Report from Louisiana: Governor Edwards breaks promise to teachers

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Really, who is shocked by this?

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is giving pay raises to his staff appointees but not to teachers. During his recent campaign, Edwards promised teachers he would bring their pay up to the Southern regional average; he even gave teachers a $1,000 per year raise, the first in over a decade, to show good faith. But when his new budget proposal came out, nada. Nothing. Except for his political appointees.

From The Advocate:

The Democratic governor’s chief financial adviser, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, mentioned the raises in his presentation of Edwards’ budget recommendations for the upcoming 2020-21 year, describing it to lawmakers as a “small increase.” The AP received the list after asking Dardenne’s office for specific details.

Dardenne said the “unclassified employees” across Louisiana state government hadn’t received pay raises over the governor’s first term, even as other rank-and-file civil service workers did. He said most of the increases are 4%.

So, for example, Edwards’ attorney’s salary will bump from $180,000 to $187,200 and his deputy chief of progams and planning goes from $125,000 to $150,000. 

If I, as a teacher, got a 25K pay raise, I’d be pretty satisfied.

Edwards spokeswoman Christina Stephens said the pay hikes represent a “tiny fraction of the overall state budget.” She said they “were included as part of the governor’s budget proposal only after two years of budget stability and an improved economic outlook for the state.”

Teachers across Louisiana are livid. 

Teachers turned out for Edwards across the state, well, some of them did. Not all of us were fooled.

Instead, Governor Edwards is sending more money to local districts and telling them to fund their own pay raises from that, however, the amount for local districts is not nearly enough to fund pay raises.

The Advocate:

 A Louisiana teacher makes an average is $50,359 per year compared with $52,178 in the 16-state region, according to 2017-18 tabulations, the latest available. That’s about what a manager at McDonald’s makes. But managers also get cash bonuses, profit-sharing and stock options. Plus, teachers need a college degree. And the average college student graduates with a debt of $29,800.

Relying on public school math, it cost Louisiana taxpayers about $101 million for last year’s raise, meaning another $200 million is needed to bring this state’s teachers up to the regional average of 2018. But that’s a moving target. Texas boosted salaries by up to $9,000. Teacher pay rose by $3,000 in Georgia and $2,000 in Florida, according to the Southern Regional Education Board.

Louisiana radio host Moon Griffon pointed out last week that teachers are 10-month employees, and that a family of two teachers makes 100k a year, if they both make the average 50k. “That’s not bad,” Griffon said.  In Caddo Parish, one of the larger parishes in Louisiana, beginning teachers make $44k and don’t approach that $50k figure until about year ten. It isn’t that different in neighboring Bossier Parish, where a teacher with a BA degree with thirty years experience will max out at $59k.  In DeSoto parish, a beginning teacher makes $49k – zero years experience. By year ten, that teacher is up to $54k and by thirty, $61k.

None of these salaries are anywhere near what a staffer for John Bel Edwards is making, yet Edwards loves to point out how valuable teachers are.

Apparently only as long as he needs our votes. Then our value goes down.

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

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