Alabama lawmakers passed teacher, substitute pay raises, certification updates: What’s next?

A record $ 8.3 billion education budget approved by lawmakers means potentially big raises for teachers – up to 21% – and more money to use for classroom supplies, typically an out-of-pocket expense for teachers who want to make sure students have the supplies they need.

Education budget bills are still awaiting Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature.

Teacher pay raises

Public school teachers whose salaries are based on the state minimum salary schedule will see more money in their paychecks. Teachers with one to nine years’ experience will get a pay raise of at least 4%, possibly more if they’re jumping up a step on the salary schedule. Those with nine years’ or more will get a higher percentage raise.

Public school employees received a 2% raise for the current school year.

The table below shows a few examples of the different sized raises, based on what a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree this year will make next year based on how many years the teacher has taught. Full salary schedules are included in the budget bill.

Retirement benefits improved

Teachers with fewer than nine years’ experience and all newly-hired teachers will now be able to retire after 30 years of teaching and be able to draw retirement pay. That puts them on par, but not entirely equal, with teachers hired before 2013 (who can retire after 25 years).

These two moves were deemed great news by those worried about an increasingly smaller pool of teacher candidates. Math, science, and special education teachers are getting harder and harder to find, particularly in rural and urban school districts, and some of those same areas are even having trouble finding elementary school teachers.

Lawmakers hope to keep teachers who may be considering retiring on board, which should also ease pressure on schools to hire new teachers.

Lawmakers put more money into the TEAMS program, which pays qualified math and science teachers on a higher pay scale. About 1,400 TEAMS contracts have been signed and another 1,000 are in the process, state education officials said.

More money for classroom teachers to buy student materials and supplies

Every classroom teacher will receive $ 900, up from $ 700, to spend on student supplies. That number has steadily increased from $ 300 per teacher in the 2013-14 school year to $ 422 per teacher in the 2018-19 school year to $ 700 per teacher during the current school year.

Funding for other classroom support remains the same as last year:

  • Technology – $ 500
  • Professional development – $ 100, and
  • Library enhancement – $ 157.52

The per student textbook allowance stayed the same at $ 75 per student.

Read more: Ivey signs Alabama math coach law, considering Literacy Act reading retention delay

Substitute teacher pay went up

The state-funded daily pay for substitute teachers increased from $ 95 to $ 120, a move lawmakers said they hope will alleviate the problems schools have had getting substitute teachers to fill in during the past two years of the pandemic.

Schools can set their own pay level, and earlier this year several increased rates.

Huntsville City topped the list for daily substitute pay at $ 142.

New alternate route to become a teacher

State education officials and lawmakers have made multiple changes to the teacher certification process over the past few years, easing barriers, streamlining process, and extending emergency certification to bring more teachers into Alabama’s classrooms.

This newest law makes it possible for for-profit teacher preparation programs to operate in Alabama. For-profit teacher preparation programs operate in nine states and enroll larger and larger portions of the non-college-based teacher prep programs where they operate. And for-profit teacher prep programs typically cost less than traditional college-based programs.

Another change means those who want to teach but did not study the field in college who have completed all coursework and taught for a year can receive a professional teaching certificate.

Finally, the law extends the grade levels where teaching with an alternate certificate is allowed to all grades, kindergarten through 12th grade. Currently, alternate certificates are allowed only in grades six through 12.

Elementary teachers need to be careful about what they talk about with students

Lawmakers passed a law prohibiting kindergarten through fifth grade teachers from instructing or discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with their students if it is not age- or developmentally-appropriate. Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey told AL.com that means teachers need to know how to put a quick end to any questions or topics that are taboo.

Teachers likely already have experience redirecting students’ attention or ending discussion on inappropriate topics, but Mackey said the state will develop some guidelines and training for teachers to better understand where that line is.

Teachers need to know when to disclose conversations about a child’s gender identity

A law that prohibits gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors has implications for teachers, counselors and other school staff.

The law contains a provision that prohibits teachers, principals, counselors, and nurses from encouraging or coercing students to withhold from their parent or legal guardian if the student perceives his or her gender as different from their biological sex.

An additional requirement states school personnel cannot withhold information from parents or guardians if their child questions their gender identity.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey told state board members in late March that teachers do not have to tell parents or guardians immediately if a student shares questions about gender identity or sexuality – but if a teacher is asked, they cannot withhold that information.

Students cannot use a bathroom or locker room if it does not correspond to the sex assigned on their birth certificate.

Students in K-12 schools are prohibited from using a school bathroom or locker room that does not correspond to the sex assigned on their birth certificate. It will be up to teachers and other school staff to enforce the provision, and it’s unclear what disciplinary actions could be taken against students violating the provision.

Sponsors of the bill said they heard of students in schools using a bathroom that did not correspond with the gender assigned on their birth certificate. AL.com has been unable to confirm those allegations.

What did not pass:

Auxiliary teachers in K-3 classrooms

A bill to put an auxiliary teacher who would work under the direction of the classroom teacher in all kindergarten through third grade classrooms did not make it to the finish line. There’s $ 5.4 million in the education budget that lawmakers passed that would have begun by employing 150 auxiliary teachers in schools where 75% or more of students were at level 1 proficiency on the ACAP. When fully staffed by the 2030-31 school year, the cost was estimated at $ 531 million.

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