The Alabama legislature was on the verge of passing the largest education budget in state history this week, according to members of the Marshall County delegation.

It includes a 2 percent raises for most school employees, but STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) employees will see even larger raises of $10,000 to $15,000 per year. There’s a nationwide shortage of teachers in general and STEM teachers in particular. Alabama is short a few thousand science and math teachers.

The budget had passed the Senate and was up for action in the House at the time we talked to the legislators.

“This is not just an Alabama problem, it is a nationwide problem,” Sen. Clay Scofield said of recruiting and retaining STEM teachers. “It’s just that folks with these skills can make more money elsewhere. We hope by offering larger compensation, we can try to fill those gaps. We are desperately short teachers in these areas.”

He said the 2 percent raises for all educators “is continuing our work to make sure Alabama teachers are among the highest paid teachers in the Southeast. We think that will help recruitment.”

Rep. Kerry Rich said the education budget is $7.6 billion.

“We are going to be able to do some real good things with this budget, including addressing the shortage of teachers,” Rep. Rich said.

He said people in the Department of Education have indicated the state could attract science and math teachers from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee with the increased pay.

“Having good science and math teachers is a big key to workforce development in this state,’ he said.

Flood Insurance

Rep. Rich has also sponsored a bill to allow private insurers to offer flood insurance in Alabama. Up until now, the only flood insurance available in the state was through the National Flood Insurance Program.

“The Department of Insurance believes a number of companies will offer flood insurance at a lower price than what is offered through FEMA,” he said. “In a lot of areas of the state, this is real important.”

The legislative session ends May 17.

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