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Superintendent proposes state K-12 budget ideas

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — On Thursday, state education Superintendent Joe Morton presented a proposed 2009 budget summary, which includes $224.2 million in new spending, to the State Board of Education.

Morton said if the Legislature and Gov. Bob Riley approved the request, the state would have $22 million for teachers in grades 4-8. The funding increase would pay for 342 new middle school teachers.

The budget also would provide a $10 million increase for the ACCESS Distance Learning Initiative, and $15 million more for both the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, and the Alabama Reading Initiative. All are programs in which Alabama shines nationally, Morton said.

Morton also wants $13 million more for dropout prevention and $29.4 million for transportation, including replacing school buses 10 years old or older.

The board also discussed continuing increases in the cost of education employee benefits. Board member Randy McKinney, R-Gulf Shores, said about 25 percent of the department's budget now goes to such costs.

Betty Peters, R-Dothan, said it may be time to consider employees paying more of the cost of benefits.

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