Teachers, other school employees big winners as session ends

Published 6:01 pm Thursday, June 6, 2013

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana’s public school teachers and other school employees are some of the winners in the budget compromise approved here Thursday by both houses of the Legislature.

Approval of the $25 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 means there is an additional $69 million in funding for local school boards.

A rare House coalition of Republicans, Democrats and members of the Legislative Black Caucus gained concessions when a Senate negotiating team worked with the coalition to fashion the final version of the budget.

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Democrats made teacher pay one of their key goals, and they got all of the negotiators to agree to add the $69 million to the budget.

The money couldn’t be added to the Minimum Foundation Program that funds public education, but the $69 million represents the 2.75 percent of the MFP that Democrats wanted to add to the funding formula.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would work to see that percentage increase become a part of the MFP in coming years.

Meanwhile, the $69 million will go directly to state school boards for teacher and other employee pay increases.

Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, leader of the House Democratic Caucus, earlier said, “For me and the vast majority of the Democratic Caucus, a 2.75 percent MFP increase is essential.”

Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said a minimum of 50 percent of the $69 million has to go to teachers. Local boards are free to give even more to teachers and to give raises to other school workers, he said.

Johns said the average teacher pay statewide is $48,185, according to the latest figures available. The Southern Regional Education Board average was $48,475.

The highest average teacher salaries are paid in Red River Parish, $86,314. DeSoto Parish is No. 2 at $66,265 per year.

Southwest Louisiana parishes rank from 16th to 54th among the state’s 69 school districts.

Cameron Parish was in 16th place with an average salary of $49,760. Jeff Davis was 22nd with $49,074. Vernon Parish ranked 39th at $46,362.

Calcasieu Parish was in 43rd position at $45,458. Allen Parish ranked 46th at $45,327. Beauregard Parish was in 54th place with an average salary of $41,269.””