Chances for teacher pay raise improving

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A pay increase for Louisiana’s public school teachers seems likely at this point since the regional average salaries keep increasing. Even one of education’s toughest critics believes it has to happen.

State teachers were paid an average of $50,000 annually in 2016-17, which is $1,498 below the average of the 16 states of the Southern Regional Education Board. The U.S. average at that time was $9,660 higher than the Louisiana average.

The state didn’t reach the Southern average until teachers received a $2,376 increase in 2007 when Kathleen Blanco was governor. Their last increase was $580 in 2013.

Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to give teachers a $1,000 annual increase and support workers a $500 boost at this year’s legislative session beginning April 8. Both would cost $134.7 million.

In 2018, Oklahoma gave increases of up to 18.3 percent, according to statistics reported by The Advocate. Other increases totaled 6.5 percent in North Carolina, 5 percent in West Virginia, 3.0 percent in Virginia, 2.5 percent in Alabama and 2 percent in Tennessee.

Governors in eight other regional states are proposing 2019 increases of $3,000 in Georgia, $1,200 in Oklahoma, $1,000 in Arkansas, an additional 5 percent in West Virginia, 5 percent in South Carolina, 3 percent in Mississippi, additional 2 percent in Virginia and 2 percent in Delaware.

Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said local school districts should help finance teacher pay increases. It’s not necessarily just a state responsibility, he said, and there needs to be something linking pay increases to success in the classroom.

Despite those comments, Appel said, “Clearly, we need a pay raise.”

Joshua Stockley, associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, told The Advocate, “There was a time when higher education statistics indicated that we were in the regional average under Gov. Kathleen Blanco. And we are only two governors removed and we find ourselves near the bottom.”

The Louisiana Budget Project, which monitors and reports on state government spending and how it affects the state’s low-to-moderate-income families, said teacher raises should target the huge disparities in pay across the state. It added that teachers in 45 of the state’s 69 school districts were paid less than the state average.

Edwards has a three-year plan for reaching the Southern average, and legislators should do their best to make it happen. The state’s poor education rankings demand nothing less.