Whenever Tiffphanie Hall needs lab supplies or expensive equipment for her biology students, the state’s Science in Motion program is there.
For the five years Hall has taught at Anniston High School, she’s used the program weekly so her students could have hands-on experiences that would be too costly for her school system.
Without the program, teaching students what they need to compete in the world would be much more difficult, Hall said.
“Could I create the same lab experience — eventually yes,” Hall said. “But it would require real funding and take years to develop those labs.”
As proposed state spending for 2018 stands right now, Hall and hundreds of teachers across Alabama might have to learn to do without.
Earlier this week, Gov. Robert Bentley presented a proposed budget that slashed all spending for Science in Motion in the 2018 fiscal year. Without the program, science teachers would lose a cost-effective way to enhance student learning in high schools across the state, area educators and program operators say.
Science in Motion, started in 1994, provides laboratories with modern, expensive equipment to high schools in the state, along with advanced training for teachers. The program is operated by 11 universities, including Jacksonville State University, which transport the equipment and provide the training to schools in their regions.
According to the proposed budget, Bentley slashed all $1.58 million that the Alabama Department of Education asked to fund the Science in Motion program this year.
Attempts to reach Clinton Carter, Bentley’s finance director and Rep. Bill Poole, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, for comment on the budget cut were unsuccessful Thursday.
Eric Lee, director of the JSU Inservice Education Center, which manages the Science in Motion program for 34 high schools in seven counties, wrote in a Wednesday email to The Star that he was concerned about the apparent funding cut.
“We are a bit more concerned this year since, to my knowledge, none of the programs have been ‘zeroed out’ of the budget like this situation — at least in the nine years I've been affiliated directly with the Inservice Center,” Lee wrote.
Krystal Milam, a Science in Motion biology specialist at JSU who previously taught at Weaver High School, said if the program ends, chemistry, biology and physics teachers in the area would find it difficult to find the money to pay for the services they were receiving. For example, the JSU center routinely takes up to 12 microscopes at a time worth $2,000 each to schools in the region each semester.
“I don’t think any schools in the region could afford that on their own,” Milam said. “The loss of all this state-of-the-art equipment would be very detrimental.”
Milam said the program also provides annual training to teachers each year to keep them up to speed on the latest equipment and course work. The program provides educators to help teach with the lab courses in high school classes too, she said.
“All throughout the year, they’re getting support from us,” Milam said. “We’re more than just a delivery system for equipment.”
Rachel Poe, a chemistry teacher at Oxford High School, said she’s used lab equipment from the program every other week for the last six years.
“It is a great reinforcement for content being taught in the classroom,” Poe said. “It brings chemistry to life with multiple hands-on opportunities.”
Poe said while her system provides plenty of support for teachers, it’s still great to have everything she needs free and already prepared through the program.
Robin Spoon, chemistry and biology teacher at White Plains High School, said she’s depended on the program weekly for the last 11 years. Spoon said some of the higher level courses she teaches requires labs for advanced students to receive college credit.
“I would be very, very hard-pressed to pull together some of the labs we’re supposed to do with our students,” Spoon said.