This week, two major things happened with your raise, and two actions are needed to make sure you receive a raise.
#1: The Legislature has more money to spend in this year’s budget.
The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) had their long anticipated meeting on Thursday. After hearing from the state’s economist, the REC adopted conservative revenue projections, recognizing $806 million in new general fund revenue.
That means legislators have hundreds of millions of dollars more that they can use to fund the budget that is currently being debated by the legislature. This is in addition to the historic $1.6 billion surplus they already had to work with.
The state economist also agreed with national economists saying that they do not expect the “waiting for Gadot recession” to occur but instead a “soft landing,” which was reflected in their projections. When asked about the looming $418 million “fiscal cliff” projected when the .45% sales tax rolls off in 2025, the economist said that it was already ”baked into their projections.”
In addition to the reoccurring revenue, the two state “savings accounts,” the Rainy-Day Fund and the Revenue Stabilization Fund, will increase to $903 million and $1.7 billion, respectively. That is approximately $2.7 billion that is set aside for future needs.
The money is there to invest in students and the teachers and support staff who care for them every day!
On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee will hear public testimony on the budget (HB 1).This is our chance to tell the Committee why raises for teachers and staff should be a top priority! Unfortunately, this meeting has been scheduled for a time when most teachers and school employees are still in school, but you can write to the Committee and put your testimony on the official record:
#2: The Senate Education Committee rejected SCR 2.
On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee finally considered SCR 2, the legislative instrument for the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), which is the K-12 funding formula. The MFP, along with the state budget (HB 1), is what will determine the teacher and school employee pay raise. They voted to reject the MFP proposal as it originally stands and send it back to BESE.
LFT Local leaders from around the state took to the microphone to testify before the committee, asking them to reject the MFP in its current form and ask BESE to increase the raise to at least $3,000 for teachers and $1,500 for support staff. They eloquently laid out all the reasons that teachers and school employees deserve this show of recognition for their hard work and dedicated service.
Vice Chair Katrina Jackson spoke out about the need for pay increases as well. She spoke to the concern that teachers are leaving for higher paying positions in other states or other professions, and expressed alarm about growing levels of uncertified teachers in the classroom. State Superintendent Cade Brumley once again touted a decrease in the “teacher vacancy rate” but after LDOE was pressed multiple times for specific numbers, they revealed that only 69% of teachers are certified and teaching in their area of certification, according to the most recent report.
In an extremely rare move, Senate President Page Cortez joined the meeting to speak on the proposed pay raise. He indicated that he wanted LDOE and BESE to reduce their total MFP proposal because he didn’t think there was enough support in the legislature to pass the full spending plan currently in the MFP, which would ultimately leave teachers and school employees with nothing. He explained that in order to add the MFP funding to the budget passed in the House, they would have to bust the spending cap, which requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers. While true, the Senate President left out the fact that the legislature could cut other things from the budget to make room for teacher and school employee raises without busting the cap.
At the end of the day, a budget is a statement of values, and the question remains: do legislators value teachers and school employees enough to make their raise a priority?
On Wednesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will weigh in, again.
Their original proposal called for a $2,000 raise for teachers, $1,000 for support staff and a differential payment stipend of $1,000 for certain teachers in certain circumstances. The differential stipend model is popular among some legislators and reform advocates, but widely unpopular among educators.
On Wednesday, BESE will decide whether to fund a raise for teachers and staff or a stipend for only certain teachers. The differential stipend payment in the original MFP proposal would be at the discretion of your local school board, and is not guaranteed from one year to the next. Your district could use the funding to give all math teachers a boost one year and then the next they determine that science teachers are the highest priority, so they take the stipend away from math teachers and give it to science teachers. Or teachers at one school vs. another. Stipends won’t give teachers any financial security and it will only serve to further destabilize the profession because a teacher won’t be able to predict their salary from one year to the next.
Moreover, the stipend would only go to the teachers that your school district deems worthy. What about all the other vital job classifications that our students rely on? Our students are facing a mental health crisis like we’ve never seen before and they rely on school nurses, therapists, counselors, PSRPs, etc., but none of these job classifications stand to see extra income under the differential payment stipend.
It is vital that BESE put all available funding into permanent raises for teachers and school employees. That is what will be most effective in ensuring that students have the teachers and staff that they need in school every day.
The Board will make this determination on Wednesday. Unfortunately, most educators will still be in school and unable to speak before the Board. It is important for all of the BESE members to hear from you about why it is so important for every available penny to go towards permanent raises for teachers and school employees.
As we mourn the degradation of our public education system, please join us on Wednesday wearing black.