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Tough times call for tough decisions

Speaker of the House Seth Hammett told reporters yesterday the House education budget committee will begin work on the education budget following next week’s spring break.

The 2010 session of the legislature will be two-thirds completed at that time. But Hammett said lawmakers have been waiting to see if additional federal education stimulus money will be available to the state. The work will begin on the assumption that more federal dollars aren’t coming down the pike for education.

That’s good news and bad news.

It’s bad news in that we know state funding will be woefully short of this year’s budget levels. But it’s good that the legislature will use more realistic numbers than the governor suggested in his proposed budget.

In his state-of-the-state address in January, Gov. Bob Riley, counting on federal stimulus money, intimated that Alabama had “plenty” of money. Riley outlined his budget proposal as one that provides state agencies with level funding and education with a $400 million increase.

The Speaker, a conservative and cautious man, answered, “The governor has written a check he can’t cash.”

Superintendents for both the Andalusia City and Opp City school systems expect to have to terminate teachers at the end of the current school year. State law requires that teachers whose contracts won’t be renewed be notified of the changes before the school year ends.

While neither superintendent wants to make those tough decisions, each knows their system will be healthier by doing so than if the legislature passed the governor’s proposed and unrealistic budget.

As tough a pill as it will be to swallow, lawmakers need to pass a realistic budget that isn’t likely to be prorated.

That would be difficult any year, but more so in this election year when every seat in the House and Senate will be up for election.

The economy will no doubt improve. Until it does, our decisions need to be as tough as the environment in which we live.