State lawmakers have a challenging math problem- how to maintain current education programs with more students but less money? Add to that a request from higher education for a bigger piece of the pie and it gets even more complicated.
Alabama's education budget will lose hundreds of millions from federal stimulus dollars next fiscal year, and educators want the state to pick up the tab.
But the Education Trust Fund is down again.
Everything at UAB is growing- its campus, its student body, its tuition, even the billions of dollars it generates for the state.
Now, state university presidents want some of that back in the form of a bigger piece of the Education Trust Fund.
"The kinds of things that have been done are eliminating staff, faculty positions, increasing the size of classes, hiring more adjunct professors," said UAB President Carol Garrison during the education budget hearing in Montgomery.
The request is to increase its budget from 1.4 billion to 1.6 billion dollars. That's to off-set the loss of federal money and to cover additional costs that came with a 28 percent increase in enrollment.
K-12 also saw an enrollment increase of two percent and wants a five percent increase to 3.8 billion dollars.
"We don't want to get up to 24th and slip back to 49th. That's a legacy no one wants to take with them," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton.
Morton credits the reading initiative, AMSTI and distance learning programs for the gains. He wants to maintain them and find funding for technology, libraries and professional development. But he realizes the fund is expected to be down one percent next year without proration.
"We very well may have to raise class size. It may be the only way to get a budget or cut the number of days teachers must work," said Morton.
Legislators say tough decisions will be made.
"We just flat broke and you have two and a half proration and one billion off the top of the budget," said Representative John Rogers, (D) Birmingham.
Cuts could involve fewer school days and higher tuition.