“School systems prepared for another round of proration” was followed by “‘Funding cliff’ looms as state schools move up rankings.”
The first told a story all-too familiar. Alabama’s public schools were facing another round of budget cuts — proration, which happens when revenue falls short of budget projections.
Last September, Gov. Bob Riley announced that the state Education Trust Fund would be cut 9.5 percent.
With that decrease, schools had to face the new year with 22 percent less money than the Trust Fund provided in 2008.
Tapping the rainy day funds helped ease the pain some, but not much.
Already, new Gov. Robert Bentley has said that he will likely prorate education as much as 3 percent.
In the second story, the state was praised for how it had improved its standing in national rankings put out by Quality Counts, which looks at factors such as funding and test scores to produce report cards that chart states’ progress.
After a few good years of funding and improved programs, Alabama’s system had moved to 31st place. Last year, despite proration, Alabama was ranked 25th. Not bad for a state that used to “thank God for Mississippi.”
Unfortunately, this last bit of progress was helped significantly by federal economic stimulus funds that kept Alabama’s per-student spending from taking a dive.
Those funds are running out, and many systems are inching into the red. Calhoun County Schools is not one of them, thanks to the 1-cent sales tax approved by the Calhoun County Commission. But there are some that are not so fortunate.
K.L. Brown, the Jacksonville Republican who is serving his first full term in the state House, considered the situation and told The Star, “The process needs to be changed.”
He added, “Hopefully, we’ll look at some other ways to fund education so when the economy goes south, education won’t go with it.”
Brown is not the first to suggest finding alternative ways to pay for our schools. But so far, the suggestions — increasing the income tax levels at the top, shifting from sales taxes to property taxes — have met with strong opposition from special interests that wish to protect upper-income earners and keep property taxes low.
This page hopes Brown is right and urges the state Legislature to look at other ways to fund education. We also hope Brown will lead this effort.
However, if history is any guide, that effort may fail, and just as it has been in Alabama’s past, proration will be in Alabama’s future.