rick wentzel

Livingston Parish School Superintendent Rick Wentzel speaks about the perseverance and patience of the Denham Springs Elementary families and staff after the Great Flood of 2016 during the unveiling of the new Denham Springs Elementary campus at the temporary Denham Springs Elementary on Wednesday, March 13.

The Livingston Parish School Board’s push for an increase in salaries and more funding through the Minimum Foundation Program marked a big step in what will hopefully bring more money to teachers and the school system.       

The School Board met last week with the entire Livingston Parish legislative delegation to outline the wants and needs. The request for pay hikes and more money in the MFP has been pushed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Education Superintendent John White, in a rare moment of solidarity.

The $1,000 hike in salary for teachers and $500 annual pay bump for support personnel would be the first upward movement of compensation since 2007.

Considering the cost-of-living increase and a spike in benefit premiums, it does not amount to much more than what they earned 12 years ago. But any raise works for educators, particularly in Livingston Parish, where the population continues to grow. Livingston Parish does not have the luxury of a robust industrial tax base, which has helped parishes such as Ascension, Iberville, West Baton Rouge and the Zachary and Central districts.

It’s quite a feat that our parish school system remains firmly in the upper echelon.  It becomes more of a challenge each year, however, to attract quality teachers with a salary less than most parishes in the Capital Region. In addition, the influx of additional students each year puts a greater squeeze on the MFP, the funding mechanism which determines how much money the state will allocate a school system.

The meeting with state lawmakers only marked the first step in a long route to bring pay hikes to fruition. Most legislators agree a pay hike is overdue, but some lawmakers already question if the state budget can sustain higher salaries.

The scenario sets the stage for what could be a spirited and perhaps testy debate on what could dictate the direction of our schools for the next several years.

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