The Alabama House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation giving all education employees, including two-year college employees, an across-the-board 2 percent pay raise.
Senate Bill 188 is sponsored by state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and carried on the floor of the House by state Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, who chairs the House Ways and Means Education Committee.
Poole said that this is for all K-12 school system employees including employees of the two-year college system.
“The PEEHIP (Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program) is also funded; so that the teacher match (for their health insurance) will not go up,” Poole said. “The retirement system request is fully funded.”
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville said: “The workload for teachers this year has been incredibly difficult; and it is going to be even more difficult next year when they go back.”
The Legislature has just passed a resolution praising Alabama educators for the work that they have done during the global pandemic.
Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, chairs the House Education Policy Committee.
Collins said: “I think they have learned to do new things in new ways and I appreciate them (teachers).”
While education employees will see their pay increase, education retirees will have to make do with the pension check that they have now.
State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said: “We need to really look hard and take it serious to give retired teachers a raise. We should be able to figure out a way.”
“Why do we not take serious giving our retired educators a raise?” Givan asked.
Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, told Poole for his work as the House budget chairman: “I want to join other members in commending you. It is a tough tough job.”
Gaston said: “We want to keep the Teachers Retirement System strong. You have done a good job in this.”
Poole explained that, “Paying even a $500 bonus for retired teachers would cost the state more than $40 million.”
Poole added that Cost of Living Adjustments, or COLAs, “are very expensive and are a longtime liability.”
State Rep. Kerri Rich, R-Albertville, said: “Our retirement system is a defined benefit plan. The retirement you get is the retirement you get for as long as you live.”
Rich asked how much a two percent COLA would cost the education budget. Poole answered that “a 2 percent COLA would cost $200 million.”
“And it would keep costs hundreds of millions every year,” Rich said.
Poole said that the costs for “PEEHIP and the retirement system exceed $1 billion annually.”
“We have worked very hard to improve the funding rations and the fiscal health of the retirement system,” Poole said. “The funding ratio has reached above 70 percent which is a substantial improvement.”
“Thank you for what you have done to keep the retirement system sound,” Rich said. “There are a bunch of them (state retirement systems) that are not.”
The legislation to give public employees a raise and pay raise will go into effect on Sept. 30.
The legislation passed the House of Representatives in a 100 to 1 vote. The House also passed the TEAMS Act, which raises the salary schedule for math and science teachers so that they will make more money moving forward. The salary schedule for all teachers was adjusted so that periodic step raises would be at least 2 percent. The state has had some difficulty retaining teachers and is seeking to make the compensation package more competitive with the private sector as well as other states.
Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, told the Legislature that in addition to the shortage of certified math and science teachers, the state also faces a shortage of certified special education teachers it should address and that those positions are essential to making sure that those students with learning difficulties and intellectual disabilities reach their maximum potential.
Teachers did not receive a pay increase in last year’s budget package due to concerns that revenues would drop due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The education budget package also included substantial increases in classroom supplies and classroom technology. Areas that teachers often have to supplement out of their own pocket.
While the pay raise bill now goes to the governor, the 2022 education budget bill and the TEAMS Act both have to go back to the Alabama Senate for their concurrence on the House substitutes of those bills.
Thursday will be the 27th day of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Legislature is limited to a maximum of 30 days in a regular session by the 1901 Constitution.