Today, Governor Edwards released his proposed budget for the upcoming year. This outlines his spending priorities for the state, but it is only the first step. The budget will now go through the legislative process, where legislators will make adjustments to reflect their own priorities. We are pleased to see that the Governor did include pay raises for teachers and school employees in his proposal, but ultimately this amount still falls short of what is needed.
The Governor’s budget calls for a $2,000 increase for certified school employees and $1,000 for support staff, a total investment of $196.5 million. This amount is larger than raises offered in years past, but it does not do enough to offset the increased burdens on our teachers that have led so many to leave the classroom in recent years.
While the legislature has passed raises in 2019, 2021, and 2022, these marginal increases were hardly felt by teachers and school employees in the classroom. In fact, most of the “raise” was eaten up by increased health insurance premiums and other added costs. Last year, the Office of Group Benefits increased premiums for the fifth consecutive time, despite a growing fund balance that is above the target range.
To add insult to injury, the Louisiana Department of Education also plans to begin taxing teachers later this year after passing HB 156 during the 2022 Legislative Session. The new law will allow LDOE to charge teachers a fee to pay for duplicate background checks, with some of that money going directly into the pocket of the Department.
Governor Edwards’ office has said they hope to increase the pay raise to $3,000 for certified staff and $1,500 for support staff if more funding is recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) later this year. Still, at this point, nothing is guaranteed. This budget is only a starting point, and it will be debated vigorously during the upcoming legislative session. Unfortunately, last year the legislature did not heed the Governor’s recommendation to increase teacher and school employee pay after the REC recognized additional funding.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers hopes to see pay raises closer to the amount our hardworking teachers and school employees deserve. We are calling on our legislators to pass a pay increase of at least $5,000 this year.
Our schools are still understaffed, and students are feeling the impact. We know that the single most important factor in a child’s education is a highly qualified and experienced teacher at the front of the classroom. Still, there aren’t enough certified teachers to meet the needs of every student. Our educational system is in a crisis, and our legislators need to rise to this moment and rethink how we value our teachers.
During the course of today’s Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget meeting, many legislators asked questions about the proposed executive budget. Unfortunately, none asked any questions about the raise for teachers and school employees. Now, educators across the state are wondering where their legislators stand on this issue and their intention in the upcoming legislative session. Louisiana can’t afford to fall further behind. It is now up to the legislature to make educators and students a top priority and to ensure that Louisiana will be able to compete with neighboring states in educator pay.