By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday approved the largest teacher pay raise in a generation in an effort to keep experienced educators in the classroom.
The raises are included in the education trust fund budget that got final approval when the Alabama House of Representatives agreed, without a dissenting vote, to Senate changes. The budget bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.
The $8.2 billion budget is a record level of school spending for the state and a $550 million increase over the current fiscal year’s budget. It includes a $200 increase in per-classroom supply spending, $20 million for math coaches under the Alabama Numeracy Act, and new investments in workforce development.
Teachers with nine or more years of experience would get raises ranging from 5% to up to nearly 21% for those with 35 years of classroom experience. Teachers with less than nine years of experience would see a 4% raise.
School systems in Alabama and across the country have reported concerns about teacher shortages, particularly as the coronavirus pandemic accelerated a wave of retirements. That has led states to look at pay increases and other measures to try to recruit and retain educators.
Rep. Danny Garrett, the chairman of the House budget-writing committee, said the goal is to make public school salaries more competitive for mid-career educators.
“Already, we’ve heard of teachers who are reevaluating their retirement based upon this compensation. We’re actually competing with the private sector for some of these teachers. I think this goes a long way to make it very competitive,” Garrett said.
A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience would see their minimum salary rise from $48,822 to $51,795.
A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience would see their minimum salary rise from $51,810 to $57,214.
A teacher with a master’s degree and 25 years experience would see their minimum salary rise from $61,987 to $69,151.
Amy Marlowe, executive director of the Alabama Education Association, said there has been a positive response from educators.
“We’ve had so many who have said they are actually going to stay in the classroom who were considering retirement. I think it will go a long way toward the intent of the Legislature of retaining teachers,” Marlowe said.
She said the budget also provides “much needed resources in Alabama classrooms,” such as technology coordinators and reading and math coaches.
The spending plan would also provide an automatic 1% yearly raise for educators and do away with a salary cap that currently ends step raises after 27 years of teaching.
Alabama teachers last saw large pay raises in the 1980s when lawmakers approved 15% increases for two consecutive years during George Wallace’s last term as governor.