The Pelican State’s legislature passed a bill last week to give teachers and school staff a one-time stipend of $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. The bill fell short of Louisiana teachers unions’ goal of obtaining a permanent, annual pay raise.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards initially included a $3,000 pay raise for teachers and $1,500 for support staff as part of his budget proposal. The Louisiana Senate approved a bill that would provide a smaller raise of $2,000 for teachers and $1,000 for support staff.
Once in the House, the bill was altered from a permanent pay raise to a one-time stipend. Representatives had previously rejected the school funding formula proposed by the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which prevented the pay raise from being considered permanent.
Minority Leader Rep. Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport) signaled that the teacher pay raise issue will be addressed again next year. Jenkins said that a bill resolution attached to the budget made it clear that state lawmakers will be working on “a recurring and continuing pay raise” for teachers.
A high school history teacher expressed his disappointment saying, “But you break it across 12 paychecks, which is how many teachers get paid, you’re looking at it might help with one more bill maybe, but it doesn’t match cost of living increase or inflation at all.”
With a statewide teacher salary average of $52,660, a stipend of $2,000 is 3.8% of the average teacher’s salary. However, if taxed as a bonus rather than regular pay, the amount hitting teachers’ bank accounts will be significantly less than $2,000.
Teachers told news outlets that they felt “their representatives didn’t push for a permanent and lasting change.”
“Teachers deserve to be compensated fairly for the hard work they do,” said Erin Bendily, vice president of policy and strategy at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. “But the state of Louisiana needs a better, more thoughtful plan on how local and state governments can jointly address this need.”
Bendily added, “We must empower and charge local school systems with prioritizing specific needs that differ from school to school and parish to parish.” Instead of pushing for one-size-fits-all pay raises, the Pelican Institute noted that districts should have the ability to prioritize their needs—such as special education, STEM, or teacher retention—and customize salary increases accordingly.
When asked to comment on the teacher pay raise issue, LFT did not return a request for comment. But LFT President Larry Carter said, in a statement published on LFT’s website, “This funding plan will not give our educators, schools, and students the financial security that they need. Louisiana’s staffing crisis will continue, fewer college students will choose this noble profession, and Louisiana’s students will continue to be shortchanged.”