State 1 of worst in school funding

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Spending at pre-recession levels

Alabama ranks second worst in the country in state K-12 education funding cuts, with state support down 17.3 percent since the start of the Great Recession.

According to a report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Alabama cut its total state and local investment in K-12 schools by 11.3 percent per student between 2008 and 2014.

Andalusia City Schools Chief Financial Officer Katie Odom said ACS’s per student spending was $8,754 in 2008 and was $8,393 in 2014.

“First of all, we have yet to see (state) funding for education reach 2008 levels and it has been a difficult ride to make do,” said Andalusia City Schools superintendent Ted Watson said. “A lot of things have simply been put off – things like transportation, libraries and IT.”

Watson said the library was able to purchase the first books since 2008 this past year.


“A lot of us being able to get by was done through making do by putting things off and just holding on,” he said.

One of those things, Watson said, is school buses.

“Our fleets are getting older,” he said. “We are going to have a reckoning day. We are going to have to address where those funds will come from and that remains unknown unless the state comes up with some funds.

Watson said teachers haven’t had a pay raise since 2008 without having to work extra days.

Still, he said he knows his system has it a lot better than others around the state, thanks to local and county support.

Covington County Schools Chief Financial Officer Ressie Gray said the county system’s per student spending was $9,255 in 2008 and was $8,421 in 2014.

“We have been at this reduced funding level for the past going on eight years now,” Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver said. “And thankfully, we did see the Legislature finally begin to try to bring us back to the 2008 level, but we are still far short of that. We are thankful that we are moving back in the right direction.”

Driver said his system continues to monitor its budget closely, so that they can operate in the black.

“We are glad that the Legislature had been able to return some funding, and in the meantime, we have to prioritize our spending, and we are spending our money wisely,” he said.

Driver acknowledged that the Covington County School system has been in better financial shape due to a large amount of reserve funds.

“I know that when all of this came about, and those were drastic cuts, many school systems were having to borrow money just to make payroll,” he said. “We were able to continue to offer the services we had been.”

Opp City Schools Chief Financial Officer Linda Banks said OCS’s per student spending was $8,205 in 2008 and $8,943 in 2014.

Banks said the reason for the increase in spending is due to a decrease in average daily membership in the system. In 2008, there were the ADM was 1,401.50 and in 2014, that number is 1,262.50.

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said the last eight years have been tough.

“We are now seeing the impact of the reduced funding,” he said. “We have pushed back a much-needed technology upgrade and deferred maintenance to the point where neither can be ignored.”

Smithart said it was promising to see an upturn in revenues for the Education Trust Fund; however, he said it was important to remember that the budget is still more than $800 million short of what is needed to provide a minimum-level education in the state.

“My hope is that when the Legislature convenes in February that there is a concerted effort to protect those precious education dollars and provide what our students need,” he said.