While the proposed record $8.1 billion Education Trust Fund budget has some questioning the state's fiscal priorities, State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), the House Ways and Means Education Committee chairman, insists the budget is taking a targeted approach.
During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show" on Thursday, Garrett acknowledged deficiencies in Alabama's public schools that have caused the state to lag behind the rest of the country.
However, Garrett said this education budget was different from past budgets because he said it puts funding where it is needed to "drive change."
"[W]e're looking at trying to direct money to where it makes the most sense in helping education," Garrett said. "Alabama is woefully inadequate in education. We all know that. The problem I see is we've never really focused on putting the money where we need to put it to drive change.
"We have some excellent school systems around the state. Scores are above the national average or comparable to the national average. We have other areas of the state that are just woefully inadequate."
The Trussville Republican lawmaker said this year's education budget will take a targeted approach with funding to address deficiencies in Alabama's public schools.
"In this budget, we're putting money into the underperforming schools," said Garrett. "Specifically, the governor put some money in the budget for that. We're increasing that funding. We're identifying the bottom of the bottom and looking at what we can do to put auxiliary teachers in there, which is what the pre-K model has done. It's helped education there."
Garrett identified some of the specifics, which included teaching programs and technological improvement in struggling areas.
"[W]e're doing a lot of things in this budget to focus on those areas that are causing our numbers to look so bad and trying to move that up," Garrett said. "That's what we're trying to do and that's the best way to approach to solve the problem. You've got to go where the problem is and try to focus on solving that problem specifically."
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