Bracing for impact: Talk of 10% education cut in 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP/WSFA) - WSFA 12 News obtained a copy of Gov. Robert Bentley's letters in which he is asking education officials how their schools and colleges would be affected by a 3 percent budget cut this year and 10 percent drop in funding next year.

A second note deals specifically with the General Fund which was sent to Cabinet heads.

Bentley's office was very clear that the letters are not a declaration of proration, "but an attempt by Governor Bentley and [Finance Director David Perry] to find realistic solutions to the budget deficits."

Alabama's superintendent of education, Joe Morton, and the two-year college chancellor, Freida Hill, said Thursday they received letters from Bentley's administration seeking the information.

Morton said a 10 percent reduction for the 2011-2012 school year would be devastating.

In the letter, Governor Bentley and Finance Director Perry tell Morton and Hill that "no cut is too large or too small for consideration at this stage..." The letter goes on to say that Morton and Hill should use "judgement and your leadership in determining which options would be most prudent." A meeting is set for February 2nd to review those potential cuts.

Bentley said Thursday he is considering whether to order across-the-board cuts in this year's education budget. He said he has no timetable for deciding, but he is hopeful the economy will pick up enough to avoid cuts.

Bentley's predecessor, Bob Riley, cut last year's education budget 7.5 percent and the prior year's budget 11 percent because of the recession.

The governor's office says its 10 percent FY 2012 figure reflects a loss of federal funds that will not be available next year.

When asked about the governor's letter, Rep. Jay Love, (R - Montgomery), the new chairman of the Ways and Means Education Committee that crafts the state's education budget in the Alabama House of Representatives said, "I have not spoken to the governor about possible cuts."

Love went on saying, "I had done my own investigation into the funding because the trust fund hasn't shown growth in recent years. I had a feeling it would happen."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. WSFA 12 News contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.)