Opportunity Culture: Not All Pay Raises Should Be Alike

The Education Trust Fund budget under consideration in Alabama Legislature would give a 2% across-the-board pay raise to education personnel—all teachers, bus drivers, etc.

This raise would not take into account the need for teachers to teach in a specific schools (like low-performing schools), or in specific system (perhaps high-poverty systems where teachers face greater challenges for students), nor it would not take into consideration “high need” subjects like math and science courses where schools struggle to find capable teachers. Beyond this, Alabama does not yet have a method for determining which teachers are high-performing and which need more support.
In addition to all of this, there are currently few career paths for teachers beyond either a) becoming an administrator, or b) keep on keepin’ on as a classroom teacher for an entire career. For some educators, being an excellent classroom teacher is a gift, but for others there could be more effective ways to make a positive impact on student learning.

In the State Board of Education’s budget request this year, they requested  $10 million for a comprehensive human capital plan that included Professional Pathways for Teachers. That plan would create “differentiated roles for teachers who have a proven record of success in student learning gains, instructional mastery, and leadership but who do not desire to move into traditional administrative roles,” and was developed by the SBOE Commission on Quality Teaching several years ago.

Outside of Alabama, Public Impact, a North Carolina-based education organization, encourages policy-makers to think beyond the traditional school structure to create an “Opportunity Culture” that embraces teachers’ natural talents, lets the best teachers reach more students in innovative ways, and allows for teachers to be paid more, within budget. This video helps explain their idea: