Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was elected and reelected promising to increase teacher salaries to the regional average. But his current budget proposal, unlike last year’s, does not include money specifically for raises.
It does include almost $40 million in additional funds to school districts that can be used for raises, and there still could be an opportunity for another state-backed teacher pay bump this year, Edwards said Tuesday.
“This is a starting point,” he said. “This is the least that I believe we’ll be able to do this year.”
Edwards is proposing a 1.375 percent increase to the state’s Minimum Foundation Program for K-12 education. Half of an MFP increase typically goes to salaries, and Edwards will encourage school districts and the Board of Elementary and Secondary education to support raises, he said.
State officials have not yet adopted an official revenue estimate to guide spending for the coming fiscal year. Edwards said a favorable revenue estimate could free up more money for education.
Edwards said he remains committed to his campaign promise to raise teacher pay to the southern regional average over the course of this term. Last year, state government made a down payment on that process, giving teachers a $1,000 annual raise while support personnel got an extra $500.
Some teachers, many of whom have been Edwards supporters, were disappointed or angry about the lack of specific funding for a raise in the governor’s budget proposal.
“It is now abundantly clear that John Bel Edwards saw hardworking teachers as just another tool to further his political career,” Republican Governors Association Communications Director Amelia Chassé Alcivar said.
But state Senate President Page Cortez, a Republican, said the MFP funding boost gives districts flexibility to address other needs they might have, such as facility improvements. He said the governor was trying to be “less dictatorial to the districts” and suggested “giving more autonomy to the locals” might be the better way to go.