The Associated Press May 11, 2012, 11:09AM ET

Ala. House passes education budget

The Alabama House has passed an education budget $141 million short of what is being spent this fiscal year, though lawmakers found another $10 million to add to the Senate-passed version.

The cuts would mean about 528 educators would lose their jobs, according to figures from the state Department of Education. Those include 504 teachers, 16 principals and about 8 assorted support staff.

The budget's sponsor -- Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery -- said that is fewer than half of who would have been laid off under the budget recommended by Gov. Robert Bentley.

"I'm proud of the budget in a very difficult budget year," Love said. "We were able to fund the priorities of educating kids in Alabama, and I think give a minimal impact to the classroom of having to cut the budget."

A Bentley spokesman wrote in an email that the governor's office would thoroughly review the education budget and continue to work with legislators on funding needs.

The governor had committed to having a budget that didn't require raising taxes on Alabamians. This caused some clashes with legislators, who zeroed-out his recommended $185 million appropriation to Medicaid.

It also raised the ire of some lawmakers during House floor debate Thursday.

"In the state of Ala. at some point in time we need to get really, really serious about fully funding our education system," said Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham.

She urged lawmakers to look at additional revenue streams instead of relying on cuts.

The House-passed budget includes a $36.5 million cut to state universities, a $77 million reduction for kindergarten through 12th grade and a cut of $13 million to the Education Department.

The cuts were forced as part of a law that keeps legislators from spending all of the money in order to build up a reserve.

The House version restored some of the money the Senate-passed bill had reduced.

House funding for state universities was $3.6 million higher than the Senate version. It also restored reduced funding to pre-kindergarten and the Alabama Fire College.

Love says he was able to find the additional funding in part by zeroing-out about $20 million to pay for maintenance of the state's school bus fleet. That will instead be paid for by a bond issue.

The budget also increases some appropriations recommended by the governor.

Love says Bentley's budget recommended $137 per teacher for classroom supplies and $11 million statewide for textbooks.

The Senate-passed budget increases those appropriations to $300 per teacher for school supplies and $23 million statewide for textbooks. The House version maintains those increases.

Representatives bemoaned the short span they had to work on the education budget; it had been approved by the Senate just nine days before.

"We did, I think, yeoman's work in the short period we had," Love said.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he wasn't concerned that the budgets had not yet been passed on the penultimate day of the regular session -- with May 16 marking the last time the House meets for their regular session.

"I'm impressed we were able to pass this budget before lunch time," he joked to reporters.

The Senate voted Thursday to reject changes made by the House, meaning members of both chambers will meet in a conference committee to resolve differences.


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