By House Minority Leader, Craig Ford
There are several factors that can influence a child’s ability to learn: their economic situation, parental involvement, access to resources like modern technology and current textbooks, and classroom sizes.
But a key ingredient to child’s academic success is having good teachers and support personnel in our schools. We have all known teachers who impacted our lives or inspired us to achieve more than we thought we could. None of us would be where we are today if we had not had teachers who taught us skills like reading and math – skills that are crucial to functioning in the modern world.
And yet, despite how our teachers supported us, and how today’s teachers support our children, our state is not supporting them.
Our state has never paid educators as well as most other states. Not only have our teachers and support personnel not had a cost of living pay increase since 2007, the Republicans in the Alabama legislature have actually cut educators pay by 2.5 percent.
In Alabama, we still ask teachers to use their personal money to purchase basic supplies for their classrooms. We have cut funding for classroom supplies, and in some schools have even forced teachers to pay out of their own money to print out worksheets and other handouts for their students.
I have personally known of teachers who had to get up at four o’clock in the morning to work a second part-time job, go to school and teach all day, then stay at school until ten or even eleven o’clock at night while they waited on kids parents to pick them up after their football games and other extracurricular activities. Then they get up the next day and do it all over again. And that does not include the time they spend in the evenings and weekends grading papers and preparing lesson plans.
To their credit, most teachers never complain about the cuts to their pay. These men and women did not choose to become professional educators for the money. They chose this career because they care about our children’s education and future. They are also willing to put up with getting paid less than similarly educated people in other professions because education has typically offered certain benefits and job security that are better than what they could get in the private sector.
However, since the Republicans took over our state legislature, they have worked tirelessly to reduce or end those benefits. And still, most teachers and support personnel do not complain because their concern is more for their students than for themselves.
If we continue to chip away at teachers’ and support personnel’s pay and benefits, then our children will suffer and fewer young people will choose to become educators. After all, passion for education does not pay the bills or put food on the table. Our teachers and support personnel deserve a cost of living pay increase, and I will proudly introduce a bill to do that when the legislature returns to Montgomery.