Baker’s bill would make teaching more attractive
Representative Alan Baker proposed a solution for teacher shortages in Alabama through HB77. The bill will establish a third tier retirement plan for teachers employed on or after Oct. 1, 2020. Instead of retiring at age 62, teachers can retire after 30 years of service. Under this bill, teachers would also be able to use their leftover sick days toward retirement. The House has passed the bill and is pending in the Senate committee.
Seven years ago, being a school teacher in Alabama was an attractive career because of its retirement benefits. Until lawmakers became concerned about how they could afford these benefits. Lawmakers believed they fixed the issue by creating a Tier II retirement plan for teachers employed on or after Jan. 1, 2013, which cut teacher benefits by 20 percent. Tier II changed the retirement policy from 25 years of service to retirement at age 62 with at least 10 years of service.
“That has really hurt and been a barrier to recruitment because a teacher who goes in at age 23 or 24, they don’t want to work until age 62,” Escambia County Superintendent John Knott said. “Part of the draw of being a teacher is that after retirement you can do something else.”
What the lawmakers didn’t predict was how this cutback would impact teacher recruitment and retention, especially in rural areas.
“Tier II put our teachers on the back end for their pension with less competitive benefits than surrounding states,” Rep. Alan Baker said. “We recognize that our potential teachers and current teachers were not staying in the state. They were leaving for surrounding states. That is the primary motivation for this bill is to keep teachers in our state.”
Baker said teacher shortages is a crisis that continues to escalate in Alabama, and he believes implementing this bill can improve that issue. According to the latest federal information posted on the Alabama State Department of Education website, Alabama has the largest percentage of teachers using emergency or provisional certificates.
In the 2017-2018 school year, Escambia County Schools had 2.05 percent of teachers with an emergency certificate and 1.71 percent with a provisional certificate. In Brewton City, 6.06 percent of teachers have an emergency certificate.
“We’re really hoping that will pass because that’ll be a good incentive for people to go into the teaching field,” Knott said.