New law signed to help growing school systems

Submitted
Posted 4/16/21

This year, there are 6,474 students enrolled in Alabama schools across 59 different school districts that are not currently included in the Foundation Allocation program that funds Alabama’s …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

New law signed to help growing school systems

Posted
This year, there are 6,474 students enrolled in Alabama schools across 59 different school districts that are not currently included in the Foundation Allocation program that funds Alabama’s schools – and with that funding deficit comes a requirement that local funding pick up those costs. Sen. Chris Elliott (R -Daphne) recently had a bill signed by Governor Ivey that he hopes can change that and help growing school systems across Alabama get their fair share of funding. “Under current law, the Foundation Program that funds our schools uses prior year enrollment to get those funding numbers for each year, meaning every system is using last year’s numbers to fund this year’s student population,” Elliott said. “This puts our growing school systems at a huge disadvantage year after year, as we’ve got kids in these schools that have no state or federal funding available to cover their needs. We need to make sure every kid in Alabama is having their school needs met with appropriate, immediate funding as soon as they are in our classrooms.” State Superintendent Eric Mackey said the Alabama State Department of Education is very supportive of the bill. “We fully support this measure and are glad Sen. Elliott has taken the lead in this effort to balance funding for growing school systems without hurting those that are shrinking,” Mackey said. Elliott added that the formula change introduced in the new law would not be retroactive and “affect systems with declining numbers.” “Districts in our state that already have declining enrollment numbers have enough issues to deal with,” Elliott said. “This bill was not meant to penalize them, and they can continue to do what they can with what they’ve got.” Baldwin County Schools CFO John Wilson said the change brought about by Elliott’s bill is a much-needed boost to growing school systems like his. “Senator Elliott’s bill to improve the State Funding Formula is a huge benefit for Baldwin County families,” Wilson said. “Current education funding programs in Alabama do not adequately provide for growing school systems. Baldwin County spends millions each year in local funds to supplement what should be funded by the state, as a direct result of our rapid growth. Baldwin County has grown by an average of 500 students per year over the last decade which creates substantial challenges under the existing model. Under Senator Elliott’s bill, Baldwin County students will finally receive an equitable share of State Funding. We would see immediate results with the addition of 25-30 classroom teachers to Baldwin County Schools, thereby reducing class sizes and improving education county wide.” The bill calls for the funding to use a formula taking the year over year growth for the two preceding school years and apply an adjustment factor based on the current state funding per student. For a net cost of $11.9 million, the 6,474 currently underfunded students would receive equitable state funding just like every other Alabama student. To avoid double counting students that were including in this year’s Current Units allocation, the bill will only fund 70 percent for the next fiscal year. “This is a simple solution that makes sure each and every one of our children around the state are getting their fair share of education dollars dedicated to building their futures,” Elliott said. “Education is the silver bullet for so many of the issues we face today, so we have to do everything we can to make certain our children are getting their needs met by having equal, fair funding.”