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Gov. Bentley uses State of the State Address to promise teacher raises

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley delivers his State of the State Address Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley delivers his State of the State Address Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.
An image created from the words of Governor Bentley's speech. The more frequent the word's usage in the speech, the larger it appears An image created from the words of Governor Bentley's speech. The more frequent the word's usage in the speech, the larger it appears

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley opened his State of the State speech by recalling that the eyes of the world were on Alabama 50 years ago because of the civil rights movement. He recounted Tuesday night how a Birmingham bomb blast killed four little girls and African-American students were admitted to the University of Alabama over the objections of the governor.

He said Alabama is mindful of its turbulent past, but it's a different state today. He said Alabama's unemployment is at a four-year low, the state has recruited 26,000 jobs in the last two years, and Alabama will soon be home to a major aircraft assembly plant. He said: "Alabama is our sweet home."

[EXTRA: Read Governor's full State of the State transcript]

After two years of cutting budgets, Gov. Robert Bentley says the state's economy is improving and it's time for new spending in education. Bentley told legislators that he wants to expand Alabama's pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds while keeping it voluntary.

He also proposed his first pay raise for teachers. It's 2.5 percent. He did not propose a pay raise for state workers.

The Republican governor endorsed a bill that would give school systems more flexibility in complying with state education law. That sets up Bentley for a fight with the Alabama Education Association, which opposes the bill.

[EXTRA: Read Alabama Democratic Party's response to Gov. Bentley's address]

Gov. Robert Bentley paused during his speech to remember the school students killed in Connecticut in December and the school bus driver shot to death in Midland City last week. He told legislators that he is working to keep schools and students safe. He says he has asked the state Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan for preventing and responding to active shooters.

He says the department has already set up hotline for people to report suspicious activity. While recognizing the shootings, the Republican governor said he supports protecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms. He did not mention any of the gun rights bills that have been introduced in the new legislative session.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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