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Alabama Intervenes in Birmingham District

The Alabama state board of education voted yesterday to assume financial oversight of the 25,000-student Birmingham district, but the district can avoid a full takeover by the state if the local school board follows through on a state-supported plan for cutting its budget.

Thomas R. Bice, the state superintendent of education, told the state board that is "very concerned" that the district might not be able to open in time for the scheduled start of school, Aug. 20, according to an article in the Birmingham News.

On May 31, a state intervention team had recommended a $12 million cost-cutting plan to the local school board, which included cutting close to 200 central office administrators, restructuring some departments, and merging an elementary school with another K-8 school. The cuts were needed to meet a state requirement that the district maintain a month's worth of operating expenses in reserve. For Birmingham, that would mean about $17 million, but the district only had $2 million in reserves, according to this Birmingham News article that lays out the history of the district's current financial struggles.

However, the local school board rejected the state's proposal twice before voting on a modified version Tuesday. The modified plan will keep the elementary school open and includes fewer layoffs of school nurses and social workers.

Bice said the state action was intended to make sure the district stuck to the plan it just approved. If the local board does not, the state could eventually appoint a financial manager to implement the cuts.

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