Bill changes state funding for students in growing school systems

Bill changes state funding for students in growing school systems

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A bill in the Alabama Senate would change the per-student funding model for growing K-12 schools, taking some burden off of local systems to pay for additional students, advocates say.

Currently, systems receive a per-pupil allocation from the state based on prior year enrollments.

Senate Bill 316 would change the funding formula to account for enrollment increases, projecting growth based on the previous two years’ enrollment growth.

“The goal is to make sure we’re covering the cost of the students and not putting it on local systems,” bill sponsor Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope, told Alabama Daily News. “We don’t want to penalize growing systems.” 

Senate Bill 316 was approved in the Senate education budget committee Monday evening. 

“If your system is declining, you’re still getting funding on prior-year numbers,” Elliott told committee members. 

Elliott worked with the Alabama State Department of Education on SB316.

“It’s a rewrite of the way we fund student growth,” State Superintendent Eric Mackey told Alabama Daily News. “It is a more reasonable growth model.” 

Mackey said the state’s growing systems are often crowded, with “diluted services” because state funding hasn’t kept up with growth. 

“This school year, there are 6,474 students  enrolled in 59 systems that aren’t in the Foundation Program,” Elliott said. The state Foundation Program is supposed to support schools’ basic functions.

Elliott’s bill has the support of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

“We just see it as an improvement and move in the right direction,” AASB Executive Director Sally Smith said.