Playing politics with teachers: Curious to know what’s behind move to give teachers a raise
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 04, 2013 | 6125 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Let’s say this up front — Alabama public school teachers need and deserve a pay raise.

They have not received one since the 2007-2008 school year, and we all know what has happened to the cost of living since then.

Thus, this page should welcome Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed 10 percent teacher pay raise that he wants spread out over the next three years, which includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise for 2013-14. We should and we would, if we thought it were possible without serious consequences — which we don’t.

Although Bentley believes that because we are “on the verge of seeing our state create more jobs than we have created in decades,” others are not so sure.

This page agrees with the “others.”

In the first place, Alabama’s tax revenue for education will not be as great as originally anticipated. Not only are retirement costs rising, but federal tax increases, which can be deducted from state income taxes, will mean about $60 million less going mostly to public schools. There also is the impact of the Alabama Accountability Act. Though opinions vary widely as to how much money it will take from the Education Trust Fund, all agree that money will be lost.

It will take a lot of new jobs and new revenue from them to make up for those potential losses. That’s why House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, can be counted in the “others.”

“That is a great goal,” Hubbard told the Associated Press, but “it is going to be hard to do the 2.5 percent” next year.

Then, why did Bentley propose the raises when economics and logic say the money will not be there? Why did he put this into his budget without first running it by Hubbard and House Budget Committee Chairman Jay Love, R-Montgomery? Why didn’t he make sure he had the votes before he announced the plan?

It could be that the governor never expected the raises to pass. It could be that what he really wants to do is have the attempt on his resume so he can point to the effort and tell teachers “at least I tried” when he runs for re-election.

If that is what happens, if the plan is defeated, it will be by the governor’s fellow Republicans who vote it down. If the governor is to use this plan to bolster teacher support, he will have to blame his own party for blocking teacher raises. Just think how that will play among the GOP faithful.

We wonder if the governor has a thus-far secret scheme for finding the money elsewhere and diverting it into the Education Trust Fund for teacher raises. It would not be the first time he has favored such a strategy.

All of which is to say, there seems to be more to this pay-raise proposal than raising teacher pay. The consequences of the effort, intended or otherwise, will make the next election all the more compelling.
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