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Sunday, December 04, 2022

Alabama lawmakers push for historic pay hikes for teachers

MONTGOMERY, Ala. ( Associated Press) — Alabama lawmakers are set to approve the biggest pay increase in a generation for veteran public school teachers in an effort to prevent teachers from skipping state classes.

The Alabama Senate voted 32-0 on Thursday for a budget that would raise the minimum wage for teachers with nine or more years of experience. The growth will range from 5% to around 21% depending on the years of experience.

Arthur Orr, chairman of the budget writing committee, said the goal is to encourage experienced teachers to be in the classroom and attract more students to the teaching field. The spending plan now goes back to the Alabama House of Representatives where House leaders have expressed support for the raise.

“Hopefully, seeing those pay increases, we’ll have more people living in academia saying, ‘I’m out, I’m tired,'” said Orr, a Republican from Decatur.

The size of the increment will be based on years of experience of the teacher.

The salary of a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience will increase from $51,810 to $57,214. The salary of a teacher with a master’s degree and 25 years of experience will increase from $61,987 to $69,151.

There will be a 4% increase in teachers with less than nine years of experience.

Orr said the state has competitive salaries for new teachers compared to surrounding states, but the state is “falling behind” in the salaries of mid-career teachers.

The offer will also provide an automatic 1% annual increase and eliminate the salary cap that currently phases out growth after 27 years of teaching. Orr said teachers should give – and those who consider teaching as a career – some minimum guarantee of how their pay will increase over time.

School systems in Alabama and across the country have reported concerns about teacher shortages, especially as the coronavirus pandemic hastened the wave of retirements. This has prompted states to look at wage hikes and other measures to try to recruit and retain teachers.

Amy Marlowe, executive director of the Alabama Education Association, said the positive response from teachers has been “simply overwhelming.”

“It will do more to put people in orbit than we originally thought,” Marlow said.

Marlow said the school system is seeing teacher shortages in all subjects and in all grades as teachers leave the classroom for retirement or other jobs. He said that unless something is done, the state is in the grip of a staffing cliff.

Under the current proposal, teachers with 35 years of experience would see a record-setting growth of about 21% annually, Marlowe said. Marlow said teachers last saw big pay increases in the 1980s, when lawmakers approved a 15% increase for two consecutive years during George Wallace’s last term as governor.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed on Wednesday A law authorizing pay increases for public school teachers in that state, which has long been one of the lowest-paid teachers in the country.

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