Photo by Jessa Pease.
Hoover Board of Education Building
The Hoover City School System has joined other state public education advocates in urging Alabama lawmakers not to touch the Education Trust Fund as the state legislature seeks to fill a budget shortfall.
The Hoover Board of Education, during its Aug. 3 board meeting, unanimously approved a resolution submitted by Superintendent Dr. Kathy Murphy to protect the Education Trust Fund. Among other things, the resolution asked state lawmakers to oppose any efforts to move education’s portion of the state use tax to the General Fund.
The Education Trust Fund receives money used for public education from a variety of taxes including Alabama income taxes, sales taxes, use taxes and utility taxes.
“Be it resolved that the members of the Hoover City Schools Board of Education oppose any effort to take money from the Education Trust Fund...and believe that advocating against such serves a public purpose and furthers the vision and mission of the school system by seeking to protect scarce resources which should be devoted to the education of children," the resolution reads in part.
A day after the resolution, a state senate committee in an 8-6 vote on Tuesday, August 4 passed Senate Bill 30, which would remove $225 million from the Education Trust Fund to help fill a state budget shortfall. State Senators Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) and Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) were among the eight senators who approved the measure. It now moves on to the full State Senate, and if approved there will go to the State House of Representatives for a vote.
In response, Hoover City Schools, Alabama Association of School Boards and other advocates for public schools across the state are stepping up efforts to protect the Education Trust Fund. Craig Kelley, a member of the Hoover Board of Education, has been a particularly strong advocate in calling on Hoover area residents to contact state lawmakers about the issue.
“If the stakeholders do not let their elected officials know to keep their hands off the Education Trust Fund, then it will be ransacked,” Kelley said. “These concerns should be shared by all taxpayers in Alabama. Whether they have school-age children or not and whether they attend public or private schools, the diversion of the funds in the Education Trust Fund affects us all.”
In a statement after the August 4 vote, Alabama State Education Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice said Senate Bill 30 threatens to impose an immediate 4 to 5 percent proration on Alabama public schools, diverting about $250 million away from the existing Education Trust Fund.
“From class sizes and transportation, to daily operations and student services, a cut of this magnitude would fundamentally disrupt plans for education across the state,” Bice said. “As State Superintendent of Education, I feel compelled to let you know the status of this bill and the potential impact it could have on all public schools in Alabama.”
Lissa Tucker, Director of Governmental Relations for the Alabama Association of School Boards, said the organization is asking all of its members to defend the Education Trust Fund.
“We support a viable solution for the General Fund coupled with protection of funding to educate Alabama’s schoolchildren,” Tucker said. “The response of school systems across the state echoes that sentiment.”
Tucker said the fallacy is that there is a "surplus" in the education budget. Alabama public education is funded $400 million below 2008 funding and has endured cuts and years of proration, she said.
“Lawmakers adopted a responsible budgeting process that repaid a $437 million debt, cautiously allows for growth in the budget over time, and put in place a plan to have a fund to prevent proration in the future,” Tucker said. “The plan to move the use tax completely disregards that the state is not currently funding its promise to K-12 in the Foundation Program. Until public schools can provide textbooks and supplies, basic operational costs, critical training and sufficient numbers of teachers, it is irresponsible to claim education has enough, much less a surplus in funding.”