Teachers’ unions blast the type of pay raise approved by lawmakers; grants funded for hardier roofs
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Grants will be available to help homeowners harden their roofs because of action taken by state lawmakers during the legislative session, which ended this week. But public school teachers are disappointed over the amount and type of pay raise the legislature approved for them.
Cynthia Posey is the Louisiana Federation of Teachers’ legislative and political director.
“To characterize it as a pay raise is inaccurate. It is a stipend, a one-time payment really, you know if you look at it, the language that’s in HB 1, that can be taken away next session,” said Posey.
The raise approved by a majority of legislators is $2,000 for teachers and $1,000 for school support workers.
Governor John Bel Edwards who is in his final months as governor had proposed a larger raise that would be permanent.
“We obviously didn’t get everything that we wanted. We wanted a $3,000 pay raise and a $1,500 raise for support workers and certainly, we could have afforded it. Now was the best time to do it to get to the southern regional average,” said Edwards less than an hour after the session adjourned.
The state is flush with cash because of huge surpluses. And Edwards and the teachers’ unions are critical of lawmakers for not approving permanent and higher pay hikes.
“In a session where had unprecedented amounts of reoccurring revenue recognized, to not invest in education, that’s almost a crime,” said Posey.
She expects the one-time pay hike to hurt morale and efforts to hire more teachers.
“Absolutely, you know Louisiana is facing the largest staffing crisis we’ve ever seen, most people, most parents don’t realize that over a third of our teaching staff is teaching without certification or they’re teaching out of certification or are on provisional certification which means that our students are not receiving the instruction they deserve,” said Posey.
Tia Mills, President of the Louisiana Association of Educators, is equally as disappointed. She issued the following statement:
“It is imperative that policymakers understand how valuable of a resource we have in Louisiana’s educators. As veterans retire and receive a much-needed rest for years of dedication and hard work, our profession continues to see a huge decline in replacements. The trend for vacant positions state-wide is detrimental to our children’s future and will continue if we don’t invest in them properly. Yesterday was a perfect opportunity to show just how much we are valued and the mark was simply missed.”
Edwards is also peeved over a huge funding cut for the La. Department of Health.
“I want to let everyone in the state know now that I will use every means at my disposal to minimize or completely eliminate that funding reduction,” said Edwards.
He said reducing state funding for LDH will impact the federal dollars the agency receives.
“Because a hundred million dollar cut to LDH, because so much of their funds are used to match federal funds could end up being several hundred million dollars in reduction and to do that at a time when our fiscal situation is better than it ever has been, when we have more money in the bank than we’ve ever had and our forecast is so strong is just ridiculous. It was a complete surprise to me, by the way,” said Edwards.
Legislation designed to help the insurance crisis did make it out of the legislature. The Louisiana Department of Insurance says the final amount lawmakers approved to fund the La. Fortify Homes Program which will provide grants to homeowners to harden their roofs was $30 million and another $10 million was approved for the Insure Louisiana Incentive Program which gives grants to insurance companies to write new wind and hail policies.
Rep. Kyle Green, D-Marrero says the grants for homeowners are definitely needed. “There is a broad consensus on the the need for it, to make sure that homes are built up to a code to withstand some of these storms,” said Green.
Edwards preferred more funding for the two programs.
“I don’t think either was increased to the extent that we had asked but it was substantial investments in those initiatives and we’re thankful for that because we know that we have a crisis,” said Edwards.
Bills to force insurers to give property owners discounts for installing stronger roofs also won final legislative approval. One of them has already been signed into law by the governor.
Rep. Raymond Garofalo says his legislation targeting insurance fraud did make it out of the legislature.
“We’ve been able to expand the fraud authority in Louisiana to do investigations on all types of insurance fraud, not just auto insurance fraud,” he said.
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