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AMSTI, other educational programs, appear to be safe

The state’s education budget could be looking at a $1 billion shortfall from the current budget to next fiscal year. The Senate’s Finance and Taxation-Education Committee approved an initial $5.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2009-10 last week.

There were some initial concerns that budget reductions could negatively impact programs that assist teachers in improving mathematics, science and reading. One of those programs was the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative. Five Butler County Schools are AMSTI schools, with teachers for the school system attending Troy University for training during the summer.

“I’ve gotten so many emails on AMSTI and other educational programs that they (the committee) are trying to fund those programs, even as we speak,” said Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne). “It looks optimistic right now.”

Superintendent Mike Looney said he believed in AMSTI and other state funded programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI).

“I am a staunch supporter of ARI and AMSTI because they are research based and they equip our teachers with the tools necessary to be successful,” he said.

Decreasing funding for these programs would have an impact on our ability to continue our journey of improvement in Butler County. However, it is just as critical to have quality teachers with reasonable class sizes to achieve success.”

AMSTI remains popular with both teachers and students as well.

“Our students love AMSTI Science,” said Dr. Tera Simmons, Greenville Elementary School Principal. “For instance, one student’s mom planned to check her out early one day this year. When the mom came to school, the child was completing an AMSTI science experiment and asked the mom to come back later to check her out.”

Lawmakers believe teacher and support personnel layoffs in public education can be avoided by using stimulus fund money from the federal government. Looney said he didn’t envy the jobs ahead of Gov. Bob Riley, the Alabama Legislature or State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton. The Education Trust Fund budget’s main source of revenue, sales tax, has dwindled in the last couple of years.

“We should all pray for them as they contemplate what is best for boys and girls across our great state in the days to come,” he said.