Louisiana lawmakers plan $1,000 pay raises for K-12 teachers

Louisiana lawmakers intend to give K-12 public school teachers a $1,000 pay raise next year, more than double the amount proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, the leader of the Senate Education Committee said today.

Sen. Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, said legislative leaders plan to include that salary hike in next year’s budget, along with a $500 increase for support staff such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers. Louisiana remains well behind the Southern average for its education salaries.

Fields says the agreement was reached with Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, along with the heads of the House and Senate budget committees, all Republicans. Edwards had proposed $400 teacher raises and $200 for support workers, though the Democratic governor had said he hoped that could be increased if more money became available.

The smaller raises “are insufficient,” Fields said in a meeting of the Senate Education Committee.

Fields didn’t identify how the state will pay for the larger pay raises, which would more than double the $40 million price tag for the governor’s proposed increases.

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday will unveil its spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1, which is expected to include the bigger salary hikes and show how lawmakers have chosen to fund them.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana doesn’t have the major financial problems it’s seen in prior years as the state’s tax collections rebound and federal aid has helped cover some of the remaining gaps.

The Senate committee rejected the nearly $4 billion public school financing formula for the 2021-22 year that lawmakers received from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and asked the board to submit a new formula with the larger pay raises included.

Lawmakers can reject or approve the formula submitted by BESE, but they cannot change it. If the education board and lawmakers don’t agree on a new financing formula, the state continues to use the formula already on the books.