House-approved teacher benefits package could face challenge in Senate

House-approved teacher benefits package could face challenge in Senate
A proposal in the legislature creates a Tier III retirement benefits package for education employees including people like teachers, janitorial staff, bus drivers, and other staff. The goal is to alleviate a teacher shortage. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The state House of Representatives approved proposed changes to education retirement benefits Tuesday, but this proposal is expected to face some push back in the Senate.

The proposal created a Tier III retirement benefits package for education employees including people like teachers, janitorial staff, bus drivers, and other staff. The goal is to alleviate a teacher shortage.

“Right now we are facing especially in some of our rural areas, and in our hard to teach subjects math, science, career tech, special ed, a teacher shortage," said Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who is the bill sponsor.

The proposal would apply to public education employees hired since 2013.

The proposal allows public education employees to draw from their pension after having worked 30 years instead of waiting until the age of 62.

Education employees could also carry over their sick days into the following year. Collins said this change would help keep teachers in the classroom instead of using a substitute.

“Right now, teachers are using their absences regularly because they don’t rollover. Well, we would rather those great teachers be in the classroom and saving those and not losing them," she said.

While many lawmakers want to create a new retirement package, the question floating is whether the Senate will agree to allow all public education employees to be part of this proposed Tier III benefits package.

This House proposal allows public education employees to include teachers, drivers and school maintenance workers.

“We’re trying to do this to help recruit teachers. But then again, we need support personnel that we need to recruit. And we need lunchroom people who manage the food services. We need to be recruiting those people," said Speaker of the House Rep. Mac McCutcheon.

But Sen. Del Marsh says teachers in the classroom needs to be the focus of the package instead.

“This all comes about if you remember trying to teacher retention and finding ways to keep people in that industry. We’re going to look at that, anything we do to keep our teachers in the teaching profession," said Sen. Del Marsh, Senate President Pro Tem.

The House-approved proposal is in the Senate for consideration. Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he would work with the Senate.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he is working with other senators on a separate proposal.

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