Public schools chief: closures inevitable

Posted by Max Reiss – bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – As a matter of fact, Dr. Joe Morton, the State's Superintendent of Education said Alabama will likely have no choice but to close some public schools.

"It's a very difficult time to manage public education" Morton said in an interview.

Governor Robert Bentley remarked last week, "We're not planning on closing any schools" after he signed a bill into law that changes the way Alabama will budget for education starting next year.

But Morton said keeping all of the state's schools open could be detrimental in the long run. He described how several of the state's districts are currently undergoing population and demography reviews that will yield results on where schools may need to be consolidated.

"We've got a consolidation going on now in Sumter County where two high schools are being merged into one and they're going into a new facility" Morton Said. "Things happen like that and they should happen every year, that's good management."

One of the places where Morton said will most certainly see reductions in facilities and personnel are in the Huntsville City School District.

Morton said "A lot of that district's budget is unfortunately wrapped up in personnel."

Last week Morton had voiced some concern about Governor Bentley's education budget recommendations, which were below the one requested by the department. Morton said even when Governor Bob Riley was in office, he couldn't recall a year where there was a perfect agreement on spending levels.

"There are many good aspects to the governor's budget" said Morton. "The governor and I are not "fighting" quote unquote. It's just an analysis of the budget. There's nothing personal about it"

Morton also delved into the possibility of the state intervening with some struggling school districts. The state typically will take over the local operation of school districts that are cash-strapped. In those cases the state is typically used as the creditor in order to secure a loan.

"It's not something we want to do, but often times it's something we have to do" Morton said.

There are no specific plans to intervene with additional school districts as of yet.

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