- Video Gallery
The State Senate approved its version of the state's Education Trust Fund budget Tuesday evening. It cuts total funding by $150 million dollars, including a 2.1% cut to K-12 education and a 4.3% cut to higher education.
"We made sure that we did retain the funding for K-12, we made sure the foundation program was sustained, we made sure we had $300 for the classroom," said Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and the Chairman of the Finance and Taxation Education Committee.
The budget now goes to the House for consideration and could see some changes before it would take effect. Some senators felt the budget still cuts too much from K-12 classrooms and not enough from the state's higher education system.
Lawmakers are counting on a change to the state's school calendars to provide some extra funding.
"My concern is if we don't fix these problems before it goes to the House, then my only chance to voice my concerns is to vote no, or try to stop the bill," said Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman. "And I don't know that's an appropriate thing to do."
Before the debate on the budget, senators considered the Flexible School Calendar Act. It requires schools to start no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day and end no later than Friday before Memorial Day. In the next school year, that would mean school would begin no sooner than August 20th and end no later than May 24th, 2013.
The Senate reduced the time the act would be in effect to 15 months, so it would not apply to the end date of the 2013-2014 school year.
Supporters said lengthening the summer break would bring more than $25 million dollars into the state's coffers. The Senate's Education Trust Fund budget includes that extra money. Some senators are skeptical about the benefits. They also questioned whether budgeting for the extra funding violates the Rolling Reserve Act.
"To me, there's only one body that has the power to make such a ruling under the Constitution and that's the Alabama Supreme Court," said Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba.
"I will do what I can to see what we need to do in terms of asking the Attorney General or the court to look at that, to take counsel from people that are wiser than I am to see what we need to do," Sen. Pittman said.
Despite the concerns, the Senate approved the Act. The House also approved the final version. It now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature. A spokesperson said the Governor said he would review the bill thoroughly before deciding whether to sign it.
Copyright 2012 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.