Teaching jobs could be restored

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
The state Senate began meeting late Tuesday afternoon in a special session that lawmakers and school officials hope will lead to a budget for the upcoming school year.
Gov. Bob Riley called the special session last week after the Senate failed to pass an education budget. The House of Representatives had previously approved the bill.
"I am very disappointed that we were not able to get the budget passed last week," State Sen. Roger Bedford said.
School systems across the state have been forced to fire teachers this week because of uncertainty over the funds that will be available in next year's budget. If the budget is passed quickly, some teachers may be re-hired before they take jobs in other states.
Franklin County schools were forced to let 16 non-tenured employees go. Superintendent Bill Moss said that if the Senate passes the amended budget that was proposed by Riley, some teachers could be re-hired.
"I wish I could say we could re-hire them all, but we can't," Moss said.
"We will be able to re-hire some of them though."
The Russellville city school board voted last week not to renew five contracts and left 11 other positions open that had been vacated by resignations and retirements.
Russellville Superintendent Dr. Wayne Ray said they would be able to fill some of those positions if a budget is put in place.
"We have a couple of slots, such as a counselor and librarian, that we definitely have to fill," Ray said.
People from inside the system have applied for those jobs, so if someone is promoted, that would open more teaching slots.
"If they go ahead and pass the budget, it will enable us to do things a little quicker," Ray said.
Lawmakers believe the budget will in deed pass quickly this time.
"I am very optimistic that we can put our shoulders to the wheel and pass this budget in five days," Bedford said.
The state constitution requires lawmakers to pass an education budget and an operating budget for non-education agencies each year.
Legislators passed an operating budget, but their failure to pass an education budget means that taxpayers will be forced to pay for it.
According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, it will take a minimum of five days to pass the budget. That will cost about $110,000.
If the session lingered on to 12 days, it would cost about $450,000.
The education budget killed by the Senate would have spent $6.36 billion from the Education Trust Fund, a drop of $369.5 million, or 5.5 percent, from this year's spending.
Trust fund spending would have been cut $118.6 million, or 2.9 percent, for K-12's foundation program, its main source of money, and by $151.6 million, or 10.9 percent, for universities.
Senators couldn't agree last week whether to give public universities an additional $25 million.
"It's a shame we couldn't get this done in regular session." Bedford said.
Riley released a 15-item agenda for the special session Tuesday afternoon.
"The public comments by many legislators that they expect a very brief, down-to-business session are very reassuring," Riley said.
"It's a shame we have to even have a special session to pass the education budget. Legislators need to understand, failure is not an option. If they don't pass the education budget during this special session, we'll come right back and have another one. It's up to them."

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