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Nolin opines on possible education lottery

By Leigh Anne Butler

As the academic school year is nearing a close, the Tallassee City School system is looking at upcoming school budgets and funding for the next academic year.

“One of the biggest things we wait on is for the state legislature to make an appropriation,” Brock Nolin, superintendent of Tallassee City Schools stated. “From my perspective, I have a fiduciary responsibility from my job to make sure this board makes sound financial decisions, so I am anxiously waiting on the legislature to go ahead and make the appropriations they’ve submitted for the highest education budget in history.”

At the state level, an education lottery has been proposed as a possible solution to long-standing education challenges the state of Alabama has been facing for years.

“I think (an educational lottery) would be a good thing,” Nolin weighed in on the subject. “I don’t want to get into politics and the whole table games and that kind of thing but it’s one of those things where if you’re in Rome, you might as well do as the Romans do and every state around us is benefiting from (a lottery).”

In 1992, Georgia voters accepted an amendment to approve lottery funds to be used for educational purposes. Most of the money generated goes to fund the HOPE scholarship, which assists students with a “B” or higher high school average.

“The HOPE scholarship in Georgia helps students get their college tuition paid for based on their grades without having to stress and worry about scholarships and things like that,” Nolin elaborated. “(Georgia) teachers are paid quite a bit more than ours. A lottery would help support teacher salaries, teacher units and teacher supplies. I think it would be great for education in Alabama.”

1999 was the last time a proposed lottery bill made it to the state ballot under Gov. Don Siegelman, where it was rejected. While Alabama does not have an education lottery, the four bordering states around it do.

“Now is the time for Alabama voters to have another say on this issue,” Gov. Kay Ivey stated in her State of the State address in early February.

“Everybody wants their pound of flesh. Everybody wants their equal share or cut of things,” Nolin continued. “There are other groups at the table that want their cut too. You’ve got state government, junior colleges, four-year universities and law enforcement that all want their equal share. Everybody wants their portion of it and unless they come to some kind of agreement in both the house and the senate, and everyone is willing to move forward then it won’t go. That’s just the way it is.”

For the next academic school year, Nolin is hopeful for the legislature to release a workable financial budget.

“Usually, the state’s appropriations are for things like constructional funds, transportation and just the things it takes to run a school system. The way the budget works is it’s basically a year in the rear. They take the number of students you have on the 20th day after Labor Day. They fund all your teaching units, library supplies and materials based off how many students are in your system. You usually have a decent idea about going forward but a lot of things like your general operations budget, things like paying for custodians, custodian supplies and just the things it takes to run a financially solvent school system, so I’m waiting on that.”