House approves education budget; no raises

classroom

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Alabama House of Representatives ended the 2014 session by approving an education budget without the 2 percent teacher raises that Gov. Robert Bentley sought — a request that put him at odds with his own party.

House members voted 54-45 to go along with a conference committee report on the education budget. The bill now goes to Bentley for his signature.

The $5.9 billion education budget increases funding for education employees’ health insurance but does not grant the 2 percent raise for K-12 employees that Bentley had sought.

House Ways and Means — Education Committee Chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, said the state could not afford to pay for both health insurance increases and pay raises while also funding classroom expenditures.

“We have to strike a reasonable balance. I think protecting our education employees from increased health care costs, that everybody else in the private sector is experiencing, is the greatest benefit we can provide to them under the circumstances,” Poole said.

Lawmakers adjourned for the session for the year shortly after the budget vote.

Bentley, earlier in the day, would not say if he would sign the budget or call a special session to seek the raise.

“We have not made any decision, and I’m not going to make any commitments yet,” Bentley said.

Bentley had asked lawmakers to approve the education budget, and a state employee bonus bill, early enough for him to send the bills back with executive amendments seeking the raise for K-12 employees.

“We have the money. Our budget showed that. We believe that’s what we should do to reward our teachers and support personnel,” Bentley said.

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