Archived Story

Time to repeal the Rolling Reserve

Published 6:00am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Children have only one chance at an education. What happens in school affects every future opportunity, and failure can hurt a child for the rest of their lives.

With so much at stake it is unconscionable how leaders in Montgomery have been treating our schools.

A new report shows just how badly our leadership has done.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. published national data on state cuts to education.

They noted that most states have reduced their budgets due to the deepest recession our country has faced in 70 years.

But as the economy improves, many states are getting back on their feet and restoring education funding.

Alabama is not.

The report showed that since the downturn began in 2008, Alabama has cut school funding more than any other state. Spending per student this year is $1,318 less than it was in 2008, while the national average is around $200 less.

Cuts to Alabama’s schools are more than double than cuts in Georgia and Mississippi, and more than six times those in Florida and Tennessee.

Because of poor choices by the Republican Supermajority in the Alabama Legislature and indifference from the Bentley Administration, cuts for Alabama schools will remain for the foreseeable future.

The culprit is one of the first bills passed by the Republican Supermajority: the Canfield Rolling Reserve Act. This law guarantees that students will suffer from budget cuts for years to come.

The Rolling Reserve Act puts harsh artificial caps on state education budgets, taking surpluses and stuffing them into a bank account instead of investing them in our children.

Experts estimate that the law will withhold more than $1.5 billion from Alabama classrooms over the next 10 years.

Many Alabama students have known only cuts and proration. Because of the Rolling Reserve Act, budget cuts may be all these students ever know. Withholding $1.5 billion when schools have suffered for so long is simply wrong.

Education cuts have real consequences for schools and students.

Since 2008, Alabama has lost more than 3,000 teachers and cut the pay of those that are left.

Losing teachers increases class sizes, reducing the amount of one-on-one time struggling students need with their teachers.

The state hasn’t replaced textbooks in years, and has slashed the amount of funds spent on technology.

Our state has developed one of the nation’s best Math and Science programs, known as AMSTI (Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative).

Students who participate in this program gain more than a month of learning in these vital subjects during the school year, but AMSTI is in less than half of Alabama’s schools due to budget cuts.

The Rolling Reserve guarantees many Alabama students will never get the benefit of this tremendous program. We have the funding — it is simply withheld by a badly designed and poorly thought out law.

The Rolling Reserve Act is a costly mistake, and Alabama Democrats will work for its repeal when we return to Montgomery in 2013.

Children have only one chance at a great education, and it is time for the Rolling Reserve Act to go.

 

Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each Wednesday.

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