The House Education Budget Committee on Tuesday approved a $5.9 billion education budget for 2016 that lawmakers said is focused on the classroom.
The proposed budget spends $4.1 billion on K-12 education and $1.5 billion on higher education.
The budget now goes to the full House, where a vote could happen as early as Thursday.
Because the House version is slightly different from what the Senate passed last month, the budget will have to return to that chamber.
A few changes were approved in committee, including more funding for the Teach for America program, which the Senate had zero-funded, and the state’s virtual library, which provides online resources for schools.
One change made by committee Chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, was a reduction in the proposed increase for K-12 transportation funding. Compared to last year, the budget increases transportation spending by $4.5 million. But the figure is still too low for state Superintendent Tommy Bice.
“We’ve been trying to get our transportation funding back for a while, so we’re going to have to have some discussion about that between now and when (the budget) gets to the floor,” Bice said.
The state does not fully fund school systems’ transportation expenses.
Poole said House members are supportive of this budget.
“We’ve worked hard as a committee to craft this budget. It reflects the priorities that everyone has as far as getting dollars in the classroom,” Poole said. “I certainly hope it will have broad support on the House floor.”
The House version includes $343 million in operating and maintenance for the two-year college system. That’s about $1 million less than what Gov. Robert Bentley recommended in his budget proposal.
The budget expands funding for dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take career tech courses at community colleges, from $5 million this year to $10.3 million next year.
Athens State University would receive $11.7 million, a slight increase over the current year.
The University of North Alabama would also see a small increase in its appropriation, $27.4 million in 2016.
This budget also includes increases for the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program and textbooks. It does not include a raise for teachers.