In its first post-recession public schools budget proposal, the Alabama Board of Education approved Thursday a recommendation to funnel $4.1 billion toward K-12 schools next year.
The proposed budget marks a $415 million increase from this year and aims to fill one-third of the 1,400 teaching jobs that were axed during the recession, the Associated Press reports. The state's overall education budget is slated to increase $408 million to $5.9 billion for fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1, 2013.
The proposal is part of a plan by schools Superintendent Tommy Bice to return schools to pre-recession funding levels in the next three years. The plan also seeks to reinstate the remainder of the cut teachers over the subsequent two years.
The board is not recommending a specific cost-of-living raise for teachers, though Bice has said he supports one, as educators have not seen a raise since 2008. Each percentage point of increase would cost the state $35.5 million, according to AL.com. The board is leaving the salary increase issue to the governor and state Legislature.
Meanwhile, the Alabama Education Association is planning to lobby for a 10 percent raise for teachers over the next two years, according to the Press-Register and AL.com.
"Inflation is eating into their incomes," AEA executive secretary Henry Mabry said last month. "So, if we're gong to attract and keep good teachers and education personnel, then we've got to pay them."
During a board work session at the end of last month, Bice also proposed $10 million for teacher recruitment and training, a $30 million bond for career-education programs, a $5 million grant program to reward top performing schools and districts, $4 million for arts education and $5 million each to a healthy kids and family program and pre-kindergarten.
Alabama and Arizona top the list of states that have decreased per-student spending the most since 2008, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In fiscal year 2013, 35 states are still spending at levels lower than before the recession -- Alabama has slashed per-student spending by 21.7 percent over the five-year period. Between fiscal years 2012 and 2013, spending in the state has fallen by $221 per student, just second to Alaska's $533 per-pupil decrease.