After hours of debate, the Alabama Senate approved the Education Trust Fund Budget, a package that also includes a two percent pay raise for teachers and support staff.
The pay raise bill also included a provision for a $5 million fund for liability insurance, which was opposed by Democrats and some Republican Senators.
"Really we consider it a waste of money to park $5 million in the budget to begin a liability insurance program that wasn't really needed," said Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery.
Senator Trip Pittman, Chairman of the Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee, said the plan was an option for state teachers, and was included as a compromise. He is cautiously optimistic there will be enough revenue to support the pay raise.
"It's important that we understand that the teachers, the administrators, support people across the state are doing great work for our children," Sen. Pittman said. "We wish we could do more, but the reality is that you know not only do we have to give a raise, we have to sustain it.
Pittman said the budget also dedicates $35 million toward repaying the Alabama Trust Fund.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh praised Pittman and members of the education budget committee for crafting a fiscally-responsible budget that protects funding for programs that have proven to be effective in educating Alabama's children.
"This year we've made significant strides toward reforming education in Alabama, and this fiscally-responsible budget proposal is another step in the right direction," Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said in a statement. "Balancing the education budget while making significant repayments to the Alabama Trust Fund, providing a pay raise to teachers and level funding for our most effective programs reiterates our commitment to making government live within its means."
There are differences between the House and Senate version of the budget, including a $6 million in funding for Pre-K. The House is set to consider the Senate version on Thursday.
Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.