MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Teachers and school employees could get a 2.5 percent pay raise later this year, under legislation approved Tuesday by Alabama House of Representatives.
Representatives, who face party primaries in June, unanimously approved the proposed raise. It now moves to the Alabama Senate.
Democrats spent much of the debate arguing that teachers and education employees should get a higher raise, with several suggesting an amount of 5 percent.
Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said educators have had to pay more out of pocket for their health insurance which offset other raises given by the state in the past. "If you lower the morale of the educator, it can't help but to impact the classroom instructional setting," Ford said.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Poole countered that any raise given this year has to be sustainable in the future. He said the state should not tap savings to give a higher raise now.
"The one thing that has not occurred in a long time is in proration. The way you avoid proration is you build a budget and you invest taxpayer dollars fiscally responsibly and in a sustainable fashion," said Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.
Education employees at both public K-12 schools and two-year postsecondary institutions would receive the proposed raise. Educators last received a cost-of-living adjustment in 2016.
The raise proposal is part of a package of spending bills moving along with the education budget.
Education funding has rebounded to prerecession levels, giving lawmakers an additional $200 million to spend in the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The pay raise will account for about half of the new spending.
The proposed budget would also fund an expansion of the state's voluntary prekindergarten program.