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Alabama House bill would raise compensation for school board members

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Alabama House bill would raise compensation for school board members

Jan 31, 2024 | 7:59 am ET
By Jemma Stephenson
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Alabama House bill would raise compensation for school board members
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Rep. Tracy Estes, R-Winfield, speaks to a colleague before the start of the session of the Alabama House of Representatives on May 11, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

A legislative push to raise the ceiling on compensation for school board members will likely be delayed while the sponsor of the bill removes language around minimum payments. 

HB 57, sponsored by Rep. Tracy Estes, R-Winfield, would raise the maximum potential payment for school board members from $600 monthly to $900 monthly.

“As someone who has done it, I can assure you it is very time-consuming,” said Estes, a former school board member, on Monday.

Estes said that the compensation for board members had not been updated in a long time, and he wants to continue to attract strong candidates.

Apart from adjusting salary, the bill would also require board members to complete certain continuing education training to get the money. 

Under Alabama law, Estes said, board members cannot vote to raise their own salary in the current term. They can raise it for those who serve in the next term. 

As filed, HB 57 said  that board members are entitled to a minimum of $50 a month. But the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) raised concerns about that section.

Sally Smith, executive director of the AASB, said in an interview on Tuesday that the minimum was added after hearing about a mayor who wanted to join a school board. She said an unpublished Attorney General opinion said that the lack of payment to the board meant that would be acceptable..

Smith said that situation has since been resolved, but she wanted to prevent further incidents of conflicts of interests.

“So even though there was no longer an issue with this mayor wanting to serve on the same school board, but as a matter of principle, I think that’s not the best idea,” she said.

She later heard from membership about board members serving on unrelated boards, such as serving on a state real estate commission.

“We realized our big fell swoop or throwing a big net might actually catch up some two positions that might not be problematic, would not be problematic,” she said.

Smith said the bill with that language removed will be filed with the Legislature soon. 

She said, in the future, that they are going to file another bill, that delineates which boards a school board member could not serve on, due to a conflict of interest rather than a bill that covers both this year.

“In a more unfortunately, specific granular bill next session,” Smith said.

The Legislature will begin its 2024 regular session on Tuesday.