NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Members of a key state education board decided to back Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposal to increase teacher pay and state dollars for public schools.
Edwards went before a committee of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday. The governor said there is no excuse for not paying teachers more.
"The funding is available, the economy has improved, we have more people working, our businesses are more profitable than the forecasters had envisioned and so we actually have the revenue available to us,” Edwards said.
Under the governor’s proposal, teachers would get a $1,000 increase in pay and school support workers would receive an additional $500 annually.
"It’s been long overdue. Salaries have been frozen in this state since 2009, the MFP [Minimum Foundation Program] has been frozen since 2009. It’s time the state makes education a priority,” said Kesler Camese-Jones, interim-president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers.
The head of a statewide teacher’s union attended the meeting.
"It really is important that we make sure that our teachers are being paid well, and everyone agrees that the thousand dollars for certified personnel and the $500 for support personnel is not enough, but at this point it’s what our economy allows,” said Deborah Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.
Advocates for educators maintain that retention is a growing problem due to low pay.
"Unfortunately, many of our classrooms remain vacant now because we don’t have a certified teacher in many of those classrooms…Sometimes there is doubling up and a lot of times there are subs, substitutes,” said Jones.
During the legislative session which begins next month, state lawmakers will get to vote on the proposed raises.
"My message to state lawmakers is support the pay increase for our support employees and teachers. It’s time,” said Jones.
Meaux feels confident about the proposal’s chances at the State Capitol.
"I believe that yes, we will have the votes for the pay increase and also the extra funding for our school system,” stated Meaux.
The full BESE Board is expected to ratify the committee’s decision on Wednesday.