Stimulus to save programs, thousands of teacher jobs

Dr. Joe Morton says the stimulus funding will save programs and thousands of education jobs.
Dr. Joe Morton says the stimulus funding will save programs and thousands of education jobs.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In the wake of a depressed economy and prorated funding for education in the state thousands of Alabama teachers' jobs are on the line. But, now help is on the way thanks to stimulus funds earmarked for education.

School superintendents didn't have much to smile about when they looked at the future of Alabama's classrooms earlier this year. The Department of Education had planned major cuts and layoffs for about 3,800 K-12 teachers next year. Now, the state is anticipating receiving almost $600 million for K-12 classrooms.

"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will allow Alabama to fill the 3,790 projected education positions that would be cut," said State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton. "We can fund those for two years....prevent lay-offs and actually, in some cases, hiring new teachers as you have retirements...all through the stimulus money."

Not only does it look like teachers won't be cut, neither will programs. Morton said superintendents will have money to pay for Title One, special ed and technology programs.

Governor Bob Riley decided that the stimulus money would go to education to avoid teacher layoffs, but he warned superintendents to watch their spending. "That does not mean that everyone of you are not going to have to have conservative budgeting," Riley said to school leaders from around the state, "that you're not going to have to make sure that we don't overspend going forward..."

The Governor urged caution because no one can predict how fast the economy will recover or if the state will have to deal with the economic problems in years to come.

Local school leaders are being cautious. "...Lots of good information," said Elmore County School Superintendent Jeff Langham, "but I think it's very important for my leadership team and I to circle the wagon and to see that we can really make everything come to light."

"Lets hope when that money comes in that we can rehire every one at the local level," said Montgomery School Board President Beverly Ross. Ross said she didn't want to say for sure because the money hadn't arrived, but she said she is "very optimistic".

Governor Riley's office said the money for K-12 should arrive on April 1 and the rest of the money the state is receiving, about $133 million, will go to the general fund for agencies like corrections, health and transportation.