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Orr bill will increase school principal pay, professional development

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Sen. Arthur Orr says for years, he’s been told principals are the backbone of schools and essential to the education children receive.

In the upcoming legislative session, Orr, R-Decatur, will file a bill that will pay principals and assistant principals more and develop a pipeline for professional development for the administrators.

“Bringing up their compensation is critical to keeping good principals in education and so much of it comes down to being able to provide for their families,” Orr, chairman of the Senate education budget committee, told Alabama Daily News.

There are about 1,440 public schools across the state and principals’ salaries vary. But on the lowest end, an elementary school leader starts at about $62,000 per year, said Vic Wilson, executive director of the Council of Leaders in Alabama Schools. Wilson has worked with Orr on this bill since last spring.

“All of the research points to a teacher having the largest impact on student learning,” Wilson told Alabama Daily News. “Second only to a teacher are the principals and assistant principals. Last year, we worked hard to ensure that teachers were compensated properly. Now we’re going to be working hard to do the same for our principals and assistant principals.”

Wilson said that some, but not all, administrators, benefited from the 2022 teacher pay raise, based on their salary schedule.

That 2022 teacher pay increase was a blanket 4% raise for teachers with under nine years of experience. For those with nine years or more under their belts, the raise goes up based on experience. 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.

“We’re hitting our stride on making sure educators are adequately compensated,” Orr said. 

A draft bill is still being finalized, but Orr said he expects the principal proposal to cost about $20 million per year.

Wilson said the additional money will come with professional development requirements and, hopefully, mentoring.

“We want to continue to grow our leaders around the state,” Wilson, a former Hartselle City Schools superintendent, said.

While the state has grappled with a shortage of teachers in recent years, Wilson said there are enough principals and assistant principals to fill current roles. 

“But we have a hard time finding people who want to do the job,” he said. “Today’s teacher shortage is tomorrow’s administrators shortage, because the administrators come from the teacher ranks,” Wilson said. 

Orr said he expects broader conversations in the upcoming session about the state’s education funding model.

“But this bill is something I think everyone can agree upon,” he said. “I think this is important to the future of education in our state.”

With recent record revenue in the state’s Education Trust Fund, there will likely be several suggestions on spending possibilities in 2024, including some tax rebates.

The legislative session starts in March.

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