Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to expand retirement benefits for education employees.
House Bill 76 is sponsored by State Representative Alan Baker (R-Brewton).
Baker said that Tier III benefits for educators is necessary to encourage teachers to stay in education and to recruit new teachers to the state.
Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) said that this bill addresses “the brain drain on our educators.”
In the wake of the Great Recession, legislators stripped education employees of the ability to retire with full benefits before age 62. This was a cost savings measure as every retired education employee is an enormous drain on the state’s education budget, particularly since the cost of healthcare benefits skyrocketed after the passage of the affordable care act in 2010. At age 65 education retirees are less costly to the state because Medicare picks up roughly 80 percent of their healthcare cost. A retired teacher younger than that, under tier III, would cost the state as much for healthcare as a current employee.
Baker said that his bill, titled the Education Workforce Investment Act, would cost less than a one percent pay raise would.
HB76 would change the retirement structure for public education employees hired after 2013. These changes include allowing employees to retire with benefits after 30 years of service even if they haven’t reached age 62 and would basically undue the cost savings package passed eight years ago.
Baker said that this was necessary to address the growing teacher shortage in the state.
“We have a shortage among educators, particularly we recognize the teachers in the classroom,” Baker said.
Rep. Harry Shiver (R-Stockton) thanked Baker for bringing that bill, “We need to help the education community.”
Representatives voted unanimously 105 to 0 for the bill.
The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate, where it is controversial.
Thursday, Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said that the House bill goes too far. The Senate favors Tier III benefits for teachers, but opposes them for other education employees. The Baker bill includes: bus drivers, education aids, school lunchroom workers, security guards, nurses, clerical people, janitors, etc.
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) defended the House bill.
“They are all part of the education profession because of that we are trying to recruit people to fill all of the pool for the whole of education,” McCutcheon told reporters on Thursday.