How to solve Alabama’s teacher shortage? Pay teachers more, say officials

By: - June 27, 2023 7:00 am
Alabama State Schools Superintendent Eric Mackey speaks with a board member during the board's regular meeting.

Alabama State Schools Superintendent Eric Mackey listens during the Alabama State Board of Education’s regular meeting on February 9, 2023 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

Education officials told the Governor’s Commission on Teaching and Learning Monday that the best way to address school staffing problems was to pay teachers more. 

“The only thing we’ve found that fixes it is pure economics,” said State Schools Superintendent Eric Mackey about staffing summer camps. “We’ve got to pay a lot more.”

Alabama has a number of plans to keep teachers in place and bring students’ proficiency up to above 30th in the nation, and the Commission considered salary as a way to retain and place teachers.

In the 2023-24 school year, the state would pay a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree $44,226 a year. A teacher with a master’s degree and at least 15 years’ experience would get $63,885. Those numbers do not include income local governments could provide.

The Legislature approved a 2% education employee pay raise in the 2024 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. In 2022, legislators approved raises as high as 21% for teachers with decades of experience, and passed an automatic 1% pay raise each year for teachers with at least nine years’ experience. 

A 2016 article from the 74 reported that increasing teacher pay decreases teacher turnover.

The increases came after the Legislature approved the Numeracy and Literacy Act, which mandate interventions for students who fall behind on elementary school reading and math progress. 

The Legislature also passed the TEAMS Act in 2021, which provides stipends to math and science teachers, including one for high-need areas that are hard to staff.

Nick Moore, Education Policy Advisor & Coordinator Governor’s Office of Education & Workforce Transformation, said in his presentation on Gov. Kay Ivey’s Key Education Initiatives, said that the program provides $5,000 when a teacher begins, $5,000 when the program is complete and $5,000 stipend for “hard to staff” schools.

Through April of the recently-concluded school year, the state paid 595 stipends for teachers in “hard to staff” schools.  58 of those teachers said they were new to the profession. He said that the total number of TEAMS positions allocated is around 7,400.

Mackey said that more people have chosen to stay in position since the TEAMS Act was passed, but it was the same year that the legislature redid the pay scale, so it is hard to tie it directly to TEAMS.

“So, we know there were fewer retirements at the end of that year actually,” he said.

The Alabama State Department of Education has set up camps for teaching math and literacy during the summer to help keep scores up under the Numeracy and Literacy Act. 

Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, said he had heard from people in his district that they had trouble staffing the summer camps.


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Jemma Stephenson
Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.