Amid re-election, Gov. Edwards’ recent vows to give teachers pay raises are supported by officials and teachers two years after teacher pay raise success in West Baton Rouge Parish.
“The ability to attract and retain the highest quality teachers is critically important” and benefits revenue growth, the governor said. However, he assured that it is not possible to do without paying a competitive salary.
“With the right approach, we could finally give our teachers a long overdue pay raise,” the governor said with the idea that the salary boost would not come from higher taxes, but from an increase in the state's revenue projections, costing Louisiana $114 million during the 2019-2020 budget cycle.
Edwards said he is confident it will pass as there are bipartisan agreements of the nature of the bill. State Education Superintendent John White supports the annual $1,000 raise for teachers and $500 for school support staff. Senate President John Alario wishes to do more than what the governor proposed.
It has been reported that some officials don’t agree to provide a raise for school support staff, which includes bus drivers, custodians, classroom aides and secretaries. R-Rep. Nancy Landry, the chairwoman of the state House education committee, said she would support giving teachers more than $1,000 if done without raising taxes, the Advocate reported.
Meanwhile, the support for higher teacher pay has been a national movement, especially in Louisiana where teachers make $2,200 less on average than teachers from neighboring states. Though Edwards said that teacher pay raises are his “No. 1 priority” going into the new year, he has always been a vocal supporter for teachers and education.
One of Edwards' last acts as a state representative was to obtain $36 million for teachers' salaries included in the 2015-2016 state budget. It was also during this time that West Baton Rouge Parish voters approved to increase school employees’ salaries by $5,000 on the Dec. 10 election ballot.
The pay raise “showed teachers we appreciate and value them” and “we’ve got more teachers since then,” said James Jackson PAHS Principal, who wishes for the same successful results seen across the state.
The raise retained teachers and prevented them from going to neighboring states with better pay, he said. The raise also attracted top-notch teachers in other states to come to WBRP, he said, which is parallel to the results Edwards wishes to achieve.
“Hopefully the pay raise can go directly to the teacher, not to out-of-pocket funds,” the principal said and knows that while teachers are most creative in finding cheap or free things, they sometimes spend their own money for the quality of education. Such costs are minimized by supportive parents and being good stewards of money, Jackson said. He described how he offers financial assistance to teachers who ask so they may focus on teaching.
Angie Roger, an English teacher of 16 years at Port Allen High School has seen teachers fund projects on different social media sites. Yearly, she spends $500 alone on paper, pens and printer ink for the students who lack home printers, though it is tax deductible over a certain amount.
Rogers sometimes offers to help students’ graduation costs and she described an instance where she offered to pay for a student’s ACT test, which cost about $60 and is essential for college acceptance. Despite originally declining, the student boosted her score and Roger was thrilled.
“If I’m fortunate, I’m going to make the best of it,” she said, though she supports the teacher pay raise knowing the benefits it would bring to the state and to teachers.
“Teachers understand teaching is the noblest profession and even after the pay raise, they do it for kids’ rewards, not money,” Jackson said.