The 2015 education budget has passed Alabama House and Senate, but it failed to include a salary increase for the state’s educators despite more than one request from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.
The bill, which barely passed the Senate 18-16 on April 1, passed the House 54-45 yesterday despite concern Republicans wouldn’t have the votes needed to pass the budget without the pay raise.
Bentley prepared a recommended budget and an executive amendment to the budget, which both included the raise. In 2013, both the House and Senate approved a 2 percent salary increase for teachers, which was the first since 2007.
According to Alabama Education Association (AEA) spokesperson Amy Marlowe, there was $135 million in additional funding in this year’s budget.
“We were absolutely not pleased with the budget,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage Governor Bentley to keep his word and veto the budget.”
Marlowe called the exclusion of the pay raise “political pettiness in an election year.”
Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, has gone on record saying the added salary would have cost the state $140 million. AEA disagrees with those figures and maintains the pay raise would have only taken up around $80 million of the total budget.
Though the passed budget doesn’t quite match the funding level of the governor’s, it does put more funding into the Public Education Employee’s Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP).
According to Marlowe, the governor’s recommended budget would have would have funded PEEHIP at $795 each month for individual members, but the passed budget only funds the program at $780.
The change in funding will not make out-of-pocket expenses increase for PEEHIP participants, and Retirement Systems of Alabama, which facilities the program, has said it’s prepared to make adjustments to keep copays and premiums down.
After going through a conference committee, the bill saw several changes including a $50,000 reduction in funding to Battleship Memorial Park.
It also included $75,000 in funding to the Civil Air Patrol, $150,000 to Black Belt Treasures and $350,000 to Black Belt Adventures. Black Belt Adventures is a non-profit organization committed to promoting outdoor tourism in the state’s Black Belt Region and is also a corporate partner with Ray Scott’s Trophy Bass Retreat.
Marlow said she was unaware of what any of these entities had to do with public education.
“Parents are still being asked to buy toilet paper and soap for their children’s classrooms, but we’re spending money from the Education Trust Fund to encourage people to go fishing,” Marlowe said. “How much air patrol do we get for $75,000?”
Mobile’s House districts voted along party lines with Republicans Margie Wilcox, David Sessions, Jamie Ison, Victor Gaston, Chad Fincher and Randy Davis approving the budget.
Democrats Napoleon Bracy Jr., James Buskey and Adline Clarke voted against it.
In the Senate, Democrat Vivian Figures opposed the proposed budget.
Republicans Trip Pittman, Rusty Glover and Bill Hightower voted in favor of the budget.
When asked prior to the vote if he would sign an education budget into law that didn’t include a pay raise, Bentley would not give an answer.
The budget could only be passed in a special session without Bentley’s signature.
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