Rolling reserve law locks in losses
An estimated $500 million in new money will be available for new spending next year.
This is good news. The bad news is that the Senate Republican leadership wants to sit on this money.
We have already had more education funding cuts than any state in the country thanks to Rolling Reserve Budgeting and now senate leaders want to punish educators again by setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars.
This so-called education fiscal accountability law – the first bill signed into law in the 2011 Regular Session (after a supermajority of Republicans took over the Legislature in 2010) – has literally taken money out of the pockets of our teachers and support professionals.
The amount of money stashed in savings will be huge – potentially $500 million to $600 million.
Not only could the state lower the student/teacher ratio, but money could be used for much needed textbooks, technology, PEEHIP costs, and a pay raise.
Two percent doesn’t ease the pain
The new education starvation law places a cap on the education budget each year.
The cap is based on the previous year’s revenues, changes in those revenues over the last 15 years, and other factors. It creates a fund to supposedly help prevent proration.
The cap is the reason education employees received only a two percent pay adjustment that started October 1, and this amount was not enough to offset an increase over the past three Octobers in retirement contributions.
One teacher told me after taxes that the two percent meant an extra 16 cents in her pay check. That’s right, 16 cents.
The Alabama Education Association opposed Rolling Reserve budgeting from the start. Our organization still does.
Despite our lack of success up to this point to get the Rolling Reserve repealed, we will still fight for decent funding for our schools.
Six percent for everyone
In the 2014 legislative session, AEA will be seeking a six percent raise for K-14 educators, active and retired, effective October 1, 2014.
The money will be there despite rumblings out of the state senate. We will also seek PEEHIP funding or else employee and retiree out-of-pocket costs will increase dramatically.
Already we hear Leura Canary at TRS is joyfully saying PEEHIP costs are going to increase for educators.
Future growth is not even considered under the new budgeting scheme.
Next year’s spending is based on last year’s revenue plus a dribbly growth amount for the current year with no consideration for next year’s growth when spending occurs.
The Republican leaders – Del Marsh and Mike Hubbard – passed the budgeting bill to starve education.
This is obviously their intent because they stubbornly refuse to do anything about this legislation and the result is that Alabama has cut education more than any state in the country.
Worst is yet to come
Some of the worst budget losses in over two generations have come in the past five years, and the Rolling Reserve Law locks in those losses for the foreseeable future.
This is an outcome that is obviously not in the best interest of children enrolled in Alabama schools.
Educators and state workers were slammed in 2011 when their contribution to their state retirement was increased 50 percent.
Health insurance costs on active and retired educators will continue to increase under this regime unless reasonable members of the supermajority are successful in helping those who look after the state’s school children.
There is a solution
Alabama can continue to starve public education or the state can go back to the old way of budgeting (which is used in the other 49 states) and provide relief to school children and educators. It is that simple.
Legislative leaders who thought they accomplished significant good will for education employees with a two percent partial pay cut pay back are sorely mistaken.
Since 2008 until now, all people in education have lost five percent of their pay while at the same time inflation has eroded paychecks by another 10 percent.
Classrooms need adequate resources
In addition to requesting a much deserved six percent raise and adequate PEEHIP funding, we are also asking the Legislature to hire more classroom teachers to ease the student-to-teacher ratio.
The Alabama State Department of Education says it needs close to 500 additional teachers. Our students also need tools with which to work, like paper and textbooks.
Lawmakers should be ashamed that a quarter of Alabama students do not have textbooks to take home to study.
How can students learn as much as they can if they do not even have basic materials and tools to get the job done?
The answer is they can’t, which is why The Rolling Reserve Budgeting Act needs to roll on out of the State House.
Instead of the Speaker, et al., being self-righteous about “fiscal responsibility” while concurrently being under investigation regarding financial issues, legislative leaders need to do right by public education rather than continue punishing our young people and educators because of small-mindedness and political vindictiveness.
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