Funding for teacher pay raises critical
Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to give Louisiana teachers a $1,000 a year pay increase and support workers $500. Education leaders question whether that will help much.
Teachers believe insufficient salaries are the major reason science and math teachers are hard to find and that too many in the classroom are teaching out of their fields. Most legislators have been silent on the issue because they aren’t going to vote for a pay raise in an election year if it requires higher taxes.
The state Department of Education said there are 48,749 teachers and 38,749 support employees. The support workers drive buses, serve as aides, work in cafeterias, handle clerical duties and do skilled work. The raises Edwards is recommending would cost $114 million per year.
The Advocate said after years of state efforts average teacher pay reached the regional average in 2008. It began to fall below that in 2012 because of budget problems. Louisiana teacher pay today averages $49,745, and the Southern average is $50,955.
Some taxpayers will say Louisiana isn’t in such bad shape when compared to other regional states. However, there are other issues to consider. For example, should math, science and special education teachers be paid more since they are hard to find? And John White, state superintendent of education, said Louisiana definitely has a teacher shortage right now.
Debra Schum, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Principals, told the newspaper the public needs to know the problem of teacher vacancies and uncertified teachers in the classroom.
"I think those numbers are greater than people realize," she said.
It comes as no surprise that the three school districts with the lowest average salaries also have the highest rates of uncertified and out-of-field teachers — over 25 percent in each district.
A Livingston Parish educator said, "The first thing they (prospective teachers) say to me is, ‘I can’t be an educator because it won’t pay the bills.’"
Whether the state will have enough revenues to finance education pay raises won’t be clear until December. If there is extra money, legislators, who will make the final decision, don’t meet until April 4 and some of them may have higher priorities.
We hope additional revenues are available to boost educators’ pay because the future of the state’s children depends on them receiving a quality education.