Alabama has a crisis in education. The schools are flush with money as the largest education budget in history is about to be replaced with a new budget that is over half a billion dollars more. Despite record education spending, Alabama is ranked at or near the bottom in national education rankings for its public schools. In the last standardized testing held before the pandemic, Alabama students were dead last in Math and fifth from the bottom in reading skills. This was before the global COVID-19 pandemic shut the schools down for months at a time and students were forced to learn alone in their rooms over their internet connection – those that had internet connections.
State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) told reporters recently, “We have a teacher shortage.”
Many teachers are taking early retirements or leaving education after just a few years on the job for higher wages in the private sector. State education officials are disturbed by the losses and the lack of sufficient numbers of college students enrolled in education in the state.
“The most important thing we can do is to get a qualified teacher in front of every child,” Orr said.
To that end, Orr and Sen. Tom Butler (R-Madison) are sponsoring legislation to increase the loan repayment award for qualified math and science teachers per semester.
According to the synopsis, “Under existing law, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education administers the Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program (AMSTEP) which provides student loan repayment for public high school math and science teachers who serve in underserved areas of the state. This bill would increase the per semester loan repayment award for math and science teachers.”
According to the fiscal note, “Senate Bill 251 (SB251) as introduced increases the loan repayment amount, beginning with the 2022 fall semester, of the Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program (AMSTEP), administered by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE), that qualifying teachers endorsed in math or science are eligible for from $5,000 per year or $2,500 per semester worked to $7,000 per year, or $3,750 per semester worked, for a maximum of four consecutive years. This would increase the obligations of AMSTEP, paid from the Education Trust Fund, by up to $10,000 for each teacher eligible to participate in the program. Arthur Orr, Chairperson Finance and Taxation Education.”
SB251 will be considered on Tuesday by the House Ways and Means Education Committee.
Tuesday will be Day 27 of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.
If SB251 is given a favorable report by the committee, it could be considered by the full House of Representatives as early as Wednesday. There are at most four days left in the regular session.
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