In an effort to draw in and produce more special education teachers within the state, the Alabama State Department of Education has announced that a $1,000 to $5,000 annual pay increase for those in the field may be coming. However, the state Legislature must approve an enlarged educational budget.
This new effort comes in response to a massive special education teacher shortage throughout Alabama.
In an email, department spokesman Michael Sibley said the stipend amount requested is $5,000 and 20% ($1,000) benefits for each teacher.
Eric Mackey, Alabama State Schools Superintendent, said 2023’s special ed stipend differs from the newly requested one.
“This year, the Legislature provided a $1,000 stipend, but it only went to special ed teachers who were paid for out of the state budget, foundation program budget,” he said.
Mackey said the new stipend could possibly convince teachers who are thinking about leaving the field to stay.
“Because of special ed is obviously an area that’s intense focus, there is a lot of additional paperwork because the significance of some federal rules around that, so we often hear teachers say, ‘You know what, I’m going to leave teaching special ed, and just teach fourth grade, because it’s the same pay,’” he said.
Mackey said his department is seeking a flat stipend, but that could expand to other areas with shortages.
“That’s something certainly could be discussed,” Mackey said. “Like, you know, the Legislature comes back and wants to talk about, ‘Well, what if we do a different amount for a child, for a teacher who has students with learning disabilities versus one with students who have medical disabilities?’”
Special education is a term that covers a range of specialties, and special education teachers work with students with a range of needs.
Last year, the department requested $68 million but received $4.6 million for special education stipends.
Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.