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Madison educators hopeful for house’s approval of education dollars

These pre-kindergarten students sing during a summer session in 2014. (CONTRIBUTED)
These pre-kindergarten students sing during a summer session in 2014. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – The Alabama Senate passed an Education Trust Fund budget of $5.9 billion on April 14. Madison educators are guardedly optimistic about the Alabama House’s approval.

The 2016 budget includes several increases: textbooks, $13 million; transportation, $5 million; pre-kindergarten, $13.5 million; distance learning, $2 million; and dual enrollment, $5 million.

“This proposal protects funding for K-12 education and provides full or increased funding for many of the state’s proven education reform programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) and Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI),” Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) said.

“The budget is still up in the air,” Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler said. “This year, the education budget started in the senate and the general fund budget in the house.”

“We do not know what changes will occur in the House but, historically, changes are made,” Fowler said. In addition, Gov. Robert Bentley can suggest budget changes after both legislative chambers approve the budget.

“We are optimistic about the budget and hopeful that it can get through the house as quickly as it got through the senate,” Fowler said.

Madison’s Coordinator of Auxiliary Services Bob Lipinski said all Alabama school districts would receive an equal share of the proposed $13 million increase for textbooks. “The state gives each district a set amount of money for each student enrolled,” Lipinski said. A district can use the money for both printed and digital textbook resources.

Transportation specialist Bobby Jackson expects to receive a decision about buses after annual meetings in June.

At-Risk Coordinator Sharon Willis said “proponents of early childhood education are certainly optimistic that our representatives will understand the need for quality Pre-K education in Alabama. Requested funding for pre-K would provide brand new First Class sites and provide Excellence grants to some existing pre-K classes to enhance quality.”

The pre-K increase could accommodate 2,600 more four-year-olds by fall, Allison Muhlendorf with Alabama School Readiness Alliance said. “First Class Pre-K is improving student achievement and attendance (while) reducing special education and remediation costs,” Muhlendorf said.

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