Head of local teachers group wants property tax to fund raises

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

The head of a local teachers group wants the Calcasieu Parish School Board to consider employee raises through a property

tax.

Teri Johnson, president of the Calcasieu Federation of Teachers, went before the school board Tuesday night and requested

it put a 10-mill property tax on the ballot.

The 10-mill tax would generate approximately $16.35 million, which would equal a $2,000 raise for teachers and a $1,0000 raise

for support personnel, she said.

“I know that’s an ugly word right now, but that is the only way that we are going to be able to give our teachers and support

personnel the money that they should have,” Johnson said.

Johnson commended the board for finding a way to deal with its recent budget crisis without cutting positions.

The school board was facing a $13-million deficit, but balanced its budget through revised revenue figures and the $9.5-million

sale of the old Mossville Elementary School to Sasol.

School Board member Jim Schooler requested that the tax be brought before the budget committee to be considered in the next

general election.

Calcasieu Parish teachers have not had a

raise since the 2008-09 school year, according to Gary Anderson,

assistant superintendent.

With a starting salary of $38,745 for teachers with a bachelor’s degree, Calcasieu ranks 38th among the state’s 70

districts.

DeSoto Parish has the highest starting pay ($50,100, while) Jackson has the lowest ($27,102).

In the five-parish area, starting salaries are as follows: Jeff Davis, $40,678, 22nd; Cameron $39,583, 33rd; Vernon, $36,216,

51st; Beauregard, $35,473, 55th.

Schooler said if the parish doesn’t have “competitive salaries, we’re going to lose our schools before it’s over with.”

Louisiana legislators this week added

$69 million in education dollars to the state’s budget. That money is to

be split between

the state’s 70 school districts. School boards are mandated to use

at least half of it for teacher raises, but can use more

than 50 percent for raises if they so desire.

Johnson said a property tax would be a long-term solution, which she said is particularly needed with the influx of people

expected in Southwest Louisiana because of business.

“We really have a good system, I just think it would be advantageous for us to want to retain the best, but you’re going to

have to pay them,” Johnson said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Anderson said 222 employees have left the Calcasieu school system in the last school year for retirement or other reasons and that the number that is not out of the ordinary.

Schooler and Johnson said teacher raises will help ensure that those numbers are replaced with quality hires.

“Unless we have quality teachers we’re not going to keep our A and B schools, but I’m going to leave it up to the public,”

Schooler said.

Schooler also requested a 5-mill maintenance tax for south Lake Charles schools be brought before the budget committee.

He said there is currently no maintenance tax for schools in south Lake Charles.