A Senate committee on Wednesday authorized significant raises for experienced teachers in the state’s K-12 schools for the coming school year, with some of the hikes reaching as high as 21%.
The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee adopted the measure on Wednesday, keeping a 4% salary boost for instructors with fewer than nine years of service.
The proposal also includes a 1% annual raise for K-12 public school teachers with nine years of experience or more, as well as the elimination of a pay maximum after 27 years of service. It differs from the present wage system, which gives teachers automatic raises every three years, and instead gives them raises every year.
After the committee vote, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, said the amendment sought to increase teacher retention in the state.
“If I’m an educator, and I’ve got to wait every three years to hit unless the Legislature does something different with an overall rise, that doesn’t breathe a lot of confidence in staying in the job,” he said.
Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, leader of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, said the state was losing teachers in the midst of their careers.
“We were competitive on the low end of the range,” he said. “We were competitive in the upper end of the range. In the middle of the range, we were not so competitive.”
According to a 2019 report to the Alabama Department of Education, roughly 8% of teachers quit the profession each year, and 30% of classrooms are taught by someone who does not have a teaching degree. Only 523 first-time secondary teaching certifications were given in the 2017-18 school year, according to the study.
While the number of teachers in Alabama has increased from 45,463 in 2016 to 47,464 in 2021, bachelor’s degrees in teaching disciplines have decreased by 26% since 2003, according to a report released in December by the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services.
Individuals working on special education credentials in Alabama were allowed to begin teaching classes in January by the Alabama State Department of Education.
While Alabama has always been competitive in terms of teacher compensation at the entrance level, it has failed to stay up with other states in terms of pay for mid- and late-career teachers. That, according to Orr, was a factor in the salary matrix change.
“We need to keep moving them along financially and not let them fall behind financially,” Orr said.
Superintendent of State Schools Eric Mackey said he was “overjoyed” by the plan on Wednesday. He believes it will encourage teachers who are nearing retirement to remain on and increase their pension.
“This really gives people an incentive to stay,” he said. “I think it sends a clear message to teachers that they are appreciated.”