Senate Finance Set to Determine Your Raise
On Sunday afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to deliberate the budget bill (HB 1) and they will determine how much money to allocate for teacher and school employee raises. If the Senate doesn’t fund raises in the budget, then teachers and school employees aren’t getting raises this year, so this is very important!
Earlier this week, the Revenue Estimating Conference had their long-anticipated May meeting to review and revise the Official Revenue Forecast for FY22 and FY23 as well as recognize FY21 year-end balances. The REC recognized an additional $350 million in revenue for this year (and $104 million for next year).
When BESE sent their MFP proposal to the legislature in March they proposed a $1,500 pay increase for certified staff and $750 for classified employees, but they included a caveat. Alongside the MFP, BESE included a letter asking the legislature to return the MFP for additional pay increases if the REC recognizes additional money at the May meeting. Now that the REC has recognized additional money, it’s up to the legislature to decide whether they are going to support additional pay increases.
The Senate Finance Committee is pivotal in this process. They must pass a budget bill that provides for the full pay raise.
This is an actual billboard in Baton Rouge trying to recruit Louisiana teachers to move to Texas. Similar billboards can be seen across the state. Louisiana’s teacher shortage has reached catastrophic levels. As our educators struggle to do more with less, many are realizing that they can receive better pay and working conditions in neighboring states.
In 2019, when teachers got a $1000 pay raise and support staff got $500, almost every other state in the southern region gave their teachers more: Georgia gave teachers a $3,000 raise; Texas gave between $5,500 and $9,000. In fact, when you look at all the states in the southern region, $1,000 was the lowest raise given that year. Last year, states passed even further increases, including Arkansas which passed a $2,000 raise and increased funding for lower-paying school districts.
This year, we've already seen neighboring states giving a larger pay raise. Mississippi gave teachers a big raise, averaging $5,140. Alabama gave most teachers a 4% raise but those with a bachelor’s degree and 35 years experience would get a 20.8% raise. Georgia gave $5,000 over the past two years with regular increases moving forward.
Louisiana can not afford to fall further and further behind.
Here’s what else happened this week:
Right to Appeal Sabbaticals Denied
On Wednesday afternoon, the House of Representatives failed to pass HB 688 (Phelps) by a vote of 34-58. This bill sought to give teachers the ability to appeal in the event that their sabbatical leave is denied. School districts would still have the ability to deny sabbaticals at their discretion, this would have just added an appeal process to provide fairness and transparency around the decision. Thank you for bringing this bill, Rep. Phelps. You can see how your Representative voted here.
Expanding Employee Rights on Sick Leave
On Tuesday, May 10th the House Education Committee approved HB 819 (Cox) without objection. Unfortunately, Rep. Cox is out with an injury, but Rep. Jefferson stepped up to carry the bill. HB 819 is important to expand extended sick leave provisions to all school system employees. Specifically, it would:
Give all employees the ability to take their extended sick leave one day at a time, without having to take all 10 days at once.
Make maternal health extended sick leave available to all employees. Right now, it’s only available to teachers.
HB 819 is currently scheduled for debate before the full House on Tuesday, May 17th. Click here to ask your legislators to support HB 819!
Attack on Educators Clears Hurdle
Last week, HB 837 (Horton) was rejected by the House Education Committee by a vote of 4-7. On Tuesday, the full House of Representatives voted to override the House Education Committee and discharge HB 837 to the House floor. Now, it can get a vote from the full House and potentially continue on in the legislative process.
HB 837 has become a political battleground that puts teachers and their students in the line of fire. Proponents claim that this bill would prohibit teachers and school employees from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, but HB 837 is very different from legislation proposed in other states on this issue. In fact, this bill would have negative consequences for all teachers and students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
Under HB 837, a teacher would not be able to casually mention his or her spouse, regardless of their gender or sexual identity. If you’ve ever told a student, “my husband and I went to the grocery store this weekend,” you would be in violation of this bill (regardless of whether you are a man or a woman).
Teachers have always been held to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. If an educator is discussing anything inappropriate with their students, there are mechanisms for school districts to reprimand that teacher. This isn’t really a bill aimed at protecting students, it’s designed to persecute teachers. Now, more than ever, we need to be able to recruit new teachers into the profession. We need current students to become future teachers. Any legislation that further strips teachers’ autonomy and integrity will only make the teacher shortage worse.
Too many teachers already feel like they are used as scapegoats and blamed for things outside of their control. This type of legislation only serves to vilify teachers and attempts to pit them against their own communities. Teachers and parents need to work together to meet the needs of students. Legislators should be thinking of ways to support that critical collaboration, not create deeper divisions. Click here to see how your Representative voted.
Protection for Local Control of ITEP Denied
SB 151 (Pope) was rejected by the full Senate on Tuesday, May 10th by a vote of 14-21. It is a proposed constitutional amendment that would preserve local municipalities control over their own Industrial Tax Exemptions.
In 2016, Governor Edwards gave local taxing bodies the authority to decide whether or not to grant exemptions on property taxes in their parishes. Prior to this executive order, an unelected board in Baton Rouge decided whether to give corporations exemptions from local property taxes.
This appointed board was able to ignore the wishes of taxpayers as to how they want their hard-earned tax dollars spent. Without this proposed constitutional amendment, another governor could undo Edward’s action and revert the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) to its previous form, eliminating local control over local tax exemptions. Without local control, school boards and other local governing authorities don’t have control over their own revenue, leading to cuts in vital public services like education.
Did your Senator vote for Louisiana's hardworking families or corporate welfare? To find out, click here.