Alabama’s Education Trust Fund, which collects specific taxes and fees to fund public education as a part of the state budget, enters fiscal 2010 today with a shortfall that requires budget cuts of 7.5%, known in the state as proration.

“Given the state of the economy, we’ve anticipated for several months now that the education budget would enter fiscal year 2010 in proration, but it’s still very unfortunate and I wish it wasn’t necessary,” Gov. Bob Riley said in a statement Tuesday.

“Unlike the federal government, we cannot run deficits. Revenues are not at the level necessary to avoid spending cuts. With less revenue coming in and the escalating costs of employee health insurance, there’s no way to avoid it.”

Costs for education workers’ health insurance have “skyrocketed,” Riley said, noting they were $1.13 billion in fiscal 2009 compared to $660 million in 2003, an increase of 72%.

Starting fiscal 2010 with cuts of 7.5% will bring the education budget down to $5.3 billion.

The governor urged lawmakers to protect funding for education initiatives that have improved student achievement, such as reading, math, science and technology initiatives, as well as pre-kindergarten programs.

In mid-July, Riley released $100 million from Alabama’s rainy-day fund for education to help maintain funding levels, leaving $116 million in the fund.

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