Democrats in the Alabama legislature were joined by over 100 teachers, school support personnel and retirees in a rally held on the front steps of the Alabama State House in Montgomery on Tuesday (March 18) to promote public education and a cost-of-living pay increase for current and retired educators.
“State leaders in Montgomery have failed our educators and our public schools,” said House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden).
“We started this session with talk about a pay raise, but this budget actually cuts educators pay by more than $500 per year.”
The House version of the Education Trust Fund removed a one percent pay bonus that was included in the senate version.
The House version also reduces the amount of funding the state will pay into educators’ health insurance program (known as PEEHIP), resulting in education employees being forced to pay an additional $500 each year for their health insurance benefits.
Alabama Education Retirees Association executive secretary Janice J. Charlesworth also addressed the educators who attended the rally.
“Our members have gone almost eight years without a cost of living allowance, while every-thing else has gone up,” she said. “The increased costs associated with the underfunding of PEEHIP will have a tremendous impact on them financially.
“Our retired educators are participating in the Friends of Public Education Rally to make their voices heard at the State House.”
Ford and other legislators also questioned the merits of some of the itemized expenditures in the education budget.
“We found $650,000 for the Department of Commerce, $2.25 million for an unnecessary teacher liability insurance program and a million dollars to study medical marijuana, but we can’t find the money to pay for toilet paper and paper towels? What does that say about our priorities?” asked Ford.
“The Bible says you put your money where your heart is,” said Ford. “This budget shows our state leaders’ hearts are not with our public schools or our educators.”