How to deal with the worsening teacher shortage in Louisiana, teacher salary increases and measures to recoup the learning loss caused by the pandemic will be key topics during the 2022 legislative session, have officials said Monday.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Educators, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry have started setting their education priorities ahead of the regular session, which begins March 14.
What the state can do to make sure every public school class has a teacher will be one of the topics.
Tia Mills, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said on Saturday her group’s legislative committee said returning retired educators to the workforce was one of its goals.
Public education officials say what was once a chronic shortage in special education, math and science classes has spread to virtually every subject.
The retirements of teachers and other school staff increased by 25% from 2020 to 2021.
Seasoned educators say they face unprecedented challenges just to make sure students have a teacher in their classroom.
Mills said the decline has been going on since 2010.
“There has been a steady decline in the number of educators returning to work,” she said. “These are critical shortages everywhere.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards, entering his third year of his second term, probably has one more chance of delivering on his promise to raise teacher salaries to the regional average. The 2023 session will take place in an election year, and the Democratic governor’s lame duck status will hamper any pressure for revolutionary measures.
Teacher pay here ranks 12th out of 16 southern states, with average salaries of $ 51,566 compared to the regional average of $ 55,205, according to the Southern Regional Education Board.
The US average is $ 64,133.
Cynthia Posey, legislative and policy director for the Louisiana Teachers’ Federation, said salary increases of at least $ 1,000 are needed to be meaningful against a backdrop of health insurance and other rising costs. Posey said part of the problem stems from the “political games” played by Edwards’ critics, including debates over how much money should be available for teachers and other areas.
The revenue estimation conference is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to settle Louisiana’s financial outlook by June 30 and for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Mills said the LAE was also in favor of a pay rise but had not worked out details.
“We need to stay optimistic and have the necessary conversations,” she said. “We are losing so many educators to other states.”
Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said one of his group’s priorities will be to tackle the learning loss triggered by 22 months of educational upheaval caused by the pandemic.
Nearly three in four public schools posted declines in their academic performance in the 2020-21 school year. This year has been marked by a mix of in-person and virtual classes amid efforts to curb the coronavirus.
The annual ratings of letters from public schools have been canceled here, as part of a freeze on accountability measures for schools across the country.
Waguespack was chief of staff to then Governor Bobby Jindal in 2012 when the Legislative Assembly, at Jindal’s request, approved sweeping changes in the way public schools operate. He then sat on the State Council for Primary and Secondary Education.
“Every state is going to focus on this,” Waguespack said of the learning loss.
“They have two years of students who either stayed at home or went in and out,” he said. “We cannot leave this generation of children behind us.”
Legislation to ensure teachers have 45-minute planning periods will be another LAE and LFT priority after an application fails in 2021.
LFT’s Posey said getting teachers to get the results of key tests, such as LEAP 2025, in time to help guide teaching will be another focus of the session. “Right now they’re getting it so late that there’s no way to tell him,” she said.
Waguespack said expanding parenting school options, especially for students with special needs and those stuck in failing schools, is another LABI goal.
Virtual education in Louisiana is “patchy at best” and requires increased state oversight, according to a report released Wednesday by Public Affa …