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Louisiana teacher pay falls further behind Southern average

October 4, 2020 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The gap between the average salary that Louisiana teachers earn and the Southern regional average continues to widen.

The Advocate reports that the latest data shows teachers in Louisiana were paid an average of $50,923 for the 2018-19 school year, compared to $54,930 across the 16-state region — a difference of more than $4,000.

During the previous school year, the gap was $2,306, according to the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta.

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Gov. John Bel Edwards has vowed to reach the average before he finishes his second term in 2024. But the coronavirus outbreak ended discussion of a teacher pay raise this year. Whether efforts will resume next year remains unclear amid the financial uncertainty of the pandemic.

Even as Louisiana has raised teacher pay, the state continues to fall further behind its peers. The $1,000 across-the-board raises that won legislative approval in 2019 were low compared to what other states were doing.

“It equals to basically a cost-of-living raise that would happen in other professions,” said Megan Boren, who studies teacher salaries and other issues for the Southern Regional Education Board.

Pay in Georgia rose by $3,000 last year and $2,000 in Florida, among several states that recently have handed out salary boosts, according to the organization’s survey.

Louisiana is ranked 11th in the region for what it pays teachers, ahead of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, West Virginia and South Carolina. Maryland leads the 16-state region with average teacher pay of $70,463.

Shane Riddle, director of legislative and political affairs for the Louisiana Association of Educators union, noted Louisiana has been chasing the regional average for years.

“If the Legislature doesn’t fix the problem and do something about it, we are going to continue to fall way, way behind and suffer as a state,” Riddle said.

The report comes on the heels of a separate study by the state Department of Education that shows 12% of teachers left the profession in the 2018-19 school year. The national average is 8%, Boren said.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley described as especially striking data showing 44% of teachers quit in their first five years from 2016-19.

“That should be a flag to us as a state that we really need to look at investing in new teacher programming and support,” Brumley said.