appropriate available dollars from the ETF Advancement and Technology Fund in the current fiscal year per the Rolling Reserve Act. Orr’s bill would allow local school systems to spend the money on any expense allowed by the law.

The 2015 Rolling Reserve Act allows spending on the following:


Orr’s bill requires the SDE to verify school systems will use the dollars on an allowable purpose to release funds. The bill is stalled by an effort to limit spending first to technology.

Local school leaders need flexibility to address their specific needs, which vary across the state: Support S.307 (Orr).


Appoint School Superintendents

It’s unfortunate but true: Elected superintendents must navigate carefully in a world where voter perceptions determine whether they keep their job. That’s just one of the reasons school boards support S.267 (Brewbaker) to appoint school superintendents.

Elected superintendents have shared that in the first two years they are free to focus on schools and students; after that, they must switch to campaign mode. However, for most, openly advocating for the switch could alienate voters in an upcoming election. The problem is real and detrimental to students, staff and the community. Pending legislation could address the issue once and for all.

Urge your senators to support S.267 (Brewbaker) that would:

Transition elected superintendents’ positions to appointed positions at the end of their term effective January 2021; and

Authorize an earlier transition if the local board offers and the elected superintendent accepts a contract.

The generous timeline was included at the request of currently elected superintendents. Of the 37 remaining elected superintendents, 10 face re-election in 2018 and the rest face re-election in 2020. It’s time to allow Alabama to end its outdated practice of electing superintendents. Urge your senator to vote YES to S.267 (Brewbaker).


Beware of Push for AAA Revision

Proponents of the Alabama Accountability Act are dialing up the pressure on House members to expand the law’s tax credit options and expand individual tax credit liability amounts to divert ETF dollars to private schools. The scholarship granting organizations have failed to raise the full $30 million the AAA currently allows so S.123 (Marsh)creates a utility tax credit to entice specific corporate donations. The bill also would expand tax credits from 50 percent to 100 percent of an individual’s tax liability and 75 percent of corporate income tax liability.

AASB District 9 Director Connie Spears Wednesday spoke against S.123 (Marsh) in a public hearing. “I ask you to wait for the data about how the current law is working before you change the law to enable an easier grab for public education funding,” said Spears. “The critical piece of information you need to make your decision is still missing.”

Reports thus far indicate many scholarship recipients have never attended a public school despite the law’s stated intent to target public school students attending failing schools. And less than one-third of scholarship recipients are zoned to attend failing schools. Meanwhile, private schools are not required to have the accountability for public funds or student performance as required from public schools. The House Ways and Means Education Committee will vote on the bill Wed., April 12.

Local school leaders must be vocal and urge their lawmakers to protect public school dollars. House members are getting intense pressure from proponents and need to hear from you. Contact your House member and urge he/she to vote NO to S.123 (Marsh).


Autism Services Legislation

Differing bills are pending about providing services to students with autism.

H. 284 (Patterson)would require health insurance coverage for applied behavioral analysis therapy, the primary treatment for children diagnosed with autism. Proponents of the autism insurance bill point to Alabama as one of only five states that do not require insurance to treat autism. The bill received public support from University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and his wife and was subject to a packed public hearing before the legislative spring break. No vote was taken, and the bill is pending in the House Insurance Committee.

S.57 (Allen) would take $3 million from the Education Trust Fund to provide autism therapy through the Department of Mental Health. The state Department of Education and Department of Early Childhood would be required to identify children on the autism spectrum disorder to refer for services. The bill is pending before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.


Fifth Retirement Option for Employees

H.356 (Patterson) would create a fifth option for certain education/state retirees upon retirement. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved the measure Wednesday.

If the bill is approved, active employees eligible for retirement could take a lump-sum cash payment in lieu of an earned retirement allowance. Inactive, vested retirees could elect the option by Oct. 17, 2017, in lieu of a deferred retirement option. The bill does not change any of the age or length of service requirements for retirement.

Overall savings to the ERS and TRS are projected from $36.9 million to $182 million over 30 years, according to the state Finance Director. The bill authorizes a bond issue to provide proceeds to finance the option. The bill next moves to the full House.


Additional Education Legislation

H.381 (Daniels) — Flu Vaccine Information — would require school systems include information regarding the influenza vaccine when health information is distributed to parents/guardians. Approved by House Ed Policy committee.

S.118 (Whatley)— Kyle Grady Act — would specify that portable epinephrine pens may be carried and self-administered by students within current law protocols. Approved by House Ed Policy committee.


Lissa Tucker, J.D.

AASB Director of Governmental Relations