Slowly, but surely, the Education Trust Fund budget is working its way through the legislative process.  It has now passed both the House and Senate.  However, the Senate made some changes to the House version and this bill will now go to a conference committee to come up with a version that both bodies can agree to.

Senator Del Marsh added an amendment to the Senate bill last week that will impact how educators are compensated for holding advanced degrees.  The amendment states in part, “Commencing on January 1, 2017, additional compensation for an advanced degree shall only be provided if the advanced degree is earned in the same field of study as the subject matter the person is teaching…..”  Then he goes on to list a number of exemptions, which leaves the door to interpretation swinging in the wind.

And as seems to be the case nine times out of ten when this legislature injects itself into education issues without first consulting with real educators, this amendment creates more questions than answers.

For instance, here is feedback from honest-to-goodness folks with experience in education.

January 1, 2017 seems to be way too soon to start this.

Fewer teachers will want to earn advanced degrees if they won’t earn the master pay; therefore, impacting student enrollment for colleges and universities.

Defining areas of teacher shortage is complex.  For example, Shelby County may have 200 applicants for a position in English, while Marengo County has none.

If I am teaching in a critical shortage area this year but next year it is no longer a critical shortage area, is my salary cut?

If a teaching assignment changes from year to year, will compensation also change from year to year?

I have no clue as to why the President Pro Tem added this amendment.  He certainly is not adverse to spending taxpayer dollars on salaries as was the case when his chief of staff got a $95,000 boost in five years.

We Southerners are well-versed in Bless his heart.  Often it is intended to mean that someone simply can’t help what they do.  As in, “Bless his heart, his daddy was an alcoholic too, so what did you expect?”

Given Senator’s Marsh’s track record on legislation that benefits public education (Alabama Accountability Act, charter schools, RAISE/PREP Act), a Bless his heart seems appropriate when discussing this amendment.