State can’t afford pay raises

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, January 30, 2013

We’d be the first to agree that teachers, who haven’t had a pay raise since 2008, deserve one.

In those five years, teachers’ contributions to benefits have increased, as has almost every other “cost of living.”

Democrats in the state legislature are supporting a proposed 10 percent pay increase for educators, with 7 percent coming in fiscal year 2014, which begins in October, and the remaining 3 percent in 2015.

The proposal is expected to meet strong opposition from Republicans, and it should.

A wise editorialist once wrote of politics in Alabama, “If teachers’ salaries were prorated, we’d never have proration again.”

His thought was, if teachers knew there was a possibility their pay would be cut, they’d want to make absolutely certain the state could fund the education budget it passed.

The problem now is that it appears from early revenue projections the state couldn’t afford the $300 million to $400 million it would take to fund the raises. And that’s not a one-time expense, but would be a permanent expense increase.

Yes, we’d love to see teachers get raises. So, too, minimum wage earners and every other hard-working person we know.

But passing teacher – or state employee – raises of this size doesn’t appear to be fundable or sustainable in the immediate future. Those who support paying educators more should look closely at the dollars and start with what they know they can afford.

We’ve had enough proration for quite some time.