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School construction, repairs could begin by end of year

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Construction of new schools and repairs to old education buildings could begin by the end of this year, state schools Superintendent Joe Morton said Wednesday after Gov. Bob Riley signed a record education bond issue into law.

Sitting at a desk in the hot sun in front of Montgomery's Dannelly Elementary School, Riley signed the $1.07 billion bond issue approved by the Legislature on May 31. It's the largest bond issue for school construction ever in Alabama and will provide funds to replace or repair decaying school buildings across the state, many that date back to the early 1900s.

Morton said some school systems that have already made plans for construction projects shouldn't have to wait long before they receive some of the money.

"They need to be getting ready now. Hopefully some bonds will be available by the end of the year," Morton said.

The bond issue divides the money with public colleges receiving 25 percent and K-12 schools 75 percent. For K-12 schools, the funds will be divided among all school districts based on enrollment, with even the smallest districts receiving at least $200,000.

Morton said some larger districts will be able to mix the money from the bond issue with funds from other sources, but he said the bond issue formula assures that small rural districts without other options will receive some construction money.

"For some this may be the only money they get," he said.

The bond issue provides some additional funds for school systems in Alabama's economically disadvantaged Black Belt region.

"This allows us to make needed improvements all over the state," Riley said as he signed the legislation, surrounded by educators and legislators, sitting at a large desk set up in the mostly empty parking area in front of the school. Classes are currently out for the summer. Propped up on the front of the desk were two books, "Fox in Socks" by Dr. Seuss and "Sarah Plain and Tall" by Patricia McLachlan.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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