Legislation that would authorize $4 billion in state aid for public schools and $1,500 pay rises for teachers was approved Wednesday morning by the House Education Committee.
However, even groups that backed the proposal said the planned wage increases were too low amid much larger increases in Mississippi and other neighboring states.
“Our neighboring states are overtaking Louisiana,” Janet Pope, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, told the committee.
The measure, House Concurrent Resolution 23, would provide basic public assistance to public schools for the 2022-23 school year, including textbooks, other supplies and day-to-day school operations.
This represents a $200 million increase over current spending, with teacher salary increases and proposed $750 increases for support workers accounting for most of the top price.
The plan also reflects the spending plan requested by Governor John Bel Edwards and the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Louisiana public school teachers are paid an average of $51,566 a year, according to a 2021 survey, the most recent available.
This places the state 12th out of 16 Southern states.
The regional average salary is $55,205 per year, and the average teacher salary in the United States is $64,133.
Edwards has pledged to earn a salary in line with the regional average when he leaves office in January 2024, but that target looks increasingly uncertain.
The governor said he wants to increase the increases to $2,000 if state officials recognize more state revenue, as planned, at their May 9 meeting.
Officials from the Louisiana Association of Educators, one of two teachers’ unions in the state, supported the resolution, but noted that Mississippi had recently raised teachers’ salaries by $5,100 a year and that the ‘Alabama had approved salary increases of up to 21%.
“I want everyone to be aware of the fact that we are in competition with the states around us,” said Tia Mills, president of the group. “We’re not just competing with Texas anymore.”
Cynthia Posey, legislative and policy director of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, also a teachers’ union, noted that much of the annual school aid must be used for retirement debt.
That debt represents nearly 25% of annual public aid to public schools, according to a 2021 report by Louisiana Legislative Director Mike Waguespack.
“Our teachers, our support staff, really went through the ringer,” Posey told lawmakers.
A task force advising the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Thursday approved Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to boost education…
The legislator can only accept or reject the request for BESE financing but cannot modify it.
Money for schools and teachers is contained in House Bill 1, which funds much of the state’s $38 billion operating budget starting July 1.
It won House approval last week and is awaiting action in the Senate.
The $4 billion would keep state spending per student at the current level – $4,015.
Total spending per student is about $11,000 per year when local and federal dollars are included, officials said.
A $3.9 billion funding plan for public schools has won final approval from the Legislative Assembly.
State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said this was done deliberately since public schools receive about $4 billion in federal coronavirus aid.
Officials noted that educators are limited in how those federal dollars can be used.
The spending plan also includes $2,000 stipends for mentor teachers.
Keith Courville, executive director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, was among those who said teacher pay raises should be more than $1,500.
“It’s just not good enough,” Courville said.
When teachers got modest pay raises in the past, he said, “many would come up to us and say, ‘You know, we got a raise and I didn’t even see it.’
The resolution was also supported by the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.
The measure must then be acted upon by the House Appropriations Committee and, if approved there, by the full House.
Check back with The Advocate for more details.