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Teacher retirements slow after pay raise goes into effect

By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Retirements among Alabama K-12 employees were down slightly this year, at least in part because of a salary bump approved by lawmakers this year, officials say.

According to data from the Retirement Systems of Alabama, 1,404 employees retired from K-12 schools in June of this year. In June 2021, that number was slightly higher at 1,564 retirements. June 2020 saw 1,374 K-12 retirements.

Neah Scott, Legislative Counsel for RSA, said she believes retirements would have been even higher had it not been for the approval of a salary increase.

“Our numbers [for applications to retire in June] in March were well above what we normally get,” Scott said. “We were at about 1,000, and it looked like we were on track to have an above average number of retirements for the month of June.”

She said June is when most K-12 employees choose to retire each year, but they can apply to do so anytime from March to May. Scott said that the number of applications received in April (after the pay raise was announced) was down significantly from the previous month.

Ultimately, this decline caused the number of June retirements to remain average for 2022. 

Scott also noted a high number of cancellations for teacher retirement applications.

“The only thing that was different during this time period was the salary matrix changes,” she said.

The pay increase is 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.

The raises were included in the $8.2 billion education budget for fiscal year 2023, which the governor signed in April.

“There is absolutely no question the pay raise and adjustments on the teacher salary matrix were successful in keeping teachers in the classroom,” Ryan Hollingsworth, Executive Director of the School Superintendents of Alabama, said. “I had one county superintendent tell me they only lost 1 librarian to retirement and not a single teacher.”

Sally Smith, Executive Director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, said she has also heard of teachers deciding not to retire due to the pay increase, but she said teachers also have other concerns as well.

Teachers are leaving the profession for myriad reasons; pay is only one piece of the puzzle,” Smith said. “Aside from the extreme difficulty and stress of the last two years due to the pandemic and its impact on classroom behavior, we hear a lot about teachers simply feeling unheard and undervalued.”

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