Alabama May Borrow $50M to Replace Old School Technology

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Alabama legislature is close to approving a plan to borrow $50 million to replace outdated equipment in high school technology programs, which proponents said will help more students stay in school and get jobs when they graduate.

A bill authorizing a $50 million bond issue has moved through the legislature with bipartisan support.

Proponents have won support by telling stories of students training on outdated equipment that is no longer used by employers, such as 40-year-old welding gear. The equipment problem hinders the State Board of Education from achieving its goal of having every student ready for a job or college upon graduation from high school.

The bond issue legislation cleared the House 93-1 and the Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee 10-0. It now awaits a vote in the Senate. Its sponsor, Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman, said the bond proceeds will go exclusively for equipment used by students. “This is not for brick and mortar,” he said.

Philip Cleveland, workforce development and career tech director for the state Department of Education, said the state hasn’t provided money for new equipment since schools got $10 million in 2005. He said Alabama’s 134 city and county school systems will work with local industry to determine what equipment is needed to get jobs for graduates.

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