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Louisiana Governor Pledges to Up Teacher Pay, But Some Say Not By Enough

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Louisiana's governor said his No. 1 priority for 2019 is to secure teachers a $1,000 pay raise. But frustrated with years of low pay, teachers' groups are saying that amount won't satisfy everyone. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said on Wednesday that it's been "a long time since" the state passed a pay raise for teachers, who earn about a $50,000 salary on average, according to the National Education Association. That's less than teachers earn in the neighboring state of Texas. Edwards also called for a $500 pay raise for school support staff, like bus drivers, custodians, and teachers' aides. 

That salary boost would come from an increase in the state's revenue projections, rather than a tax increase, the Times-Picayune reported. And raising teacher pay seems to have received widespread support in the state legislature, although opinions vary on how much of an increase teachers should receive and who should be included in the pay bump. Some legislators don't support a salary increase for support staff, for example.

Still, the state's two major teachers' unions aren't entirely on board with the governor's plan. A spokesman for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers told the news station KPEL 965 that teachers in the state hadn't received a significant pay raise in over a decade, and $1,000 wasn't enough to raise teachers' salaries to the regional average. That union has floated the idea of a $2,200 pay raise.

"Nobody is going to turn down a $1,000 pay raise but that would not be enough to stem the outflow of teachers," said the LFT spokesman, Les Landon. 

Meanwhile, the other statewide union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, is seeking a $1,200-a-year pay raise for teachers, according to news outlets.

Teachers' dissatisfaction with their salaries has caused some to wonder if the Bayou State will be the next to see labor unrest. Last spring, teachers in six states—including nearby Oklahoma—walked out of their classrooms to protest low pay and cuts to school funding. 

In May, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers polled about 4,000 educators and found that just over 60 percent were in favor of a statewide walkout. And just this week, the president of the Louisiana Association of Educators said that while the union wasn't currently planning any type of job action, she didn't want to "rule anything out."

Edwards, who is running for re-election in 2019, has said that he wants to continue to raise teacher pay for the next two or three years. Some lawmakers have also said they want to raise teacher pay by even more than $1,000 this year—for example, Rep. Nancy Landry, the chairwoman of the state House education committee and a Republican, said she would support giving teachers a $1,800 raise if it could be done without raising taxes, according to the Advocate.

Image via Getty

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