john bel

Gov. John Bel Edwards

A dose of good news and bad news comes from the talk about teacher pay raises for the upcoming state legislative session, which begins Monday, April 8.

Most lawmakers seem open to the pay hike for teachers, which would amount to $1,000 annually and would cost the state approximately $72 million per year, according to figures Gov. John Bel Edwards released in January when he announced his wish list for the 2019 session.

In addition, he proposed a $500 bump in pay for support personnel – custodians, teacher’s aides, paraprofessionals, cafeterias workers etc. The addition compensation for those workers would cost roughly $25 million annually.

Both would fall under Level 1 funding in the Minimum Foundation Program, which determines the state funding allocation for public-school systems in Louisiana.

As for the MFP, he recommended a 1.375 bump in funding that would help school systems with in-class supplies. Ninety-five percent of the state’s non-parochial teachers reach into their own pockets to purchase classroom supplies – without reimbursement.

The increased cost of the pay hikes seems expensive, but simple math shows they would receive a very modest raise. For teachers, to $83.33 per month or less than $21 per week. Tack on the inevitable hikes in insurance premiums into the equation, and they’ll likely still take home less pay than they do now. 

It’s almost nonconsequential for support workers, whose increase will amount to just over $10 per week.

Granted, it’s more than the one-time stipend the Jindal Administration divvied out in 2010. The last pay hike for teachers and support workers came in 2007, during the Kathleen Blanco Administration.

The good news: The pay hikes come during an election year, which means lawmakers will not want to rock the apple cart. Teachers carry a reasonable amount of weight at the voting polls, something Gov. Edwards obviously knew when he announced his proposals.

Some legislators may not seem as willing to jump on the bandwagon for support workers and the MFP, based on their concerns that the state’s revenue may not be able to sustain the increases over the long haul.

Therein lies the problem. The state has had a shortage of teachers since 2004, but jobs for other personnel have become a revolving door because of low pay.

Support workers carry out virtually every other responsibility on the campus. The teacher may take center stage in schools, but the work from people behind the scenes plays an equally significant role.

The pay hikes are long overdue across the board. The salary increase for teachers may sound nice in the campaign pitch, but omission of the MFP and people behind the scenes would tarnish the entire effort.

The ball lies in the court of the lawmakers.

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