The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 10, 2014

House budget seeks to do away with teacher bonus

A House committee will consider a new version of the education budget that does away with a teacher bonus and instead uses the money to try to prevent large increases in education employees' health insurance costs.

The proposed substitute budget before the House Ways and Means Education Committee this week eliminates a one-time 1 percent bonus for public education employees approved by the Alabama Senate. Instead, an extra $37.7 million, a little more than the cost of the bonus, is put toward the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan.

"A pay raise does no good if the recipient has to pay every dime of it, and perhaps some extra, toward higher insurance premiums if PEEHIP went underfunded," said committee chairman Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.

Poole said the proposal is a responsible budget that "sets proven programs as a priority all while utilizing taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible."

A lawyer for the Retirement Systems of Alabama said the extra funds should prevent large increases in the premiums that education employees pay.

"The house budget will prevent substantial increases in health care costs, including premiums, for educators, support workers, retirees and other PEEHIP members and families," Leura Canary, general counsel for the Retirement Systems of Alabama, said.

The head of the Alabama Education Association lashed out at the proposal saying the education employees have gone years without raises while being required to chip in more for their health and retirement benefits.

"The Republican legislative leadership is simply petty, spiteful, and vindictive against educators," AEA executive secretary Henry Mabry said.

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