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Alabama state ed budget: $100M more for SPED; $8.5M for autism grants

Sept 14, 2021, Alabama education chief wants $800 million more for teachers and students in 2023 budget

Alabama education officials have big plans for the 2022-23 school year, judging by the more than $800 million increase they’ll request when the legislative session starts in January. “The amount of [state] money we think is going to be available this year is going to be phenomenal,” Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey told board members during a presentation of the proposed ask. The education trust fund, which pays for schools, is expected to grow 16% year over year. The current fiscal year, which determines how much money lawmakers will have to distribute, ends Sept. 30. Mackey’s proposal calls for more than $5.8 billion in spending for K-12 public schools, an increase from the department’s $5.2 billion ask last year. Priorities are tied to the state’s education strategic plan and are aimed at improving student achievement, creating lower class sizes in middle grades, paying for school nurses and incentivizing effective teachers…. “That would be enough money to fully pay for the school nurses that are in place,” Mackey said, “and make sure there’s one in every school.”… Special education is another priority area, with Mackey pushing for nearly $100 million in additional spending. That is on top of increases in recent years designed to fill the gap between what federal funds pay for and the actual cost of education children with disabilities, Craig said. Mackey wants $68 million to pay annual $5,000 stipends to special education teachers, similar to the annual $5,000 stipend currently paid to teachers who achieve certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He also wants to more than double state funding for state-funded preschool programs for children with disabilities, by increasing spending from $17.6 million to $37.6 million. The program for preschool aged children with disabilities is different from Alabama’s nationally lauded First Class Pre-K program, which is funded through the Department of Early Childhood Education. An $8.5 million program to fund grants for certified behavior analysts for students with autism would address a growing need, Mackey said. That funding would pay for an analyst in nearly every school district….


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