BY HEATHER GANN, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Several education spending bills advanced Wednesday, including measures to pay teachers more and let them collect retirement benefits sooner.
The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee took up the House-passed bills, including the 2023 education budget, which it upped to $8.26 billion.
Besides a 4% cost of living increase next year, the substitute budget proposal from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, increases the automatic salary increases educators receive as they advance in their careers.
Currently, pay increases are built into teachers’ salaries every three years. In an effort to attract and retain educators, Orr previously told Alabama Daily News those need to be more frequent. Under current law, there are no step raises after 27 years and, unless they get a Legislature-approved cost of living increase, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is capped at $54,981. That means a teacher who starts at age 22 doesn’t get a guaranteed raise after age 49.
The size of the raise would be based on a teacher’s years of experience. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience would see their salary rise from $51,810 to $57,214. A teacher with a master’s degree and 25 years experience would see their pay rise from $61,987 to $69,151.
“I can’t stress enough how historic these pay raises are,” said Amy Marlowe, executive director of the Alabama Education Association. “We’re hoping this will help us keep teachers in the classrooms.”
The committee also approved House Bill 134, which provides a retirement plan to Tier II teachers after 30 years of service. Currently, teachers under the 2012 Tier II system can’t collect retirement benefits until age 62. Education advocates have said that age requirement deters potential young teachers.
Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, expressed hopes that this bill will improve Alabama’s teacher shortage by both recruiting new teachers and encouraging current teachers to stay in their positions.
The bill was advanced by the committee with an amendment that places a 2% reduction on the payout for every year before the age of 62 that the teacher retires.
The bills now move to the full Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.