I received positive feedback from all local superintendents and school boards regarding the proposed budgets. Highlights of the Education Budget include Current Units funding – was $0, now $14M. This is important for growing systems such as those in Madison and Limestone Counties. In years past a system would not receive funding for students that moved into the district over the summer months until the following school year; not a problem for a system growing by 30 students a year...a very big problem for a system growing by 300 students a year. The voluntary Pre-K program was also increased by $13M (from $0 in 2011 to $54M in 2015). I’m told that Pre-K is an important program in that it reinforces cognitive learning in the early years and has a positive impact in that children have a foundation to build upon in the early grades. Other highlights include a reduction in the divisor for 7 – 8 grades (reduced divisors equal smaller class sizes), and level funding of PEEHIP; the Public Employee and Educators Health Plan. The Teacher Retirement System was another story; a total of $6.6M was moved to TRS as law requires the legislature to make up the differences in returns on investment – which unfortunately continue to fall short of projections.
I also passed two veterans related bills in today’s Senate actions. SB263 authorizes state agencies to establish a veteran’s preference for employment and HB2, a bill that establishes the Stolen Valor Act as related to persons fraudulently representing themselves as having received military decorations or medals with the intent to defraud. It is unfortunate that a Stolen Valor Act is required but I am honored to have assisted in making this legislation law.
Semper Fi - Bill