Democrats vote to protect education
Rep. Ron Grantland, Guest columnist
State funding for local schools will not be raided if Democrats in the State House of Representatives have their way.
In a weekend legislative retreat, House Democrats voted to protect public school funding from being diverted to non-educational programs in the General Fund budget.
"For once the economic health of the Education Trust Fund is improving," said Education Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Lindsey, D-Centre. "But, Alabama's school children are still on the bottom of the list among states in per-student spending, even with the improving revenues that we believe the legislature has to invest in our public schools next year."
Alabama ranks 47th in the nation for per-pupil spending and 49th in teachers' pay, according to National Education Association comparisons.
"Schools in every community in this state have taken hit after hit in funding since 2000 due to the economic recession," explained House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill.
"Now that the available revenue is beginning to rise, we must fulfill our obligation to provide educational opportunity for our children. We must appropriate carefully and protect school funding.
Getting the money to the students where it is needed most, through textbooks, supplies, teaching programs and aids, and well-prepared teachers, is our top priority."
"We will never have world-class education in Alabama that is vital to the development and strength of every community if we don't provide fair and adequate funding and support.
Diverting money from the Education Trust Fund would violate the trust the people of the state have given when they voted to provide taxes to invest in our schools," Guin said.
House Democrats met over the weekend for their annual legislative retreat.
During the meeting, legislators discussed bills and issues they expect to address during the upcoming regular session that begins Feb. 1.