The Alabama Senate passed a $5.5 billion education budget, but not before making some changes to distribution of funds to two-year colleges and saying it expects more changes to be made in the state House.
The total budget is about $151 million, or 2.6 percent, smaller than this year’s, with, K-12 schools getting 1.6 percent less than this year.
Two-year colleges are down 5.1 percent and allocations for universities decreased by 4.8 percent.
Senators spent about 2 1/2 hours debating the budget, some making pleas for more money for their local schools.
Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said he would support the budget that still has to go to the House because he knew it’s not the “final product.”
He suggested borrowing $150 million to $200 million from the education budget to help shore up the state’s Medicaid budget.
“I ask you to be sensitive to the needs of Medicaid,” Bedford said. “If we can borrow the money and pay it back, it is a wise investment.”
Meanwhile, some Senators balked at the 26 percent increase in funding for prison education.
“If there is going to be an increase, than I think we should put that in the K-12 (funding),” said Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman. “The youths of Alabama should be a priority (over the prisoners.)”
The allocation of $10.6 million was encouraged by Gov. Robert Bentley, said Sen. Trip Pittman, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee. He said he would discuss with Bentley reducing that amount.