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Proration — Another reason for a new constitution

Gov. Bob Riley’s announcement about budget cuts in education comes as no surprise, considering the depth of the recession nationwide.

Riley declared across-the-board spending cuts, or proration, of 12.5 percent for the $6.3 billion education budget. He plans to use half of the state’s $437 million rainy day fund to bring down the cuts to 9 percent.

This is the largest cut in education spending since the 14.1 percent proration in 1961. In 1991, this state saw 6.5 percent — the second largest.

Riley did not declare proration of the General Fund budget for non-education funds, but said he would reduce the General Fund’s expenditures by 10 percent.

State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton expects public schools not to purchase buses, textbooks or library books. Proration also means fewer teachers because schools won’t fill vacancies.

If anything cries out right now for constitutional reform, Riley’s announcement should be the turning point. The Alabama Constitution of 1901 gives the governor and the Legislature almost no flexibility to match resources with needs in times like these.

The state’s education budget is a prime example.

Public education in the state depends on unreliable funding of income and sales taxes — the first two taxes that drop during a recession when unemployment rises and people hold on to their dollars.

Economic development depends, in a great part, on an educated workforce.