Budget merge is an attack on education

Published 4:23pm Monday, August 18, 2014

In Alabama, it’s no secret that our state government is pressed for cash.

We struggle every legislative session to dole out our dollars for infrastructure, education, prisons, Medicaid and Medicare, as well as a broad list of state agencies that do good work for Alabama.

In legislative budgeting, just like in our household budgets, sometimes it’s easy to overspend or to lose track of our priorities.  After all, that’s what budgets do: they show our priorities.

One way our budgets show our priorities is simply the way they are structured. Alabama has two budgets: the General Fund budget and the Education Trust Fund budget. This allows us to appropriate resources separately–for non-education interests and for education-specific interests.

Until now.

A group of Alabama lawmakers are tossing around the idea of combining the two budgets, making the dollars set aside for education fluid with the rest of the state general fund.

I just can’t support such a blatant attack on public education.

This would be like attaching a debit card to your child’s college fund, then handing it over to your sixteen-year-old because he or she “promised” to be responsible and only use it for emergencies.  Nickel by dime, that fund would deplete and the child left without a future.

The difference here is that the legislators who want to combine the budgets can actually afford to send their kids to private school. They can shoulder the burden of rising tuition costs. To them, it’s just politics.

But to the families of this state who depend on quality public schools and affordable college and career training, this is an affront to the very concept of investing in the future.

In Matthew, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

We have to look at where we’re putting our “treasure” in Alabama. Are we investing it in bigger and better things for our future through education, or are we squandering it on the here and now? Is our heart with our children or with the business interests?

We must decide what our priorities are and the budgeting will take care of itself.

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