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Paul DeMarco: Lawmakers hope historic increases in education funding spur academic achievement

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The pandemic hammered the nation’s economy with record unemployment and millions of dollars of lost income. Alabama was not immune from the impact of the coronavirus as businesses were shuttered and the state reported record numbers of those that were out of work.

Thus, the news of what the Legislature passed this week was surprising to many.

The Alabama Senate approved a record $7.6 billion education budget that was $400 million more than the previous year. Not only was it the largest budget to fund education in state history, but it also included a 2 percent pay raise for all public school employees. The bill now will be debated by the Alabama House of Representatives, but is expected to pass with few changes.

That will be on top of one-time monies of $4.5 billion in federal relief funds due to COVID-19, which will go to the state and local school districts that have been appropriated over the past year.

So despite how the virus affected personal households in the state, revenues increased for state budgets this year.

Now Alabama taxpayers should expect with the amount of money being spent and the programs funded to see a return on their investment with higher scholastic achievement for state students. However, these federal monies, once spent will not be there in the future, so taxpayers need to watch carefully how this money is used so as not to create new financial issues for school districts in the future. In addition, we should be weary about what all of this federal spending will do the Nation’s economy, which will also effect state tax revenues in the coming years.

Lawmakers believe that this funding will turn the corner in Alabama’s chronic education woes. Education leaders feel that the combination of the funding and new policies implemented will give teachers and students what they need to be successful in the classrooms.

Time will tell if this massive increase in education spending truly makes a difference in Alabama schoolhouses.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.