Josh Moon: Ala.’s education budget doesn’t have a surplus

Josh Moon: Ala.’s education budget doesn’t have a surplus

Members, there is a lot of “misinformation” in Montgomery. Your legislators are in their home districts right now. Please review the story below and contact your legislator(s). Make sure they are aware that there is NOT A SURPLUS IN THE EFT BUDGET. Talk with legislators before the next special session is called by Governor Bentley. Also call the Governor’s office 334-242-7100.

Our message: The Rolling Reserve funds are NOT the answer to the General Fund financial woes. Urge them to stand up for children in Alabama’s public schools and protect the ETF and Rolling Reserve Funds.

Janice J. Charlesworth
Executive Director
Alabama Education Retirees Association
800-537-6867 or 334-262-4177
Visit our website


Josh Moon, Montgomery Advertiser 1:36 a.m. CDT August 29, 2015

A few days back, on a Saturday morning, I was killing a little time by scrolling through the Twitter feed when I stumbled upon an interesting exchange.

Mary Scott Hunter, a member of the state school board, and state Sens. Phil Williams and Will Ainsworth – all three Republicans – are going back and forth over a proposal that some Republicans in the Alabama Legislature are pushing.

One that would steal $250 million from public education.

The theory that is being used to support this lunacy is that the education trust fund has money to spare, because it has a reserve fund that actually has money in it. The reason it has money is because these same GOP lawmakers thought it was important to set up a fund that would safeguard against lean financial years.

So, they implemented the rolling reserve act, which created spending caps and set up reserve accounts that required the state to save some money in case of down times and also to make school improvements.

After a few decent economic years, there is money in the reserve fund.

But pretending like there’s an overflow of cash in that account is misguided, because public school funding in Alabama is still down some 20 percent since 2008. Teachers have seen one raise in the last eight years. Transportation still isn’t fully funded by the state. Textbooks are still a major issue for some districts.

So, when Hunter noticed a story stating that Alabama’s education trust fund budget had an excess of money and that lawmakers were pushing the idea of robbing that fund to cover the general fund’s $250 million hole, she took issue.

“There is no ‘large’ excess in the two ETF budgets I know best: K-12 and community colleges,” Hunter tweeted.

To which Williams replied: “No. You don’t know best. Never saw you in a budget meeting. Surplus is real and better than taxes.”

Yeah, he’s sweet.

Hunter brushed off the unprovoked hostility and repeated her comments, obviously believing that repeating the same words would spark some recognition that she was talking about the actual education budgets that detail the spending in state schools.

That’s when Ainsworth joined the fray. “I hate to break it to you,” Ainsworth tweeted at Hunter, “(Williams) is correct in his budget analysis. Ask anyone that understands the budgets.”

Because clearly, with her lady brain, there’s no way Hunter understands budgets. Sure, she has a law degree from Alabama, served a decade as a JAG in the Air Force and runs a business with her husband, but budgets? Best leave that to the state legislators who have Alabama’s in pristine condition.

Later, Williams unintentionally highlighted the basic problem with Alabama’s entire economic approach, explaining to Hunter what the word “reserve” means. “The key word being ‘reserve,’ aka ‘excess,’ aka ‘surplus,’” Williams wrote.

Actually, no, “reserve” is not the same as either of those.

But this is Alabama politics, where changing the definition of a word and distorting reality are viable defenses for refusing to raise taxes that we all know should be raised.

The reality is, as these lawmakers were claiming an education “excess,” parents were buying toilet paper and chalk for schools, kids were sharing textbooks and state schools were imposing so many fees for classes and other school-related services and options that some parents literally can’t afford this free education.

A list of fees posted online by Alabama School Connection shows some schools in Alabama charging $30 or more for advanced placement courses and other electives. One school was charging $50 for parking.

Lawmakers have already started dipping into the ETF budget. According to a story in the Decatur Daily, millions of dollars have come out so far to pay for the State House building upkeep and for reimbursements for mileage and hotel and restaurant checks for lawmakers in town for the August special session.

That’s the August special session in which they didn’t do anything.

But in a way, that’s just perfect. Because nothing sums up the state of this state better than charging public school students to park at a public school while we use education dollars to reimburse legislators for doing nothing.