Education Department defies legislature on teacher raise

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(Baton Rouge - June 14, 2013) Apparently flaunting the will of the Louisiana Legislature, the Louisiana Department of Education is reportedly determined to distribute a small, one-time stipend for certificated classroom teachers based on a flawed and inaccurate teacher evaluation system.

“Despite assurances from the members of a legislative budget conference committee, the Department appears poised to allocate the one-time raises according to what is called the ‘established compensation plan’,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said. “That is completely unacceptable.

"Let's be clear,” Monaghan said. “For teachers the dollars ---while certainly appreciated ---range from very little to not much at all.".

When lawmakers approved a state budget on the last day of the legislative session, Monaghan said, they included a $69 million increase in funding for public education, the first bump in public education spending in four years.

Half of that, the legislature said, was to be distributed as a one-time stipend for certificated classroom personnel.

“Legislators made it very clear that these dollars would be distributed according to the teacher count in each school district, and that there would be no strings attached,” Monaghan said.

However, in a newsletter sent to local school officials this week, it was stated, “The pay raises will be allocated according to established compensation plan.”

This was apparently referring to new teacher salary schedules adopted by school districts in accordance with Act 1 of 2012, which ties teacher compensation to their COMPASS evaluations.

The fate of that law is currently in the hands of the court. A district judge ruled it unconstitutional earlier this year, but the State Supreme sent it back to the original judge for reconsideration.

“Because of the controversy surrounding COMPASS,” Monaghan said, “the legislature wisely decided to separate this small, one-time supplement from the evaluation plan.”

The LFT president said the matter will either be settled at Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at its monthly meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday, or be brought to the attention of the Legislative Joint Budget Committee on Thursday.