School boards OK 10 pink slips

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

While lawmakers were finalizing the state’s 2012 education budget Wednesday, local school systems had to make personnel decisions for the upcoming school year based on what leaders expected the legislature to do.

Both the Alabama House of Representatives and the state Senate gave approved a $5.6 billion education budget for 2012 – a dollar figure that State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said is “about the best it can be considering the state’s financial condition.”

Locally, boards for each of the county’s three schools systems met to finalize staffing for the next school year. State law requires systems to notify personnel of changes prior to the last day of school.

At the county school level, board members approved 40 personnel changes – nearly all of which were attributed to attrition, said Covington County Schools superintendent Terry Holley.

“I have not seen the numbers in the new budget, but I can say that of the items we handled, 90 percent of those were where we replaced retirees,” Holley said. “And we’ll replace even more at our next board meeting.”

Opp eliminated one program – health services – which will mean one fewer teacher units. And the Andalusia Board of Education approved personnel items which leave them with 16 fewer employees. Superintendent Ted Watson said the board acted out of caution and that he expects to hire some of the positions back before the school year begins.

The state’s 2012 education budget includes $241 million more than this year’s budget – an amount that replaces less than half of the stimulus funds that schools are spending this year, but won’t have next year.

The proposed budget does not provide money for cost-of-living raises for public school employees and would pay $81.6 million less next year from the trust fund for retirement for employees of public schools, two-year colleges and universities. The budget counts on public employees paying more for pension coverage to make up the difference.

The final version of the state budget, which still needs Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature, fully funds programs such as the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, ACCESS Distance Learning and First Class Pre-K, and includes  $134 to each Alabama teacher to spend on classroom materials and supplies.