If you want to get ahead of your school district’s budget hearings, check out these reports from the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE), showing the amount of state-appropriated money making its way to your school district for FY16.
The state-provided total is a little more than $4 billion. Local school districts contribute more than $600 million, bringing the total legislature-appropriated investment in public education to $4.6 billion for the nearly 738,000 schoolchildren in Alabama’s K-12 systems.
FY16 begins October 1, 2015, and ends September 30, 2016.
All state monies appropriated in these documents come from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget. Remember, Alabama operates with two budgets: the ETF and the General Fund.
As you know, the legislature is in a quandary as to how to “fix” the General Fund. Nearly every fix that has been proposed takes some amount of money or source of income from the ETF.
On Thursday, State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice said that while he fears funding for public education may “take a hit”, he could only accept that hit if there was a plan to move a source of income to replace whatever money was shifted into the General Fund. [He made it clear he’d rather not take that hit.]
So dig around to see how much money the Alabama legislature believes is sufficient for your local schools to deliver education to the children of your community.
These reports are compilations of PDFs of STATE funding amounts (no federal or local money included), in school district order. School districts are listed county first, then city, mostly-alphabetical order within those categories.
“ADM” is Average Daily Membership, which is the average, daily enrollment in your system for the 20 days following Labor Day from the 2014-2015 school year. Being a year behind can be costly for growing districts, but there is a small allowance for those growing districts, which you will find under the “Current Units” allocation. That amount is appropriated after the current year’s ADM is calculated.
Click. On. The. Links. I didn’t want to clutter up the page with samples of each report. So click on them. Okay?
This report, the Foundation Allocation by District, is the simplest one to understand. Each district has its own page. Allocations for FY16 are compared with FY15 numbers.
A few numbers to point out:
- Classroom instructional support is back in the budget. Click here for details.
- Student materials went from $310/unit in FY15 to $374/unit in FY16. A “unit” is a classroom.
- Technology is funded at $63.79/unit. This has been zero-funded for the past six years.
- Professional development is funded at $63.79/unit. This has been zero-funded for the past six years.
- Library enhancement (a.k.a. money to purchase library materials with) is funded at $21.26/unit. This has been zero-funded for the past six years.
- Other Current Expense (OCE) increased from $15,967 per unit to $16,281 per unit. OCE is money that school districts have a bit of discretion over, and is often referred to as the money to pay the light bill.
- Textbook allocations increased from $35/student to $52.71/student.
- Fleet renewal funds rose from $6,000 to $6,382 per bus. Fleet renewal funds are allocated for buses under 10 years old. The idea behind it is to pay off new bus purchases over 10 years, but folks tell me that school buses can cost more than $80,000. (Here’s a good look at what Alabama school districts have to consider when purchasing buses.)
Keep in mind that those allocations are only for state-funded units (think of a unit as a teacher’s classroom). If a unit is funded with local money, ALL of these allocations come out of local money.
The second report is the “LEA Unit Breakdown”. LEA is the Local Education Agency, a.k.a., the school district. This report shows how many state-funded principals, assistant principals, library/media personnel, classroom teachers, counselors, career tech directors, and career tech counselors your school’s student population buys you.
This report is the “LEA Unit” report. This report shows the number of regular teachers, principals, assistant principals, counselors, career tech directors and career tech counselors earned. Don’t get too hung up on the numbers, though, because it is still up to the local board of education to determine the actual distribution of those teachers “based on the needs of the students”.
This report is the “Special Education and Career Tech Units” report which shows exactly what it says. Again, it’s up to the local board to distribute those units.
The Better Reports to Learn More About Your District and School
This first shows exactly how much state money your district will receive, and how it is earmarked. It is called “Supplemental Report (System)”. It’s basically the same information as was presented in the Foundation Allocation Report, but presented in the format required for school district budget hearings.
This next report lists every public school in Alabama and how much state money it will receive, and how it is earmarked. Fancy title: “Supplemental Report (School)”.
Get familiar with these reports.
Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you can quote these numbers at a football game.
The FY16 Salary Schedule
Some More Light Reading
Here is the ALSDE’s 2014-2015 Guide to State Allocations. It is a great intro to how state funds are divvied up. The updated guide for 2015-2016 will be published soon, but little changed other than the instructional support amounts and the fleet renewal amounts.
Why Bother With All of These Numbers?
These numbers represent the investment our fellow state taxpayers, with the direction of the elected Alabama legislators, are making in public education in Alabama.
As the saying goes, if you want to know a person’s priorities, look at their checkbook. These numbers represent where public education ranks on the priority list for our elected leaders and the people that they listen to.
If we, the community, don’t take some time to understand the language of school finance and how state funds are distributed based on the formulas in place, how can we ever begin to even hope to engage in the discussion to strengthen the public education offered to our children?
The public has left this discussion to the Experts for a long time now. This discussion will happen with us or without us.
Let’s engage. School district budget hearings start soon.
[Confession: This article is mostly copied from an article we published in 2014 about the FY15 numbers. Updated and expanded where needed.]