UPDATE: Governor Issues His Budget Vetoes
On June 1st, Governor John Bel Edwards issued his line item vetoes of HB 1, the budget bill. He shifted appropriations to provide further pay increases for higher education faculty. It has been a long time since our college and university faculty got the raises they deserve, so this is a great re-appropriations. Unfortunately, the Governor did not have the political support or funding to increase the raise for K-12 school personnel beyond $1,500/$750.
Step #5: Legislative Budget Passed
Unfortunately, despite outcry from LFT leaders and thousands of members across the state, the Senate did not increase the proposed raise. On Wednesday, May 18th the Senate passed the budget bill and on Thursday, the House concurred to all amendments. The final legislative budget, which will now be sent to the Governor, includes a $1,500 raise for certified staff and $750 for classified employees. While this is the largest raise that Louisiana has passed in over a decade, it pales in comparison to what other states have done in recent years.
In 2019, when teachers got a $1000 pay raise and support staff got $500, almost every other state in the southern region gave their teachers more: Georgia gave teachers a $3,000 raise; Texas gave between $5,500 and $9,000. In fact, when you look at all the states in the southern region, $1,000 was the lowest raise given that year. Last year, states passed even further increases, including Arkansas which passed a $2,000 raise and increased funding for lower-paying school districts.
This year, we've already seen neighboring states giving a larger pay raise. Mississippi gave teachers a big raise, averaging $5,140. Alabama gave most teachers a 4% raise but those with a bachelor’s degree and 35 years of experience would get a 20.8% raise. Georgia gave $5,000 over the past two years with regular increases moving forward.
Our schools are in a critical moment and extreme staffing shortages are impacting students and teachers alike. This year, the legislature had hundreds of millions of dollars available that they chose to invest in pet projects instead of doing more to help our schools when we need it most.
This level of disrespect from our elected officials is nothing new. As we look towards the future, we know that we will have to stand up and fight for what teachers and students deserve. What are you willing to do? Click here to let us know.
Step #4: House Education Committee Approves HCR 23
On Wednesday, April 27th the House Education Committee considered and approved HCR 23 (Harris), which is the legislative instrument for the Minimum Foundation Program. HCR 23 reflects the MFP exactly as it was proposed by BESE. It includes a $1,500 pay raise for certified personnel and $750 for classified staff. LFT Legislative Director Cynthia Posey testified before the committee, advocating for an increase to the proposed raise.
Along with the MFP proposal, BESE also submitted a letter to the legislature urging that any additional funds recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference in early May be allocated for additional salary increases. If the REC recognizes additional funding, BESE requests that the Legislature return the MFP formula to BESE so that they may revise and resubmit the formula to increase the pay raise to a minimum of $2,000 for certificated staff and $1,000 for non-certificated support staff.
The REC has not yet met, so we do not know officially how much additional revenue will be recognized, but it is widely anticipated that there will be funding for additional pay increases. In order to increase the pay raise, the legislature would have to vote to return the MFP to BESE so that BESE can amend it. Then the legislature would have to approve either HCR 23 or SCR 19 and fully fund the proposal in the budget. While this may seem like a convoluted process, it isn’t unusual, the legislature has returned the MFP to BESE to ask them to increase or decrease their proposal in the past, and there is still plenty of time left in the process for this to happen.
In the event that HCR 23 is held up in the legislative process, or the House is unwilling to return the MFP to BESE, Senator Cleo Fields has filed SCR 19 to ensure there is a way to move the pay raises forward.
On Thursday, April 21st the House approved their initial budget. The $37 billion budget did include pay raises for teachers and school employees, but only $1,500 and $750. Instead, it provides for "about $34 million in earmarks for favored local projects, municipal agencies and outside groups that arguably have no place in a state spending plan." This budget will now proceed to the Senate, where it will be amended. Then, before a final budget is passed, it must be reconciled and approved by the full House and Senate again. A lot will change between now and then.
We are still optimistic that more funding will be made available for teacher and school employee raises. Unfortunately, it isn’t guaranteed. Some legislators are pushing back against additional increases. Now is the crucial time for your legislators to hear from you.
Please take a moment to send a personalized message to your Louisiana State Representative and Senator, asking them to support a larger pay increase. Tell them, in your own words, why this is so important.
Step #3: BESE Approves MFP Proposal
On Wednesday, March 9th the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the recommendation from the MFP Task Force regarding school funding and educator pay. The proposal calls for a $1,500 pay increase for certified staff and $750 for non-certificated support staff. It also provides for a $2,000 stipend for each certified mentor teacher.
BESE did not include an increase to Level 1 of the MFP, which provides for general per-pupil funding. This is largely because schools are getting $4 billion in federal aid to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, and educational leaders felt that the legislature would be unwilling to support increases to school funding while much of the federal money remains available.
The MFP proposal reflects what the Governor proposed in his executive budget and the LDOE proposed budget. Also included within the MFP proposal is a letter from BESE to the Legislature. In the letter, BESE urges that any additional funds recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference in May be allocated for additional salary increases. In the event that the REC recognizes additional funding, BESE requests that the Legislature return the MFP formula to BESE so that they may revise and resubmit the formula to increase the pay raise to a minimum of $2,000 for certificated staff and $1,000 for non-certificated support staff.
LFT President Larry Carter testified before BESE asking the Board to increase the MFP formula to provide a larger pay increase for teachers and school support staff. Specifically, he asked for a pay increase of at least $2,500 for teachers and $1,250 for support staff. In his testimony, President Carter discussed Louisiana’s past pay increases and highlighted that in recent years, all states in the Southern Region have given larger raises than Louisiana. While the proposed pay increase would be the largest that teachers and support staff have seen in over a decade, it still falls short.
