MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In a rare 100 to zero vote, the Alabama House of Representatives approved the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget Wednesday night with a few minor changes to the Senate version. The budget authorizes $6.4 billion in education spending for the next fiscal year, which will pay for the hiring of approximately 150 new fourth through sixth grade teachers across the state.
In order to be signed into law, the Senate must now re-approve the budget with the changes or reconcile them with House members in a conference committee. It would become the state’s largest education budget since the $6.7 billion appropriation in 2008. It also represents a $90 million increase from the fiscal year 2017 ETF budget.
The proposed House version increases Pre-K funding by $13.5 million, keeps funding for the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP) flat, increases retirement funding by $7.4 million, but does not fund a teacher’s pay raise. The Senate bill budgets $15 million for Pre-K and increases the funding for PEEHIP by $9 per employee.
According to Education Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Poole (R- Tuscaloosa), the unanimous vote shows that the legislature is doing right by children, teachers, and taxpayers. “I think it validates that we hit the right priorities and right needs at every level, whether it’s rural or urban, west or north, all of the members voted for what I thought was a very positive education budget,” Poole told The Montgomery Advertiser.
Alabama’s four-year colleges would not receive funding boosts under either version. However, the state will increase the program for veterans scholarships by $35 million due to increasing popularity.