State schools prepare for budget cuts, proration

By Jonathon Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Governor Bentley is asking the state's school systems to prepare for as much as a 10 percent cut in their budgets next year and up to three percent proration this year.

In a letter today, Bentley said he may have to declare three percent proration for the state's education budget, but he's holding off until he looks at tax revenues from this month. In the letter to state superintendent Dr. Joe Morton, the governor says the state has to prepare for a 10 percent cut next year when federal stimulus funds dry up.

Nine superintendents from local schools were at an education roundtable in Hoover hosted by Rep. Spencer Bachus Thursday, and all of them said they have problems with No Child Left Behind, but their bigger problem is finding ways to make up for the federal stimulus dollars that are going away after this year.

"That's not unexpected news, but it's not welcome news," Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Phil Hammonds said of the possible pending proration. "We all, if it does happen, and proration has to be declared for this fiscal year, we'd rather it go ahead and be announced so it gives us as much time as possible between now and Sept. 30 to make some decisions."

Bachus told the school leaders gathered he thinks part of this crisis could be solved by loosening up the restrictions on federal funds spent on education.

"I think we have to give the local schools, the teachers in the classroom more power, and we have to solve some of these problems about teaching to the test," Bachus said.

But any major restructuring of federal dollars is unlikely before October, when superintendents will face hard choices at the local level.

"At some point, there's just so much you can do to deflect the effect of that," Dr. Hammonds said. "I still think there are solutions out there, there's got to be better news coming. It's just a matter of our surviving until that pattern of news goes from bad to good."

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