Report from Louisiana: The Edwards Teacher Pay Raise

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Report from Louisiana: The Edwards Teacher Pay Raise

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT — With the Louisiana guber­na­to­r­ial elec­tion just six months away, Gov­er­nor John Bel Edwards is prob­a­bly not too wor­ried about re-​election, but he is cov­er­ing his bases just in case. Early in the elec­tion cycle he pro­posed a teacher pay raise, and scant as it is ($1,000 a year), I sup­pose the move reaf­firms teacher sup­port for Edwards in some cases.

In gen­eral, peo­ple are tired of throw­ing money at edu­ca­tion
in an attempt to fix prob­lems, and there is some merit to that argu­ment. How­ever, it is also true that Louisiana is
well below the South­ern aver­age in teacher pay.

Full dis­clo­sure: I am a twenty-​three year vet­eran teacher in
Louisiana. That being said, while I knew when I went into the pro­fes­sion that I
would never get a six-​figure salary and would prob­a­bly have to work two jobs to
make ends meet. Most teach­ers real­ize
this. How­ever, when you are at the very bot­tom of the pay scale in com­par­i­son
to neigh­bor­ing states and even neigh­bor­ing parishes and dis­tricts, the sting is
a lit­tle tougher.

Start­ing pay in my dis­trict is about $41k. Start­ing pay in a neigh­bor­ing parish is about
$47k. So, a $1,000 per year pay raise
isn’t going to help me keep up; this means that our dis­trict bleeds teach­ers to
other dis­tricts. Even still, our
dis­trict is one of the top-​performing dis­tricts in the state.

I’ll take the raise by Edwards (if it passes the
leg­is­la­ture), but it’s not enough.

Know­ing that, Edwards has pro­posed an addi­tional $39 mil­lion in fund­ing to pub­lic edu­ca­tion. Even though this is only the sec­ond aid hike in a decade, some in the leg­is­la­ture are opposed and want that money to go to early child­hood education.

It’s quite likely that the raise pro­posed by Edwards will pass;
the aid pack­age is not so cer­tain. In parishes like mine where pay is very low,
local school dis­tricts are scram­bling to find ways to retain teach­ers. Cur­rently my dis­trict has forty-​one teacher
open­ings for next term. In my school we have had teach­ers leave dur­ing the
school year to work in higher pay­ing dis­tricts and those classes end up being
cov­ered by long-​term sub­sti­tute teachers.

There are many pieces to the puz­zle that com­prise pub­lic
edu­ca­tion and pay issues and fund­ing are only a part of it. Peo­ple are tired of
top-​heavy admin­is­tra­tion, poor cur­ricu­lum, Com­mon Core, and other man­dates that
are well beyond teacher control.

I have thor­oughly enjoyed my teach­ing career; I never got
into it for the money but given that, I still have bills to meet and a life to
live. Doing it on pen­nies has been part of the grind. I wish I had a dol­lar
fig­ure for what I’ve spent on pens, pen­cils, note­book paper, printer ink, dry
erase mark­ers, class­room library books, snacks, class­room décor, and the count­less
times I’ve given kids a dol­lar for lunch or the snack machine through my twenty-​three
years.

As much as I’ve enjoyed it, I’m two years out from being
able to retire and while I once thought I would work until I couldn’t any­more,
I’m begin­ning to think I’ll punch the clock at twenty-​five.

By the time Gov­er­nor Edwards gives me $1,000 per year, divide
that by 12, and that’s $83 per month. But taxes will go up and insur­ance will
go up, and before you know it, I’m actu­ally mak­ing less that I was before.

I’m not sure what the answer is for our poorly paid pro­fes­sion,
and $1,000 per year might be a start, but I’ve been hear­ing that for
twenty-​three years. It’s time to find
real answers and Edwards pan­der­ing for teacher votes with his $1,000 just isn’t
the answer.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25 and Twit­ter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT  — With the Louisiana gubernatorial election just six months away, Governor John Bel Edwards is probably not too worried about re-election, but he is covering his bases just in case.  Early in the election cycle he proposed a teacher pay raise, and scant as it is ($1,000 a year), I suppose the move reaffirms teacher support for Edwards in some cases.

In general, people are tired of throwing money at education in an attempt to fix problems, and there is some merit to that argument.  However, it is also true that Louisiana is well below the Southern average in teacher pay. 

Full disclosure: I am a twenty-three year veteran teacher in Louisiana. That being said, while I knew when I went into the profession that I would never get a six-figure salary and would probably have to work two jobs to make ends meet.  Most teachers realize this. However, when you are at the very bottom of the pay scale in comparison to neighboring states and even neighboring parishes and districts, the sting is a little tougher.

Starting pay in my district is about $41k.  Starting pay in a neighboring parish is about $47k.  So, a $1,000 per year pay raise isn’t going to help me keep up; this means that our district bleeds teachers to other districts.  Even still, our district is one of the top-performing districts in the state.

I’ll take the raise by Edwards (if it passes the legislature), but it’s not enough.

Knowing that, Edwards has proposed an additional $39 million in funding to public education. Even though this is only the second aid hike in a decade, some in the legislature are opposed and want that money to go to early childhood education. 

It’s quite likely that the raise proposed by Edwards will pass; the aid package is not so certain. In parishes like mine where pay is very low, local school districts are scrambling to find ways to retain teachers.  Currently my district has forty-one teacher openings for next term. In my school we have had teachers leave during the school year to work in higher paying districts and those classes end up being covered by long-term substitute teachers.

There are many pieces to the puzzle that comprise public education and pay issues and funding are only a part of it. People are tired of top-heavy administration, poor curriculum, Common Core, and other mandates that are well beyond teacher control.  

I have thoroughly enjoyed my teaching career; I never got into it for the money but given that, I still have bills to meet and a life to live. Doing it on pennies has been part of the grind. I wish I had a dollar figure for what I’ve spent on pens, pencils, notebook paper, printer ink, dry erase markers, classroom library books, snacks, classroom décor, and the countless times I’ve given kids a dollar for lunch or the snack machine through my twenty-three years.

As much as I’ve enjoyed it, I’m two years out from being able to retire and while I once thought I would work until I couldn’t anymore, I’m beginning to think I’ll punch the clock at twenty-five.

By the time Governor Edwards gives me $1,000 per year, divide that by 12, and that’s $83 per month. But taxes will go up and insurance will go up, and before you know it, I’m actually making less that I was before.

I’m not sure what the answer is for our poorly paid profession, and $1,000 per year might be a start, but I’ve been hearing that for twenty-three years.  It’s time to find real answers and Edwards pandering for teacher votes with his $1,000 just isn’t the answer.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.