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Money, Money, Money, Money


I was feeling pretty good about the salaries we are paying our teachers. The salary schedule was based upon the Recovery School District’s (RSD) salaries for 2006 – 2007. We added an additional $2,375 raise for certified teachers and $1,000 for other degreed personnel which the state granted in July. It was topped off with a potential $1,000 for teachers who participated in the two week pre-opening activities. It was a great deal for teachers because the RSD salaries were already among the highest paid in the state.

Last week, we submitted our plan for the Hurricane Educator Assistance Program. This fund is reserved as bonuses and incentives to recruit and retain certified staff. Our plan will pay each certified teacher a $500 bonus at the end of each semester for three years. If the teacher relocated to New Orleans from within the state and moved 50 miles or more, we will pay up to $1,000 for moving expenses. Additionally, we have a Pay-for-Performance plan that can earn each teacher $1,000 extra per year for three years. This plan includes activities, leadership roles, attendance to professional developments, and sponsorship of school clubs and community events. Sounds good, right?

One of our teachers forwarded RSD’s latest bulletin to me and took the wind out of my sails. On December 7th any teacher, assistant principal, or principal who worked in an RSD-operated school last year and returned for 2007-08 will receive a whopping $5,000 bonus!

We have nine (9) teachers who have to be wondering whether they made the right decision to transfer from the RSD schools where they worked last year to our charter school. What pot of gold does RSD have to pay these huge bonuses to hundreds of teachers? It’s not that I think they don’t deserve it; their jobs are some of the toughest in the new educational landscape. But, our teachers deserve as much as anyone. If this keeps up, we will soon be in a serious bidding war for teachers.

I think our teachers appreciate the things we do to show how much we value them. But there’s an old saying that starts, “Money talks and . . . . When I talk to the staff on Thursday at the Staff Discussion Meeting about how much we appreciate their hard work, I’m not sure who will be listening.


All these incentives seem enticing, but what is the average teacher's salary now and before Hurricane Katrina. Also how do they compare to the national average teacher's salaries?

The average teacher salary is $45,075, slightly less that the Southern average of $45,169. This is currently higher than Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. It's not nearly as high as Connecticut where the average salary is $57,760. The AFT reports can give more information on this. Nationally, Louisiana is holding its own. Pre-Katrina we were making slow progress toward reaching the Southern average. We have a new governor who may take us to the goal set by Governor Foster 8 years ago.

In your opinion, are these raises long over due or just sympathy payments to hire quality teachers since the area is in the nation's eye? In other words, would your teachers received these raises if Hurricane Katrina did not cause such catastrophic damage that drew attention to the needed overhaul in the education system?

The raises have been slow in coming and are long overdue. The teachers in the entire state of Louisiana have been paid less than the rest of the region for many years. The last two governors, Foster and then Blanco, both pledged to give the teachers raises to push the pay scale of state support up to the southern average. With the most recent raise under Blanco, we are almost there. Like the old Clint Eastwood movie, “For a Few Dollars More,” we haven’t quite made it.

There was always a shortage of certified teachers in New Orleans, even pre-Katrina. It has taken special recruitment efforts to get our qualified teachers to return and to recruit new teachers from other states. This web site has wonderful information about the recruitment efforts http://wwww.whyyouteach.org/.

To answer your question directly, the teachers were already receiving raises before Hurricane Katrina. The whole state was not devastated, mainly New Orleans due to the levee failure and subsequent flooding, not because of the storm. These are not sympathy payments; they are supply and demand payments. Nurses in New Orleans can make $50 per hour. Burger King and McDonald's Hamburger restaurants were paying $12 per hour and more to teenagers to flip burgers. They even had signing bonuses! Everything costs more for us now. Construction materials, appliances, and labor costs are higher.

We have federal money to jump start charter schools that is not available to the traditional public school district, New Orleans Public Schools. If the government wanted to help overhaul the education system, this district would get even more money to build new schools and train new leaders. I believe that the charter school agenda is motivated more by politics and money, not sympathy.

Thank you for the work that you do as a blogger... for helping raise awareness about the continuing hardships in New Orleans. I am hoping to go down in April for a a week to help repair houses. Is there work that you wish volunteers were focusing specifically on?

I've been thinking about your question for a week. The best projects are those that can be finished in the time frame of your visit. For example, I had four volunteers who had one day to schedule their efforts. I asked them to help move instructional materials, excess textbooks, and manipulatives from all over the building to one central location. In a few hours, they were able to organize our supply room and facilitate the taking of inventory. I'm looking for volunteers now to help us shelve all of the books for our new library. It will be a simple project for about a dozen volunteers and one experienced librarian. Right now, we don't have either.

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Recent Comments

  • Roslyn: I've been thinking about your question for a week. The read more
  • Rebecca Wallace-Segall: Thank you for the work that you do as a read more
  • Roslyn: The raises have been slow in coming and are long read more
  • CAW: In your opinion, are these raises long over due or read more
  • Roslyn: The average teacher salary is $45,075, slightly less that the read more



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