Teacher-Pay Demands Spark Alabama Fight

By Lynn Olson — February 19, 1986 3 min read

Alabama’s superintendent of schools and some of the state’s largest education groups have vowed to fight a 5 percent pay raise for teachers proposed by the Alabama Education Association in the face of a predicted revenue shortage.

At a press conference Feb. 7, Superintendent of Education Wayne Teague promised to take his new political coalition to the statehouse to help defeat the $60-million pay hike sought by the teachers’ union, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

Mr. Teague was joined in his denunciation of the pay raise by representatives of the Alabama Association of School Boards, the Alabama Congress of Parents and Teachers, the Alabama Association of School Administrators, the Alabama Council for School Administration and Supervision, and the Alabama Association of Elementary School Principals.

Lawmakers have raised teachers’ salaries 15 percent in each of the last two years, bringing the average teacher’s salary to $22,934 annually, or $612 below the national average.

Gov. George Wallace’s current budget proposal for 1986-87 does not include any pay raises for state employees because of the state’s fiscal problems.

According to Paul R. Hubbert, executive secretary and treasurer of the A.E.A., the new salary increase for teachers actually would be a cost-of-living adjustment, which is needed for teachers to maintain the previous years’ gains.

Fiscal Woes

Mr. Teague agreed that teachers deserve more money, but he argued the state’s fiscal situation makes that impossible.

Financial analysts have predicted that Alabama’s education trust fund will have $222 million Iess available to spend this year than last year. Governor Wallace has proposed a $122-million cut in funding for elementary and secondary education in the coming fiscal year.

The Governor warned that if lawmakers do not keep education funding within limit:;, he will be forced to “prorate” the state budget in 1986-87, resulting in across-the-board spending cuts in already appropriated funds.

Mr. Teague and the education groups also condemned the position of the state’s universities, which have asked lawmakers to allocate any state income that exceeds the Governor’s revenue projections to precollegiate and higher education in a 2-to-1 ratio. The A.E.A. and the universities believe the Governor may have underestimated revenues by $85 million to $135 million, Mr. Hubbert said.

Richard McBride, legislative liaison for the state department of education, said he does not believe the Governor’s revenue estimates are wrong, although lawmakers’ projections probably will be higher.

According to Mr. McBride, the union and the universities favor higher revenue estimates because they would suffer less than public-school students if actual revenues fell short of those estimates, making proration necessary. Teachers’ salaries, for example, are excluded from across-the-board cuts under proration, so that all cuts would have to be made in services for students, he said.

‘Unholy Alliance’

Mr. Teague said that any funds in excess of the current revenue estimates first should be used to restore cuts in elementary- and secondary school programs.

He described the coalition of A.E.A. and university lobbyists as “an unholy alliance that has the welfare of our children as far from its mind as possible.”

“In this election year, the A.E.A. leadership wants a pay raise. In this election year, our universities want truckloads of money,” he said.

The A.E.A. lobbyists, Mr. Teague continued, “could care less about proration because salaries cannot be cut when funds fall short.”

Mr. Teague described one Montgomery County school with so little money that students are forced to carry their desks from classroom to classroom and bring toilet paper from home.

“Too many people think stories like this are exaggerated,” he said, “but they are not. The truth is, we simply have some tough decisions to make and I’m asking that those decisions be made on behalf of our children and not in response to pressure politics.”

Randy Quinn, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, said the state ranked 49th last year in per-pupil spending, at $2,241 per child. “The problem that Alabama faces this year is one that many states face,” he said. “We simply don’t have any money.”

Mr. Hubbert labeled Mr. Teague’s negative characterization of the cooperation between the union and the universities as “pure and simple demagoguery.”

The superintendent has been under “tremendous heat” in recent weeks for entering into a consent decree that would revamp the state’s teacher-testing program, Mr. Hubbert said, suggesting that Superintendent Teague might be trying to “change the subject” by focusing on the salary increase.

A version of this article appeared in the February 19, 1986 edition of Education Week