Senate passes largest education budget ever, pay raise for teachers

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Alabama Senate Thursday approved a $7.1 billion Education Trust Fund and a 4 percent pay raise for Alabama’s teachers and education support personnel. It is the largest education budget in Alabama’s history. 

“This education budget, the largest in Alabama’s history, is a historic investment in the success of Alabama’s schools and colleges,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee. “We have made progress, but I don’t think anyone, from teachers to parents to legislators, is satisfied with where we are in national educational rankings. This budget invests a 4% pay raise in our teachers, because the people leading the classrooms can help accomplish positive outcomes better than anyone else in the school system, and we need to make sure that they have every resource that they need to be successful.”

Dr. Lee Hicks, superintendent of Troy City Schools, said it’s good to see lawmakers signaling that they will distribute more money to educators.

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“Any time the state recognizes the quality teachers and support staff in this great state it’s fantastic,” Hicks said. “We’re appreciative of what they did passing the budget out of the Senate. Costs are constantly rising and we are always going to be advocates for our school teachers. This would help in the future to maintain high quality standards of teachers here in our area and our state.”

Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools, said the budget as passed by the Senate is a big win for schools.

“It looks like a great budget this year,” Bazzell said. “The 4 percent pay raise is much needed for the teachers. There’s also additional money for transportation and almost every category increased – textbooks, library enhancements, supply money for teachers. There’s been an increase in every category and divisors ,so we should earn some more teacher units as well. We’re pleased and we hope it remains as is in the House and passed quickly so we can continue planning for next year.”

The FY20 education budget includes a $27 million increase for First Class, Alabama’s nationally-recognized, volunteer pre-kindergarten program. This year, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranked First Class as the highest-quality Pre-K program in the nation, for the 13th year in a row.

The Senate’s education budget includes the 4 percent pay raise for all K-12 and two-year college education employees, a $39 million increase for the Community College System, a $6 million increase for workforce development programs administered by the Department of Commerce, and an additional $900,000 for career tech initiatives in the K-12 system. 

Alabama’s largest education budget in history also includes a $1.5 million increase for dual enrollment scholarships, an additional $10 million for the Alabama Reading Initiative, and a $500,000 increase for school-based mental health programs. 

The FY20 education budget now goes the House of Representatives.

Thursday concludes the 15th of 30 possible legislative days in the 2019 regular session.