May 5, 2019 by April Weaver

As this column goes to press, the Education Trust Fund budget for K-12 public schools, community colleges, and four-year state universities is making its way through the Alabama Legislature, and it contains items that should excite and delight our teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Because of the abundant revenues being generated by the economy in Alabama, our education budget will set a record as the largest in state history – more than $7 billion.


One of the biggest beneficiaries of the new education funding is also one of Alabama’s biggest success stories, the “First Class” Pre-K program.  For the 13th consecutive year, the National Institute for Early Education Research recently judged “First Class” as the best program of its kind in the nation, and the group’s report stated, “We wish more states followed Alabama’s example of expanding pre-k enrollment with adequate funding, high quality, and demonstrated effectiveness.”


“First Class” currently reaches roughly one-third of eligible four-year-olds in Alabama, but an additional $25 million being requested this year would add about 240 classrooms, which would raise that state’s total to 1,300.


Roughly $7.5 million in funding with be devoted toward the K-3 “Alabama Literacy Act” initiative. The budget, in its current form, also calls for a four percent pay raise for Alabama’s teachers, which would raise the starting salary for new educators above $40,000 for the first time in state history.  Funding for teacher supplies and professional development is being boosted, as well.


In order to ensure our children are as safe as possible while traveling to and from school, K-12 transportation needs will be fully funded for the first time since 2008 with $6 million being provided to purchase new busses and $34 million added for maintenance needs.


It is important to note that the passage of the Rolling Reserve Act and other responsible-spending measures implemented by Republicans has prevented the painful, mid-year budget cuts known as proration from being implemented in the past eight years.  Prior to the 2010 election cycle, proration was previously declared in the education budget on an average of every other year.


Community colleges, which play such an important role in Alabama’s workforce development efforts, will see their aggregate funding rise to about $421 million, which represents a 10 percent increase.


An additional $1.6 million is being directed toward our Dual Enrollment program, which allows qualifying students in Alabama to simultaneously enroll in their high school classes and in postsecondary classes that provide them with the skills necessary to compete for high-paying, long-lasting, 21st Century jobs.


Career-technical dual enrollment is giving our future workforce a leg up on those in other states, and it is proving to be a powerful magnet that attracts new jobs and industries to Alabama while helping to dramatically grow those that are already here.


All of our state’s four-year public colleges and universities will see their budgets increase by at least five percent, although some will receive even higher allocations based upon the recommendations of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.


Alabama has come far in improving its direct student expenditures and providing other education funding, but I will not be satisfied until our schools from kindergarten through college are considered the best in the United States. It’s a worthy goal, it’s an important goal, and it’s a goal that I believe we can reach if we all work together.

April Weaver (R) has been a member of the Alabama House of Representatives since 2010. She represents House District 49, parts of Shelby, Chilton and Bibb County.