The Alabama Ways and Means Education Committee will meet on Tuesday to consider the fiscal year 2022 Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget.

House Bill 135 (HB135) is sponsored by State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), who chairs the Ways and Means Education Committee.

The ETF is the budget that appropriates money for education: pre-K, K-12, the two-year colleges, the four-year colleges, as well as a number of other agencies ostensibly related to education including the Department of Commerce and the Legislature itself. The state of Alabama has a budgeting system with two budgets: the ETF for education and the state general fund (SGF), which appropriates money for non-education-related state agencies.

This will be the largest ETF in state history, surpassing the 2022 education budget by approximately $600 million.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has requested that the legislature pass an ETF of $8,285,149,933.

The current FY2022 budget at $7,658,926,116, is presently the largest ETF budget ever in state history, surpassing $7,415,693,506 in FY2021, and $7,113,109,253 in FY2020. FY2012 was the first budget prepared by the Republican supermajority after the 2010 election. That budget was written during the aftermath of the Great Recession and was just $5,577,779,443. The anticipated 2023 budget represents a 48.5% increase from 11 years earlier.

According to testing scores, more money spent on education has not translated into better results. Alabama public schools are widely considered to be the worst in the country when measured by the National Assessment of Education Performance (NAEP). Alabama’s fourth-graders are 46th in the nation in reading and 52nd in math. Alabama high school seniors' average performance on the ACT has declined by a full point and a half over the last four years.

The state is struggling to hire teachers, particularly math and science teachers. On the new pay scale in this budget, a new math or science teacher will make $48,558 per year with a bachelor's degree and $62,864 with a doctorate. The state will bump that up another $5,000 a year if they will work at a hard-to-place school.

State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has introduced a parental choice bill that would allow parents to send their child to the school of their choice and the money would follow the child. Public education advocates argue that would lead to as much as $423 million leaving Alabama’s public schools.

Read Sen. Marsh’s bill here.

The 2023 budget will likely be substituted for a new budget proposal in committee on Tuesday and it could be further amended on the floor of the House.

If the committee votes to give a favorable report to HB135, it could be voted on by the full House of Representatives before the end of this week. The SGF passed the Alabama Senate on Thursday and is now being considered by the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. 

Tuesday will be day 16 of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

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