By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Alabama Senate leader Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said Monday he expects a “comprehensive education plan” during lawmakers’ 2020 session.
Marsh, the Senate president pro tem, said legislators want to see improvements in education benchmarks, including standardized tests.
“What else can we do as a state to improve education scores?” Marsh said. “And I think it will go beyond a pay raise. There has to be another degree of accountability.”
Alabama students scored last or near last on National Assessment of Education Progress reading and math tests this year, a decline from two years ago.
Marsh, who often sponsors education legislation, said he will likely carry this bill. He said details aren’t available yet, but he’ll be meeting with the Senate Republican Caucus next month.
“Everything is on the table,” Marsh said. “The amount of money being spent, we have to answer taxpayers on why these scores aren’t getting better and what we have to do to improve that.”
This year’s education budget for K-12 and higher learning is $7.1 billion. It’s expected to be larger in 2021.
Marsh said he expects a pay raise for teachers, and lawmakers could considered “deferential” increases in pay based on the subject matter taught.
He also mentioned the need for more National Board Certified Teachers, who earn $5,000 more a year than teachers without the certification. Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has also previously mentioned the possibility of paying teachers based not just on years of service, but what they’re teaching, as a way to address teacher shortages.
“I think we need to explore how to better attract educators—particularly those in under-represented areas of expertise,” Orr said Monday. “Additional compensation should certainly be examined as a means of getting educators in certain areas like math and science. That’s what we do in the business world when we are trying to recruit a particularly needed talent for a company.”
A comment from the Alabama Education Association about what it wants to see for teachers in 2021 wasn’t available Monday.
In the 2019 session, Marsh successful sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to replace the state’s elected state board of education with one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Alabamians will vote on it March 3.
“Regardless of that (amendment), we have to start laying some goals out there,” Marsh said.
The legislative session begins Feb. 4.