By CAROLINE BECK and MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey wants $22 million for K-12 school security improvements in the 2020 education budget.
This would be the first time money specifically for school safety was in the budget, Mackey told reporters after a budget hearing before state lawmakers Tuesday.
The money could be spent on a variety of safety measures, including school resource officers, mental health counselors, cameras and access point monitoring, locks and new emergency response technology, Mackey said.
“One of the things we want to do is make sure all parents know when their students come to school, they’ll be safe and they’ll be protected and they’ll be in a good learning environment,” Mackey said.
“… Parents have been asking for increased security on campuses and we want it to be balanced security. We don’t want every child going through a metal detector, we do want to have high-quality learning and for students to have that, we think they’re going to have to feel safe and secure at school.”
The security funding goal is $22 million allocated to state school systems at $30 per student. Schools would be allowed to spend the funds on school safety features that best fit them. Locks have been the biggest safety request from most schools systems, Mackey said.
Tuesday’s budget hearings were a chance for lawmakers to hear directly from education leaders about their financial needs. Early projections show the state’s will have several hundred million more in tax-generated revenue to put toward the Fiscal Year 2020 education budget than this year’s $6.6 billion.
Mackey also requested more funding for students who are learning English for the first time. To told lawmakers $400 per English language learning student is needed, up from $130 currently.
Mackey is also requesting additional funding for classroom instructional support, student materials, technology, professional development, textbooks and transportation.
Jeana Ross, head of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, did not request a specific amount of funding during her presentation on the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program. The number of 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K grows each year, but there are still thousands on a waiting list, Ross said.
Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, requested funding increases in 2020, including:
- $29 million for operation and maintenance for colleges;
- $20 million for workforce development;
- $3.5 million for school safety and security;
- $2 million for correctional and post-correctional education services including expanding services offered to parolees.
- $2 million to expand distance learning and online offerings across the state.
Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear requested Tuesday an increase of $7.2 million from the education budget and $32.4 million from the General Fund budget. Beshear said the largest barrier to providing adequate mental health care in Alabama is the lack of qualified and well-trained mental health counselors and workforce. Inadequate wages is a main driver of the problem, Beshear said. She wants $5.8 million for increased salaries.
Budget hearings continue today and will include the Alabama Department of Corrections and the Medicaid Agency, the two most costly agencies in the General Fund.
The 2020 budget-making process will officially begin March 5 when the legislative session begins.