- Cullman, Alabama

February 12, 2013

EDITORIAL: Hold up on pay raises

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — After all the talk of fiscal responsibility needed in the state of Alabama, a the governor and a host of lawmaker are apparently prepared to dive head-first into the vote-charming pool of teacher pay raises.

Gov. Robert Bentley has proposed to offer teacher raises in the new budget. While many lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, are cheering the idea of handing out the raises, the timing leaves a lot to be desired..

Behind the push for raising teachers’ salaries is the financial projection that the state education budget will have another healthy year. With any amount of economic recovery, that should be expected because public education snares the lion’s share of dollars collected by the state.

But are raises advisable at a time when the General Fund is again barely treading water? Doesn’t the education budget still owe money back to the Alabama Trust Fund?

While Alabamians in private business have suffered under the economic crunch and may be wondering if pay raises will ever come their way, what justification exists for handing out money to teachers? They live by the taxpayers’ dollars and should have to wait until the economy gains more force. While teachers are having to contribute more of their paychecks to fund their retirement, their plight is not much different from the non-government worker.

Alabama’s education budget has been through numerous rounds of proration. Based on past history, collecting more money into the reserve makes better sense than handing out raises at this stage in the economic recovery.

Teachers play an important role in building children into productive adults, but that is not a justification for squeezing the budget for pay raises. The leadership in Montgomery has preached long and hard about fiscal responsibility. Today is the time to show some restraint.

School teachers deserve a raise. So do a lot of other people in government and in private business. Following the leaner approach of private business, lawmakers and the governor should put aside the raise issue for teachers until there are greater assurances that the budget can handle the expense.