Alabama lawmakers are sending a historic $8.8 billion education budget and $2.8 billion supplemental allocation to Gov. Kay Ivey after working past midnight Thursday and starting a new legislative day at 12:01 a.m. Friday to pass the spending bills.
The fiscal year 2024 education budget approved by lawmakers is $537 million, or 6.5%, higher than the current budget. The supplemental appropriation, which will be distributed during the current budget year, is more than twice last year’s $1.3 billion.
The education budget will send K-12 education $6 billion, a $363 million or 4.4% increase. Higher education will receive $2.3 billion, a $140 million or 1.7% increase.
Spending on other education-related items in the education budget increased by $34 million, less than half a percent, to $552 million.
The budget will fund 2% pay increases for K-12 teachers, a minimum pay scale for school support staff, and a $1,000 bonus for special education teachers. It will also fund 100 additional teachers in the middle grades and big pay raises for school nurses.
Lawmakers put an additional $50 million into math and science initiatives and an additional $30 million into child care and after school resources.
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Alabama’s three statewide K-12 specialty schools will receive between a 5% and 10% increase in funding. A plan to build a fourth K-12 specialty school in Demopolis focused on healthcare professions was scrapped by lawmakers.
Alabama’s colleges and universities will see increases ranging from 6% to 11%.
While the House and Senate versions of the budget didn’t differ much, the two chambers had different priorities for the supplemental bill.
Lawmakers stressed the need to use the historic $2.8 billion surplus for one-time expenditures like capital costs rather than recurring expenditures like adding employees or giving raises.
The Senate focused on stashing half a billion dollars in a new savings account and funding a capital grant program for K-12 schools while lowering promised tax rebates. The House wanted more for tax rebates, less on the grant program and less in savings.
The differences were rectified by a conference committee, with lawmakers deciding to spend $393 million on tax rebates and put $344 million into a newly created savings account, the Educational Opportunities Reserve Fund.
They will give $360 million to K-12 schools to help with soaring construction costs and put $180 million into a grant program administered by Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.
The majority of supplemental spending on higher education – a full 33% of the $2.8 billion allocation – is focused on maintaining, renovating and adding new buildings.
Alabama lawmakers gave final approval to a tax rebate for Alabama taxpayers Thursday, passing a bill that will provide $150 for individuals and $300 for couples filing jointly.