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Alabama Education Lottery: The Foundation Program Promise

As Governor, I will propose the Alabama Education Lottery (AEL) which if passed by the Legislature would be a constitutional amendment to be voted on in November 2020 by the people of Alabama.

AEL will be a public corporation and will be grounded in transparency, accountability and the unbreakable principle that lottery proceeds will never supplant current and future funding from the Education Trust Fund. AEL’s proceeds will be constitutionally protected ensuring that legislators never divert funding from our classrooms.

Based on conservative estimates, AEL will provide $300 million annually, after prizes and expenses, which will elevate and transform Alabama’s schools and communities with the following initiatives:

  1. College Scholarships and Workforce Readiness: $125,000,000
  2. Universal First Class Pre-K: $90,000,000
  3. The Foundation Program Promise: $60,000,000
  4. Community Innovation Grants: $25,000,000
The Foundation Program Promise

In 1995, the Alabama Legislature enacted the Foundation Program which was designed to settle the “Equity Funding” lawsuit. However, today in schools across our state, inequity still abounds due to chronic shortages in state funding, which is why I am proposing The Promise Program.

Presently, The Foundation Program requires local school systems to contribute 10 mils of property tax while the state would be obligated to fully fund the essential functions of operating a school system. The essential functions include, but are not limited to teachers, administrators, support personnel and support operations such as transportation, child nutrition, custodial, utilities and administration.

Unfortunately, as we know, all revenues are not created equally, especially when it comes to the value of a mil in Alabama’s counties, which has created hardships in classrooms across the state. State law requires every school district to levy a 10 mil property tax for the local share of education funding, which means that districts with high property values raise far more than districts with low property values. So, even though all students have equally high value to society, children in less affluent cities and counties don’t have the same opportunities as their counterparts in communities with more resources. Looking at the extremes dramatically illustrate this point. One mil of property taxes in Mobile County in 2015 generated over $5,000,000 in revenues, whereas the one mil in Linden generated less than $15,000. The median statewide per school district in 2015 was $171,045 per mil.

AEL changes this dynamic by allocating $60 Million to The Promise Program beginning in FY 2021. The Promise Program will distribute these funds to school systems who fall below the statewide median in value per mil in amounts proportional to where the district falls below the median. In other words, the more impoverished a school district is relative to the state as a whole, the greater share the school system will receive from The Promise Program, giving them greater funds for security resource officers (SRO), local teacher units, transportation, instructional supplies, and/or support personnel. If a school does not have an SRO, the allocation must first go toward this expense. The Promise Program will restrict the supplanting of existing Foundation funding within the local school system. Further, it cannot be used for pay increases, debt service, privatization of services, administrative salaries or central office personnel.

It is important that The Promise Program will not take one dime away from any school districts, because we want communities that generate higher local revenue to continue their success. By using lottery revenues – essentially found money – we are not talking about raising taxes or anything resembling a redistribution of wealth. Instead, what we are talking about is a program that will put education dollars where they are needed most, to assist in closing the gap for children with more limited educational opportunities.

The Promise Program will provide school systems local control on how to invest local tax dollars for the unique needs of their students. This has the potential of adding more art, music, foreign language, special education and career-technical teachers throughout Alabama. Further, school systems will be required to report on-line quarterly their investments and the outcomes. Overall, while The Promise Program will not close the educational gap, it will be a major step forward that demonstrates Alabama is committed to increasing opportunities for all its children.

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