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House OKs $6.6B education budget, with raises

The $6.6 billion state education budget approved by the Alabama State House of Representatives Tuesday will allow more than 2,500 additional four-year-olds to enroll in the state’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program in the 2018-2019 school year.

The budget also funds a 2.5 percent cost of living raise for education employees in K-12 and two-year colleges.

The Alabama State House of Representative unanimously approved HB 175, the FY 2019 Education Trust Fund. This bill appropriates $97.5 million to the state’s pre-kindergarten program; $20 million more the program’s current funding level.

If signed into law, the $20 million expansion, along with funding from the final year of the state’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant, would enable the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, which manages the First Class Pre-K program, to add approximately 142 new classrooms.

The $6.6 billion budget is $216 million more than this year and the most since $6.7 billion in 2008. Spending fell by more than $1 billion annually after 2008 because of the recession.

The budget now goes to the Alabama Senate.