BATON ROUGE – 103 members of the state house of representatives voted for larger teacher paychecks and adding money to school districts.
Zero members voted against.
In the background, the House Republican leaders and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards had debated the financing method – a $3.8 billion formula backed by the state education board and the Senate.
That behind-the-scenes interaction made the vote surprising, but not unwelcome among Livingston Parish School System officials.
“I’ve experienced a little bit of euphoria,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said, “it’s been nearly a decade since our employees have been addressed on any recurring basis.”
The raise equates to $1,000 annually for teachers, $500 for support staff, and an extra $39 million for school districts. Since the plan was backed by the governor himself, it is expected to be signed into law as part of the 2018-2019 fiscal budget.
The discretionary money represents an increase in the per student allocation, through the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), from $3,961 to $4,015. The MFP is a formula, executed through the state, that determines the funding Louisiana will provide to individual school districts on top of their tax bases and other revenue sources.
According to the Livingston Parish Public Schools’ budget, MFP represents almost half of their total revenue.
Superintendent Murphy said the fact that both the raises and upgraded district allocations will be baked into the MFP has him relieved.
“Keeping these funds in the MFP allows for stability, we know these funds will be there (and can’t be chopped by the legislature),” Murphy explained. “Livingston Parish Public Schools has been concerned with continually rising health care costs.
“We’ve been constantly burdened with (financial) adjustments, this will help differ those costs.”
Murphy said that the raises will have to be processed through human resources, and the system is hoping the new pay scales will be in effect by July 25th. If not, he said, then they will be ready for August 25th – the first paycheck teachers receive for the new school year.
The school board operates on a July-June fiscal calendar.
The push to raise teacher’s pay was a move by Gov. Edwards to make Louisiana’s education system more competitive. According to Murphy, the benefits don’t stop there as the new pay scale will help retain current teachers as well.
“Any time we raise the average salary of a teacher, we’re looking to the future,” Murphy said. “We hope this is the first of many steps. The Governor has alluded to a three-year plan, but (the school systems) haven’t heard an official commitment yet.”
Average teacher pay in Louisiana is just shy of $48,566 before the raise, almost $2,000 less than the regional average. Livingston Parish ranked 28th state wide at $49,244.