By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, April 13, the Alabama Senate approved a cost of living adjustment for teachers and education employees when it passed HB21 sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa).
The House bill was heavily amended in the Senate.
Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) amended the bill to include principals and assistant principals in the four percent raise. “They are the backbone of the schools,” Orr said. The bill that came from the House gave a four percent raise to all education employees making $75,000 or less. That would have included virtually all teachers since the pay scale for teachers had maxed out at $62,000. Employees making more than $75,000 were limited to two percent raises. Many principals are in this category. Orr’s amendment would give all principals and assistant principals the full four percent raise no matter what they earn now. Orr estimated that the cost of the principal raises would be $4 million.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) also amended the bill. Currently teachers who obtain advanced degrees get paid more money. Marsh changed that. Under the Marsh amendment for a teacher to get paid more for a higher degree it has to be in an area of need, the teacher has to teach that course, and the school system gets input into whether or not they want to pay for it. Marsh said that under the current scale a teacher with just three years of experience can get a higher degree and make more than a teacher who has been there for 20 years. “That is not right.” Sen. Marsh said that teachers currently with higher salaries because they have advanced degrees (Master’s degree, Ed. Specialist, and Doctorates) would be grandfathered in under the current system. Marsh has long been critical of the system where teachers get Masters degrees and their pay goes up.
While teachers, principals, two year college employees, and other education workers got four percent raises, Alabama’s retired education employees were not so lucky. The retired education employees have not gotten any raise since 2008. They had requested a one-time bonus.
Chairman Orr said that the money to do that was not there; but promised that the bonus would be the first priority in the 2018 budget.
Since the Senate amended the pay raise bill which accompanied the education budget, it has to go back to the House where they can either concur or move to settle their differences in a conference committee.
The bill, as amended, passed 30 to 0.
Chairman Orr said, “If you are going to attract quality people to education, it is imperative that you compensate them accordingly. The legislature understands this and that it’s been nine years since educators have seen a true raise. I’m pleased the support was overwhelming.”
Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) said, “I am so thankful for the individuals that pour their lives into our children. It was the highlight of the day to vote ‘aye’ on giving educators a permanent pay increase.”
This was only the second teacher pay raise since 2008.