By SHERRY DIGMON
In last week’s edition [July 3, 2019], Atmore News reported the Alabama legislature passed the largest state education budget in history with salary increases and more funds for pre-K and lower grades.
How does this budget affect the Escambia County public school system?
Chief School Financial Officer Julie Madden supplied information to specific questions posed by Atmore News.
In a special meeting June 27, the Escambia County Board of Education approved the salary schedule which included the 4 percent increase for all school employees. The state’s increase doesn’t go into effect until October 1, 2019, however, the county Board of Education voted to begin the raise on July 1, 2019 through September 2019. The timing of the increase is determined by the employee’s contract. The raise amounts for the period July through September 2019 will be paid from local funds, not state.
The increase is for all personnel with the exception of the superintendent. That is the only position that requires a separate vote by the Board in order for the raise to be included in his salary.
Statewide, the budget funds more teachers for grades 3 through 6. This change resulted in in an increase of 1.44 teacher units for Escambia County for fiscal year 2020.
The budget included an increase in the state’s prekindergarten program from $96 million to $123 million. According to published reports, the program, called First Class, has won national acclaim for its quality but is not available statewide. Escambia County already has five of the First Class pre-k programs: Rachel Patterson Elementary has two; W.S. Neal Elementary has two; Flomaton Elementary has one. Madden said the system will maintain the five programs for yearend 2020.
Finding and hiring certified teachers is a challenge for most rural school systems. Perhaps some relief will come in Escambia County with the salary increase which brings the starting teacher salary to $40,877 – that’s with a bachelor’s degree and no experience.