Supers: Education budget good

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 30, 2015

Two of the three local superintendents agree the state education budget is an improvement, but that funding is still not up to 2008 levels.

The budget was passed earlier this week and is $5.9 billion, which includes $49.6 million in extra funds that will go directly classrooms.

Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver said he was glad to see some small increases in OCE money, textbooks and transportation.

“While we are still well short of 2008 funding levels, we are very glad to see positive growth in funding and we hope to continue,” he said.

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said he felt that under the circumstances, it was a very good budget.

“It’s important to note that the Education Trust Fund is still $400 million short of providing for the needs of students in Alabama,” he said. “Our classrooms and schools remain under-resourced and under-staffed. However, I want to thank our local legislators for their work on this budget. They did a great job of prioritizing our limited resources and placing all they could in our classroom. I believe Rep. (Mike) Jones and Sen. (Jimmy) Holley understand and appreciate the job our teachers do, and we thank them for protecting classrooms and educational services.”

Highlights of the budget include:

• An increase of $1 million for local technology coordinators;

• $1 million in additional funds for Advanced Placement;

• $1.3 million more for distance learning;

• $6 million additional for classroom technology and professional development;

• $ 3 million extra for classroom supplies for teachers;

• $10 million for additional funding for First Class Pre-K. Opp received an additional classroom, and Straughn and Pleasant Home received their first classrooms.

• A $13 million increase for textbooks; and

• $4.5 million additional for transportation.

“There were also some small increases in technology, library, professional development, teacher supplies and middle school units,” Driver said. “We should receive our actual allocation reports soon so that we will know exactly what the increases will be locally.”