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December 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Several bits of Alabama education news came out recently.

  • High School Graduation Rate Rises: The State Department of Education recently announced the high school graduation rate has risen to 86 percent. In 2011, the rate was 72 percent; in 2012 it rose to 75 percent, and in January 2013, it was reported at 80 percent. The increase means the state is four years ahead of schedule with the department’s plan to reach 90 percent by 2020. According State School Superintendent Tommy Bice, each percentage gain represents about 600 additional students graduating from Alabama high schools. The graduation rate is calculated using the National Governors’ Conference graduation rate formula. A recent report commissioned by the Business Education Alliance showed that reaching a 90 percent graduation rate would have a positive economic impact on the state of $430 million.
  • State Gets $17.5 Million to Expand Pre-K Programs: The State of Alabama was approved to receive $17.5 million under the federal Preschool Development Grants program to develop more pre-kindergarten programs in the state. Alabama was one of 18 states to be awarded grants and received the second-highest grant award amount, just behind Arizona’s $20 million grant. The grant will be renewed over the next three years. State officials say the funds could add up to 75 classrooms over the next year, bringing an additional 1,350 students into the voluntary program.
  • New Oversight for Teachers’ Pension System?: State Finance Director Bill Newton recently asked the board of control for the teachers’ retirement system to consider broader oversight of the fund due to the downward trend in the ratio of assets to liabilities. Newton said the pension system had a funded ratio of over 100 percent in 2000, but that has dropped to 64 percent. The board did not act on the recommendation. Retirement Systems chief Dr. David Bronner called the idea a slap at him and the staff. He pointed to the system’s recent returns, which are in the top 13 percent in the country.

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