MADISON, Ala. (WHNT)--Bob Jones High School instructor Amy Thaxston was named Madison's Secondary Teacher of the Year Tuesday during the school system's "Institution Day". Every teacher and staff member in the Madison City Schools system was present to get geared up for the new school year and new employees also went through orientation during the half-day conference.
Madison City Schools' employees recognized for excellence were honored in front of their peers and with a check from the school system for $5,000 -- but that figure is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions many state officials say could be at stake for education in 2013.
There were cheers and claps all morning long for special educators but the celebrations turned serious when sobered by talks of state budget issues and a big vote coming up for Alabama schools. The mood in Bob Jones High School's Zomba Auditorium shifted when Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler mentioned September 18.
That is when the state will vote on a constitutional amendment to transfer nearly
$200 million for the 2013 fiscal year from oil and gas revenue held in the Alabama Trust Fund -- and hundreds of millions of dollars more the following two years -- to the state's troubled General Fund.
"To protect our budget," said Fowler in a venue of hundreds, "we have to help."
The budget the Alabama legislature approved this spring counts on voters saying yes.
Dr. Fowler says if the vote is no, the Education Trust Fund could be the next target.
"If this happens with the General Fund," warned Fowler, "prisons will be closed, state troopers will be laid off, Medicaid will almost fold in the state and then to try to patch it there's no doubt in my mind that they will come and get money from the Education Trust Fund."
State polling officials estimate only around 300,000 people will turn out statewide for the special referendum vote in a little more than a month. Dr. Fowler reminded Madison educators to urge their friends and family to vote yes on September 18.