State votes to take over two school systems

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Face to face with proration, the State Department of Education votes to take over 2 school systems because of their faltering finances.

Money is tight for all systems, but Coosa and Sumter counties are basically broke.

But a vote during the run-off election may give the Coosa schools a temporary reprieve.

"I don't think it's ever been this bad," says Lisa McEwen.

McEwen has worked for the Coosa County school system for more than 20 years.  Seeing the system flat broke is heartbreaking.

"It's very discouraging, and yes it does hurt. And we've talked a lot of times about how we take it so personally because we have been here so long," she adds.

Coosa County is one of five school systems borrowing from a line of credit--Choctaw, Marengo, Perry, and Tuscaloosa are, too.

The State Department of Education believes 25 other systems will start borrowing within the next few months.

"It seems that Coosa County has become the poster child," says Coosa County Schools' Superintendent, Dennis Sanford.

The state hasn't taken over yet, but Sanford believes it would have - if residents there hadn't voted to allow extra funds from a 1-cent sales tax to help pay the bills.

"As long as we're able to make payroll and pay our bills and stuff, they do not want to intervene," he says.

The extra money will go to keep the lights on and establish another line of credit to ensure the system's survival until September.

After then, Sanford says he doesn't know what will happen.

"We just are holding our breath. What does next year mean for the whole state of Alabama?"

He believes if the state intervenes, teacher cuts would be imminent.

"They would assess the whole school system."

It's a reality McEwen doesn't like to think about.

"I would be devastated. I mean I can't say I wouldn't be because as I say all the time...teaching is not just a job.  Teaching is a way of life."

The Coosa County commission still has to sign off on using the extra money from the 1 cent sales tax which could be $85,000 dollars for the school system.

Until then, the state is looking at the school system's financial reports daily and helping school officials set up meetings with lenders.

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