Education Budget Cuts

Posted by .

Lawmakers in the full Alabama House gave approval to a 4-and-a-half billion dollar Education Trust Fund budget. Money ($40 million) is in there for the Alabama Reading Initiative and for lawmakers’ projects in their respective districts.However, lawmakers cut funding for non-state agencies, museums and other educational programs that were once funded by the budget. One organization, AIDS Alabama, says Alabama school kids are the ones who will suffer for the cuts. WBHM’s Steve Chiotakis spoke with the CEO of AIDS Alabama, Kathie Hiers.Hiers says her organization saw the cuts coming. And she says every year there is a debate about whether the funds — for AIDS Alabama, about $250,000 — would be cut. But she says her HIV/AIDS education initiative in schools all across the state is mandated by the state school superintendent and AIDS Alabama is the logical and economical choice in administering it, given the infection rate among young people.

“We have almost two new infections in Alabama every single day. And about half of the new infections are young people,” she says. “I shudder to think what the infection rates are going to go to if we don’t provide this education in the public schools.”

Hiers says public money is down. And the fact that lawmakers are in no hurry to restore the funding for non-state agencies “scares” her.

The East Alabama Child Development Centers is a conglomerate of about 21 non-profit daycares in 17 counties. The cuts mean a net loss of more than 262-thousand dollars for the agencies. WBHM’s Rosemary Pennington spoke with Mary Davis, the Executive Director of the Childcare Resource Network. She says two daycares have already been forced to shut down and she wouldn’t be surprised if more closed their doors.

“The loss of this money just means there are more young children who will not have an opportunity to take advantage of good early childhood education,” she says. “These monies are kind of the make or break thing that can allow many of these programs to stay open where otherwise families don’t have that opportunity for care.”

Davis says the centers serve rural, poor Alabamians. If more daycares close it could force some of these folks to choose between their jobs and staying home with their children. She says there just aren’t many other options out there for them.