As we know, it is open season on public education in alabama these days–and has been since the legislature went into session.
We’re repeatedly hearing about the “surplus” in the education trust fund and how it should be used to bail out the general fund.
Over the weekend Senator Tim Melson of Florence weighed in with this in north alabama newspapers.
“Melson said he appreciates the education community wanting to protect its turf, “but when you’re eating T-bones and the rest of the state is eating hot dogs, don’t complain about having to give up some scraps every now and then.”
Excuse me. Eating T-bones? Melson represents parts of Lauderdale, Limestone and Madison counties. Wonder how many principals in those counties think they are having T-bones?
Or maybe Senator Melson is a mite confused. You see he got $23,397 in campaign contributions in 2014 from the Alabama Federation for Children and all of the money they spent came from out-of-state millionaires. So perhaps the good senator is thinking about his contributors, not his education constituents, when he talks about eating steak.
And not to be outdone by Melson, on Monday AL.com ran a column by Cameron Smith that was as off-target as the senator’s comment.
Smith declares that the education budget just passed by the legislature will be $270 million less than expected education trust fund revenues. Because of this, he thinks we should take the excess, slide it over to the general fund, and solve our budget problems.
But he forgets to mention why there will be an excess in the budget that cut per pupil funding more than any other state in the nation since 2008. One of the main reasons is that for years we picked through our bills and decided which one we would not pay.
So we save money in the education budget by deciding that the state will not honor its commitment to local school systems by providing them enough money to fully fund transportation. (Mr. Smith should talk to a rural superintendent and tell them about our surplus.)
We save money in ETF by not funding libraries since 2008. There is not a first, second, third, fourth or fifth grader in alabama who has ever seen a new library book provided by the state. I’m sure some librarians will be interested to know there is a surplus.
And we have a surplus because the Rolling Reserve makes sure we will never be able to catch up. This legislation is about like telling a homeless person in downtown birmingham who has not eaten in three days and finds a $20 bill that they have to take $10 of it and open a bank savings account.
T-bone steaks and phantom surplus money. More fairy tales told by those who oppose public education.