February 15, 2016 10:39 AM
As the Alabama Legislature wraps up the second week of the 2016 legislative session, most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are in agreement that revenue is available to provide educators with a much needed pay increase.
Governor Robert Bentley has been widely criticized by members of the Legislature and the education community for his budget proposal, which contained only a two percent pay raise. Only two percent – even though the state will see an increase of at least $350 million in the 2017 education budget. The question remains, how much will the raise be?
While aiming to restore Alabama classrooms to pre-recession funding levels, budget chairmen are also looking to provide additional revenue for PEEHIP and TRS in addition to an educator pay raise. Each percent increase for all K-14 education employees and retirees costs $51 million.
As we work through the session, AEA is advocating everyday at both the Statehouse and in the hometowns of local legislators for the highest possible pay increase for all K-14 employees and retirees. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice has requested a five percent increase for all K-12 employees, while Alabama Community College Chancellor Dr. Mark Heinrich called for a 10 percent increase for everyone working in Alabama’s two-year colleges.
Governor Bentley seemed to be alone in his request for such an insignificant pay hike until a member of the K-12 education family, Sally Howell Smith with the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB), predictably shot the first arrow to deny dedicated educators their first decent pay raise in over nine years.
In the February 5 issue of the AASB publication Advocate for Schools, AASB raised concerns over a five percent raise stating, “the financial outlook appears unable to sustain that increase and other needs over the next several years.” Legislators and education leaders throughout the state were puzzled to read such a baseless, unsolicited and incorrect proclamation coming from the group that had previously heralded Alabama’s current education funding formula, the Rolling Reserve Act, as the cure-all for “unsustainable” educator pay raises.
What’s changed? Is the AASB questioning the revenue made available under the restrictive formula of the Rolling Reserve? Are they admitting there might be a flaw in a funding plan that keeps millions in available education revenue out of Alabama’s cash-strapped classrooms only to place it in a savings account ripe for diversion?
Unfortunately, nothing has changed. The recent statement by AASB is just the latest action that has education leaders questioning the motives of AASB Executive Director Sally Howell Smith. After all, it was Smith who worked tirelessly last year to pass a Charter School law that removed control from local school boards – the same local boards that use taxpayer money to pay AASB dues and exorbitant fees to participate in state-mandated AASB workshops.
To add insult to injury after the passage of the Charter School law, Smith was appointed to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission – the newly created board formed to directly overrule the decisions of local school boards!
Are local school board members aware of Smith’s actions in Montgomery? AEA receives calls from concerned local board members over the amount of taxpayer money intended for local classrooms that has to instead be sent to AASB for numerous required fees in addition to board membership dues. Are your local school board members aware that AASB is working to lower your hard-earned pay increase?
AEA believes local school boards are the necessary foundation for great community schools and we proudly partner with them to provide excellent learning opportunities for all Alabama students.
The AEA encourages all members to contact their local school board members and ask why their state organization is working to lower your pay raise. Ask them if they are aware of Sally Howell Smith’s agenda in Montgomery.
Click here for contact information for Alabama’s 700+ local school board members and let AEA know the results of those conversations. Working together, we all win. YOU are AEA!