“Louisiana has been shortchanging teachers for over a decade and it has led to the crippling teacher shortage that we’re currently seeing. Our schools are in crisis, there’s no other way to put it. We have custodians covering classes because there aren’t enough staff. Each day, more teachers are getting burnt out by their ever-expanding responsibilities. They’re seeing how much more they can make by changing professions or leaving the state.
We must fix this problem now, and bring relief to our teachers, or the staffing shortages will only get worse. And no, despite what I’ve heard from some members of this board, simply allowing retirees to return to the classroom will not fix the problem. We must fundamentally rethink how we value the teaching profession in this state, or our children’s education will suffer the consequences well into the future.” – LFT President Larry Carter
It is important to remember that at the MFP Task Force meeting in February, the original MFP recommendation presented by the LDOE did not call for further pay increases for non-certified support staff. If the legislature recognizes additional revenue, the LDOE was content to increase the raise for teachers to $2,000, but leave the pay increase for support staff at only $750. It was only because of pushback from LFT and other educational stakeholders that the committee agreed to revise the pay increase for both teachers and support staff, if the REC recognizes additional money in May.
Now, the MFP Proposal will be transmitted to the Louisiana Legislature. The Legislature cannot change the formula; it only has the power to approve it as is or send it back to BESE for revisal. Before the pay raise can be finalized, the Legislature must approve the MFP Resolution in legislation and fully fund the it in the budget.
We hope that the REC will recognize additional revenue in May. At that time, it will be up to legislators to determine whether or not that additional revenue will be used to increase teacher and school employee pay. If legislators support additional pay increases, they will return the MFP to BESE so that BESE can increase their proposal. Then, the MFP would return to the legislature for approval.
Nothing is guaranteed. We must continue to highlight how important it is for the legislature to fund the largest possible pay increases for teachers and support staff. In order to get to the Southern Regional average, we must pass a pay increase of at least $2,500 this year and $2,500 next year and we cannot exclude school support staff.
Step #2: The MFP Task Force
On Thursday, February 3rd, the MFP Task Force met to consider the financial needs of Louisiana’s schools and make a recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The MFP Task Force is made up of many different educational stakeholders including representatives from the business lobby as well as schools and educators. Each year, the task force makes a recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) about the MFP, which is the K-12 school funding formula in Louisiana. The recommendation from the task force is unbinding, but BESE will consider it when they make their proposal to the Louisiana legislature and they must submit an MFP proposal to the legislature no later than March 15th.
At the meeting, the task force considered the proposal outlined in the executive budget, which would give a $1,500 raise for teachers and $750 for school employees. Throughout the meeting, LFT pushed for additional funding for teacher and school employee raises. Cynthia Posey, LFT’s representative on the task force said, “If were to reach the Southern Regional Average by the end of the Governor’s term, I think we need to be more aggressive: $2,500 this year and $2,500 next year. And I think we need to put cost of living on there so that we don’t get so far behind.”
There was also a long discussion about adding $80 million to Level 1 of the MFP, which would boost school district funding by 2.75%, but the motion failed. Ultimately, too many members of the panel felt that such an increase would be denied by the legislature because schools are getting nearly $4 billion in federal coronavirus aid (although districts are limited in how they can use that funding).
There was also a debate about whether or not any additional funding recognized by the state should be used to raise salaries for school support employees. LFT, along with educational stakeholders pushed for support employees to receive additional funding. “If we don’t advocate for additional increases for school employees we would be very remiss. School support employees have been covering classes because of the teacher shortages…They have gone far and above, and to not consider them and get the additional money would be a grave injustice” said Posey.
In the end, the task force approved a proposal by State Superintendent Cade Brumley to back Gov. Edward’s pay raise proposal: $1,500 for teachers and $750 for support workers. The recommendation to BESE also says that if the state recognizes more revenue the raise should be increased to at least $2,000 for teachers and $1,000 for support employees.
BESE will consider the task force’s recommendation at their next meeting on March 8th and 9th.
Step #1: Governor’s Proposal
In January, the Governor announced his Executive Budget. Each year the Governor releases his proposed budget, based on the revenue recognized by the state Revenue Estimating Conference, and it is largely considered to be the starting point for the state budget process.
In this year’s budget, the Governor proposed a $1,500 raise for teachers and $750 for school employees. He also said that if the REC recognizes additional revenue at their meeting in May, $49 million should go towards funding an additional $500 pay increase for teachers.
This raise would be the largest state-wide pay raise that Louisiana teachers have received in over a decade, and there are already members of the legislature questioning whether or not such an amount is feasible. But the truth is, this isn’t enough. Our schools have gone through cataclysmic changes in the last couple years. Educators feel like they’re working more than ever. Teacher retirement has gone up 25% from 2020-2021 and enrollment in teaching programs is at an all-time low. In order to get out of this hole we’re in, Louisiana needs to do more than just a few hundred dollars better than what was done last year, we need policy makers to recognize the extraordinary sacrifice of our teachers and school employees and rise to this extraordinary moment in history.
Louisiana is nearly $5,000 below the Southern Regional Average, and given teacher raises that are being proposed in other states, that number is only going up. Teachers deserve at least a $2,500 increase this year and next year, along with guaranteed cola increases in perpetuity, so that we don’t fall back into this hole again.