Teacher pay increase receives top priority
Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to give Louisiana public school teachers at least a $1,000 annual pay increase in 2019. State Rep. Nancy Landry, RLafayette, wants to go the governor one better and give teachers $1,850 a year.
Landry, who is chairman of the House Education Committee, said her goal is to get teacher salaries back to the Southern regional average. Their current average annual salary is $49,800. Landry told The Advocate she hasn’t talked to anybody who would oppose a teacher pay raise.
Both Edwards and Landry realize any pay increase will only happen if the state sees an increase in annual revenues. Legislators aren’t going to raise taxes in 2019, which is a gubernatorial and legislative election year.
Edwards’ first priority is to recommend a 2.75 percent increase ($75 million) in the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), an annual increase that hasn’t happened but once in the last 12 years. Half of that increase would be used to raise teacher pay to $493 per year and $240 annually for school support workers.
The governor also wants to recommend other money in the MFP, $28.9 million of which would boost teacher pay to $1,000 per year and $10.1 million to give support workers another $260 to get them to $500 per year. Landry wants to target only teachers for the increase.
Louisiana has about 50,000 classroom teachers. Giving the $1,850 suggested by Landry to all certified personnel, including principals and others, would cost $124 million annually. Giving $500 to the support staff would increase the cost to $170 million.
A spokesman for the governor said Edwards believes the increases are possible because of an improving state economy and additional revenues available for state services. Teachers got their last pay increase ($580) in 2013.
State Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, agrees a teacher pay raise is long overdue. Morrish said more people need to be encouraged to get into education. It has been difficult to train enough math and science teachers.
The U.S. annual average salary for teachers is $58,064. The increases recommended by Edwards and Landry won’t get Louisiana teachers even close to that. However, getting them back to the Southern regional average would be a major morale boost.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz, retired editor Jim Beam and retired staff writer Mike Jones.