Teacher raises win final passage from Louisiana lawmakers
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s public school teachers and support workers will get larger paychecks, and districts will get more money for operations, after lawmakers in the House unanimously agreed Monday to the education spending plan, handing Gov. John Bel Edwards a significant legislative victory.
Monday’s 103-0 House vote ended a stalemate between House Republican leaders and the Democratic governor, who had pushed the $3.8 billion financing formula backed by the state education board and the Senate. Applause broke out in the House and Senate when passage was announced.
Beyond locking in the education spending plans, passage of the K-12 public schools formula also paves the way for a final budget deal to be reached before the legislative session’s end Thursday.
“Today’s an exciting day: the first pay raise our teachers and support staff have had in many years has passed the Legislature,” Edwards said in a statement. “Only one hurdle for this raise remains in the Legislature, and that’s approval of the budget bill that supports this raise and the increase.”
The school funding formula bumps up spending on public schools by $140 million in the financial year that begins July 1.
Teachers and other certificated personnel will get a $1,000 pay raise, support workers will see their salaries grow by $500 and districts will get an extra $39 million in discretionary money as the per-student allocation grows from $3,961 to $4,015.
“This resolution will help the children,” said Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Monroe Democrat.
The pay raises and district increases were the centerpiece of Edwards’ agenda for the two-month legislative session. Edwards, who is running for reelection with the support of the teachers unions, described the raises as a “down payment” on a multiyear plan aimed at boosting teacher salaries to the regional average.
He said the pay raises will help address teacher shortages that exist in nearly every subject area and the state’s difficulties recruiting new teachers. The average teacher earns $49,745 in Louisiana, according to data. The governor has said that’s about $2,200 less than the Southern regional average.
After weeks of bickering behind the scenes, Monday’s debate on the House floor was relatively subdued, with Republicans largely silent on the legislation. Under pressure from school leaders in an election year, House GOP leaders a few days ago ended their stalling of the financing plan.
House Republicans had backed the teacher and support worker raises but had raised objections about the discretionary dollars for districts, questioning if Louisiana can afford them. But the Senate advanced a budget that matched the school formula, seeking to force the House GOP to give in.
Plus, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education refused to rewrite the school funding formula. Lawmakers can reject or approve the formula submitted by to them, but they cannot change it.
Education officials said pay raises drive up other costs for districts, increasing the price of health care, worker’s compensation and retirement. They said expenses have been rising for professional development, technology needs and new curricula while districts have received flat state financing for years.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 3: www.legis.la.gov
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