K-12 department wants $300 million more from lawmakers

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) State Department of Education officials asked state lawmakers for $300 million more during Wednesday's education budget hearing.

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said a large portion of that ask would go toward the Alabama Literacy Act’s implementation. Lawmakers passed the act during the 2019 session to improve reading scores for K-3. The Act is most notable for holding back third-graders if they do not pass their standardized test.

As part of the new legislation, it would provide additional reading specialists and programs. The department requested about $50 million for the implementation.

Other requests include money for school safety and mental health. The department requested about $5.6 million to fund a services coordinator. These coordinators would be placed in each school system and would help direct students to the correct mental health resources.

“Teachers do feel overwhelmed with serious mental health problems and family issues that children are bringing to the classroom," Mackey said. “And eachers are trying to teach reading, they are trying to teach math, they are trying to move their students on and they don’t know how to deal with these things and they don’t have time to appropriately deal with them.”

The department requested more money for classroom supplies, professional development, textbooks and technology. For example, currently $600 is given to each teacher for classroom supplies. Mackey asked lawmakers for an increase of $1,000 per teacher.

Other requests include $3.3 million for math coaches, $2.7 million for regional specialists and $1 million to expand computer science courses.

The Department of Early Childhood Education, the Community College System, and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education also presented their budget requests. Lawmakers will listen to budget presentations for the general fund Thursday.

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