The state Senate passed the education budget on Thursday. The $8.26 billion Education Trust Fund budget (ETF) is the largest in state history. The bill raised the pay of every teacher in the state by at least 4%, and in some cases by more than 10%. The package of bills also included a bonus for education retirees. The budget passed the Senate unanimously.

The budget was sponsored by State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), and carried in the Senate by Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).

“The budget passed today in the Senate provides a substantial amount of funding that will allow us the opportunity to address several critical educational needs across the state, the most noteworthy of these being the desperate need to attract and retain educators,” said Orr. “I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for, and if we want to be serious about our ability to attract and keep educators, then we must make a substantial investment to support these individuals.”

The state of Alabama has some of the worst public schools in the nation. Addressing the poor academic performance of far too many Alabama children is compounded by a worsening teacher shortage. Many Alabama students do not have a qualified teacher in their classroom. The Legislature hopes that improving teacher pay and providing record amounts in pupil supply money will encourage more Alabama teachers not to retire, encourage college students to major in education, and result in more Alabamians making a career change into education.

“This ETF budget allows for those critical investments to be made and enables Alabama to be competitive with neighboring states in the recruiting process, as well as growing and expanding in other areas to help improve education overall,” Orr added. “I am pleased with the Senate’s passage of this historic education budget, and I applaud Ways and Means Education Chairman Danny Garrett for his work on this effort in the House of Representatives.”

The Senate Republican Caucus said in a statement that the budget addresses several important priorities:

  • Presents record pay increases for experienced public school teachers, including a raise in minimum salaries for teachers with nine or more years of experience and an annual 1% raise for all educators moving forward.

  • Expands existing dual enrollment programs through the Alabama Community College System and allows for the continuation, expansion, and development of a dual enrollment scholarship program for academic and career-technical education programs.

  • Allocates funding to initiate the controversial Alabama Numeracy Act. Orr hopes the legislation will enhance the mathematic proficiency of public elementary students through summer learning programs, assessment tests, accountability standards for teachers and principals, and additional training and standards for teacher education programs and the hiring of math coaches to teach the teachers.

  • Fully funds the required balance of the Education Trust Fund Stabilization Fund and repays any outstanding loans.

  • Expands career and technical education programs by providing new or updated equipment ensuring that career tech programs meet current business and industry standards in order to equip students with the training and skills necessary to generate a workforce for new, existing, or expanding jobs.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) applauded the package’s passage.

“I am proud to support this record setting education budget which will make an unprecedented investment in Alabama’s children while funding historic raises to keep great teachers in our classrooms,” Reed said. “The hard work and conservative budget practices by my colleagues in recent years have made this incredible day possible. I’d like to thank Finance and Taxation Education Chairman Arthur Orr and the members of the committee for their leadership and commitment to improving Alabama’s education system across the board.

“Members of the Alabama Legislature continue to be dedicated to innovative solutions that ensure each child in Alabama has access to a high-quality education that prepares them for the 21st-century workforce. At the end of the day, we want every student to be able to land a well-paying job so that they can live, work, worship and raise a family of their own in a safe and strong community. The Alabama Senate and the entire legislature will not stop working to support Alabama’s students, teachers, and families.”

The appropriations comparison spreadsheet can be accessed online.

The budget process began with the Governor’s budget request on Jan. 6. That was substituted by the House Ways and Means Education Committee. The House of Representatives passed the House Committee substitute. On Wednesday, the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee passed a Senate substitute. On Thursday, the full Senate passed a floor substitute version.

The budget now moves back to the House of Representatives for concurrence. Orr said that there were two issues that House and Senate negotiators were working on. Those issues were not the enhanced pay matrix that the Senate added in committee, but Orr declined to tell reporters what those two issues were.

Even though the House remained in session till after 6:00 p.m. the House did not move to either concur or non-concur with the Senate changes to the budget.

The Senate also passed a $1.2 billion supplemental appropriation package for the current fiscal year – which was already the largest budget in state history – until FY2023.

Alabama uses an arcane budgeting system where education and noneducation spending go into two separate budgets and billions of dollars in revenue are not in either of the two budgets. The other budget, the state general fund (SGF), has also passed both Houses. Depending on what the House of Representatives decides to do with the Senate changes to the education budget, the state legislature could be finished with the budgets as soon as an hour after the House gavels in on Tuesday.

The FY2023 budgets will go into effect on Oct. 1.

Tuesday will be Day 27 of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session. There are, at most, four days left in the regular session.

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