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Opinion | Breaking the partisan gridlock: teacher, state employee pay raises

With Democrats and Republicans both in support and prioritizing these pay raises, I believe we will see them become a reality.

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With all the divisiveness in politics these days, it seems rare that lawmakers can agree on anything. But there is one issue coming up this year in Alabama that everyone seems to be on board with: Approving a pay raise for teachers and state employees, and providing a bonus check to retired educators and state employees.

Retirees, especially, are long overdue for a cost-of-living increase. They haven’t received a cost-of-living adjustment since 2007. Imagine not getting a pay raise for 15 years!

Just to compare, let’s look at the cost of some basic, everyday items between 2007 and 2022. In 2007, the price of gas averaged $2.27 per gallon. Today the national average is $3.41. A loaf of bread would cost you $1.15 in 2007, but now it averages $1.53.

Housing. Clothes. Your power and gas bills. All of these have gone up tremendously over the last 15 years. And let’s not even talk about the rising costs of healthcare during that time!

We’ve all felt the impact of these higher prices, but most of us have had some form of pay increase – even if that pay increase wasn’t as much as the cost of living increased. But for our retired educators and state employees, they have gotten exactly zero.

And while a one-time bonus is not what these men and women deserve, it is better than nothing. I still hope that our leaders in Montgomery will eventually approve an actual “pay raise” for these retired public servants, but until they do I am glad to see them at least put forward a bonus to help cover these retirees expenses.

And where would we be without our current teachers and state employees. These men and women kept our state and local community up and running during the shutdown. They taught our children in some of the most difficult circumstances our world has ever faced. They put in more hours than they already were – which was already more than the average 40 hour work week – and they did it all without any pay increase during that time.

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They’ve put their personal health on the line, after many of their colleagues chose to retire they had to pick up an even bigger workload, and they’ve been asked to meet higher and higher standards with students who have had an interrupted education and often had to learn remotely and without the one-on-one help that is so critical to so many kids.

Likewise, our state and local government employees also took on a heavier burden during the pandemic. From law enforcement officers and firefighters, to court clerks, administrative personnel and sanitation department workers, all of these men and women made huge sacrifices to keep our municipal services and basic government functions operating.

Imagine if we had had to go through the pandemic with no one ever picking up our garbage.

Imagine if the courts had been forced to stay closed even longer than they already were, delaying everything from child custody battles to civil lawsuits and criminal proceedings.

Imagine if our sewer and water treatment facilities had all shutdown and we couldn’t get clean water or even flush a toilet.

Our society cannot function without our state and local government employees. They often get put down as “bureaucrats” and have to listen to complaints about things that aren’t their fault. Things we take for granted, like getting permits for construction or renewing our drivers licenses, all rely on our state employees.

Like our educators and retirees, state employees have felt the pressure of higher prices without a pay raise to ease that pain. And they have also felt the pressure of higher demand from the public they serve without the recognition (i.e., pay increase) they have earned.

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Our state has never been in a stronger financial position than we are now. That’s not a license to go spending money like a bunch of sailors on leave, but it does mean we are in a position to give back to those who serve and have served our community in these critical ways.

And with Democrats and Republicans both in support and prioritizing these pay raises, I believe we will see them become a reality. That’s good news for our educators, state employees and retirees! They’ve more than earned it.

Written By

Craig Ford is the owner of Ford Insurance and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.

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