Just a brief note about how the recent session of the Alabama Legislature, Republican controlled in both the House and the Senate, screwed retired teachers.
Background for me...I’m a retired elementary principal from Enterprise with 41 years of service and my wife is a retired teacher who has 28 and a half years. Since I retired in 2011 there have been no cost-of-living increases for public educators in our state. My last pay increase was before 2000; since 1998 my wife has received one cost-of-living increase, prior to 2004.
Two years ago we received a “bonus” check that equaled $1 for each month of service. Together that “bonus” totaled less than $450. That amount covered less than one month of the increases in our water bill, cable bill, car insurance and home owners insurance.
Recently I talked with a couple of people who were intimately involved in the efforts to insure that public education retirees received a meaningful cost-of- living increase, not a one-time “bonus.” Reportedly, it made its way through the Senate, but the House said “no.” The offer by leaders in the House was a one-time payment (amount not clear), or a cost-of-living increase funded by taking money from the Children’s Trust Fund.
I don’t believe there’s a teacher in the State of Alabama who would accept an increase in retirees’ pay at the expense of our state’s children. When I asked our representative from Enterprise about the status of the cost-of-living increase for teachers in the FY 2020 budget I was told, “The retired teachers said they didn’t want it.” He didn’t bother to say why the teachers said “no.”
Recently in several news organizations, not including FOX New, there were reports, oral and written, about the economic status of states in the South. While making much progress prior to the 2008 financial crisis, compared to the regional and national averages, Southern states, with Alabama near the top, have regressed. Our past history of low taxes, low wages, and poor funding for education and mental health services, prisons, public safety officers, state workers, public health agencies, etc., has come back to bite us in the ass.
Companies don’t want low taxes, poor infrastructure, and low wages coupled with poor education. They need, and Alabama needs, a work force that is trained for the high-technology jobs that exist now and for those that will come in the near future. We can continue to deceive ourselves that all is good in Alabama, or we can step up to the challenges of the future.
The decisions that our current leaders make about a whole host of issues will determine whether Alabama forsakes our children or intends to make their futures bright. Making sure that Alabama’s educators and state workers, active and retired, are compensated for the work they do and have done to serve our state and its citizens is the primary function of state government. Low taxes, poor wages, poor education, poor state services, and poor leadership are nothing to boast about.
Please contact your state senator or representative and ask them what they are doing to address the many issues that face our state. Ask them if they are going to lead or follow. If they’re going to follow tell them to get out of the way so that those who want to see real progress in our state can get on with the business of making Alabama a progressive, forward-thinking, problem-solving state. WE DESERVE THE BEST IN ALABAMA!
Hugh R. Williams