OK, we dodged a bullet: But there is a better way

By Staff
The Anniston Star
When will Alabama’s best effort be something other than “dodging a bullet”?
When will Alabama establish a system of raising revenue that will be safe from pot-shots fired by the ups and downs of the economy?
Last week, the Education Appropriations Committee of the state House approved an education budget that contained a $169.6 million increase over last year. To have the revenue for any increase during these troubled times usually would be seen as a significant accomplishment.
In Alabama, however, significant accomplishments seem to always come with conditions and reservations.
Yes, the education budget is a little larger, but it would not have been without a $34 million windfall from a lawsuit and $66.5 million from a bond issue.
Without those funds, the state would have been down to almost what it was in last year’s bare-bones budget.
The result? Let’s look at the good side.
It means that state-funded public school teachers will not be laid off. It means the school year will be 180 days — no days will be cut to trim costs.
It also means that pre-kindergarten, along with programs for improving the teaching of reading, math and science, and statewide distance-learning initiatives will be funded at the same level as last year — no more, but no less, either.
Unfortunately, there is a negative side.
There will be few, if any, new textbooks. Some support personnel — secretaries, janitors and bus drivers — might lose their jobs. So might some of the 1,800 locally funded teachers.
There will be no money for classroom supplies, library books, computers or copiers. And there will be no cost-of-living raises for school employees and retirees.
That’s why state Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, put it this way to the Birmingham News: “We dodged a bullet” with the education budget.
Gov. Bob Riley and others had expressed hope that there would be more federal stimulus money available to pay for necessities, but that seems highly unlikely today.
In the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, the state and its schools are going to have to make it on their own.
This budget shows what Alabama legislators believe “on their own” should look like, and what it means for the children of this state.
Alabama’s leaders could do better, but they apparently are content to dodge a bullet.