Orr proposes more teacher development days tied to pay increase

Orr proposes more teacher development days tied to pay increase
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

By Mary Sell, Alabama Daily News

Alabama’s public school teachers would have five additional professional development days under a proposal from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

The additional required development days would come with a salary increase for educators, said Orr, the chairman of the Senate education budget committee.

The state currently has seven mandated professional development days per year for teachers. Orr said several states with higher achieving educational systems have more days for educator training.

“We need to increase the number of (professional development) days in our state,” Orr said. “And as a result, increase the pay of our educators along with that for the extra work they’ll be doing.”

Orr said he plans to bring legislation in the 2021 session, which begins Feb. 3.

“I would see this bill as somewhat contingent on our having the budgetary capacity to provide additional compensation for the additional work to be performed,” Orr said.

Orr said it’s too early to know what revenue for the 2022 budget will look like. As long as there are no further COVID-19-related shutdowns that impact future sales and income tax collections, Orr thinks the Education Trust Fund will have the capability of supporting a pay raise related to the five additional days.

That pay increase would put Alabama educators' salaries more on par with surrounding states, several of which pay several thousand dollars more per year.

That higher pay could help address Alabama’s teacher shortage by attracting and retaining more educators, Orr said. Since 2011, Alabama has seen a more than a 50% decline in the number of newly certified teachers.

Orr has discussed his proposal with State Board of Education member Cynthia McCarty, whose north Alabama district includes Morgan County and Calhoun County.

“Too often our teachers have had to sacrifice their days off to complete quality professional learning opportunities,” McCarty said. "For example, the high-quality LETRS training takes 10 days to complete, most done on weekends and summer days.

“We want our teachers, just like professionals in other industries, to get the highest quality of relevant professional learning available.  By adding days to the calendar, this will help all teachers to be able to achieve this.”

The state’s 2019 Literacy Act includes several professional development requirements.

The increase in professional development days would not impact students' current 180-day academic year, Orr said. But it would mean better instruction from better-trained teachers, he said.

“I used to think that teaching methods or content in the middle and lower grades infrequently changed,” Orr said. “But like medicine, law, business, education is constantly changing too — both in content and in teaching methods—particularly the more advanced the students' ages become. As a consequence, we need to make sure all our teachers regardless of what ages they are teaching are the best prepared that they can be.”

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