One day after news broke of a possible teacher walkout, Gov. John Bel Edwards appeared on the Capitol building steps to urge House members to approve the school funding formula pushed by his administration.
Edwards joined members of the Louisiana Coalition of Public Schools who gathered to support his proposal, which was approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Their plan includes pay raises of $1,000 for teachers and $500 for school support employees and an additional $39 million in funding for the school districts.
Lawmakers, including Senate Education Chair Blade Morrish and Rep. Pat Smith remain confident that the House will approve the funding formula. “The House of Representatives is going to vote this in if I have anything to do with it,” Smith said.
The Senate already advanced the state school board’s proposal in a 37 to 1 vote. House Republicans have proposed an alternative to Morrish’s plan, including a $1,200 pay raise for teachers and a $600 pay raise for support employees. But that measure, included in the budget bill authored by Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry, does not include the additional $39 million in discretionary funding.
If BESE and the Legislature cannot agree on a funding formula, then the 2018 formula will remain in place. Any raises or funding increases approved would be a one-time stipend. Said Edwards, “If we don’t move the funding formula all the way through the process and match it up with an appropriation you can call it what you want, but it will not be a pay raise.”
Leaders of the state’s teacher unions are confident that the funding formula will be approved by the full House. But if not, “we’ll take it to the ballot box,” said Larry Carter, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Despite a 2018 survey by the LFT that showed that 60% of union-member respondents favored job action if they were not granted a significant pay raise, Carter said the LFT doesn’t have any plans to organize a strike or a walkout if the proposed pay raises are not included in the state’s funding formula.
Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said she hopes Edwards will step in if BESE’s formula is not approved, adding she’s waiting to see what the Legislature does before the organization takes further action. But, she is confident that there will be some fall out if BESE’s proposal is not approved. “We’re not going to use the word strike,” Meaux said. ‘I’m not going to say that it will be a work action, I don’t know what the fallout would be, but I’m sure that there will be fall out,” she added.
“People are going to the polls in October. They may remember that this is something that was done to them and they may not take too kindly to those who did it to them,” Meaux said.
They said it: “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not having a great day,”—Sen. Danny Martiny, upon giving his retirement speech the same day as the defeat of his sports betting bill.