The Louisiana House of Representatives has passed a budget that does not include any funding for teacher and school employee raises.
Despite outcry from our state’s educators, the Louisiana House of Representatives chose to prioritize pet projects over raises for teachers and school employees. They are using a complicated debt repayment system: they want to pay off a portion of their UAL debt and have you believe that your school districts will use those savings to give teachers and school employees a raise. To be clear, there are $0 allocated to teacher and school employee pay raises in the budget that the House passed this week.
In 1987, the voters of Louisiana passed a Constitutional Amendment requiring the retirement systems to be actuarially sound, meaning that contributions must be sufficient to pay the full actuarial cost of the plan. This was necessary because a high UAL debt had resulted from the failure of the legislature to pay the state’s portion of the liability. The plan went into effect in 1989, and the payment for the legislature's debt was sent directly from the State Treasure to TRSL every year.
In 1992, this process got more convoluted. Payments were changed so that instead of sending the money straight to TRSL, it passed through the school districts through the MFP block grant, which the districts then sent to TRSL. This is part of the reason that Louisiana’s per pupil funding seems larger compared to other states. Since 2011, there have been numerous bills that would change the way debt payments are made in an effort accurately reflect the amount of funding Louisiana provides to educate students, but they have failed to pass.
A FLAWED PLAN:
On Thursday, HB1, the budget bill was debated on the House floor. As deliberations began, an amendment was passed that stripped the teacher and support staff pay raise out of the bill. An amendment to add educator raises back into the budget failed to muster enough support to pass. The final version of the budget passed off the house floor with 72 yeas and 32 nays with no raises for teachers and support staff and cuts to early childhood and higher education funding.
Leadership in the House of Representatives would have you believe that their plan to partially pay off their debt to TRSL would provide enough money to local districts, who would then automatically give you a raise.
The reality is that local school districts are under no obligation to give teachers and school employees a raise. Moreover, the funding is inadequate. In FY 2024, $153 million would be divided up between 64 parishes and even more school districts. That is not enough to give teachers and support staff the significant pay raise they deserve. To put it into perspective, the $2,000 and $1,000 raises cut from the budget would have cost $196 million. According to testimony, charter schools that do not participate in TRSL would receive zero funds from this bait-and-switch scheme.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said it best when he spoke before the full House on Thursday: “You’re not funding a teacher pay raise by voting for this bill. You’re saying we hope local school districts will vote for a pay raise.”
There is no guarantee that school districts will pass the savings on to their staff. The districts can do whatever they want with that money after the UAL is paid down. Furthermore, larger districts would more than likely receive more money, rural districts would continue to suffer, and roughly 60% of charter schools would receive nothing.
Proponents of this plan say that they are simply using a surplus to pay off debt, which they say is a sound financial practice that will help in the long term. That might make sense if the state had met all its financial obligations, but we have teachers and school employees who are struggling now; school systems, and students who are struggling now. This plan will do nothing to help recruit and retain teachers and school employees today, and ultimately it will not pay off the entirety of the legislature’s debt.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is considering boosting their own pay by over 250%. They think that legislators should be paid a living wage, but not teachers and school employees?
Now, the Senate will weigh in. The budget bills approved by the House this week will go to the Senate side. The Senate Finance Committee and, eventually the full Senate will make changes to the House’s budget. Please join us in asking the Senate to do what the House wouldn’t: make teachers, school employees, and students a priority for the state of Louisiana.
Educator pay raises are a bipartisan issue that is the responsibility of all! We know all too well the sacrifices you have made and continue to make to educate our children. We need you to take a moment and take action!
There is some good news coming out of this week! Three critical bills that LFT supported were approved by the House Education Committee.
✅ HB 21 (Stagni) Would allow school boards to offer school support staff who have infants that are critically ill or who are expectant mothers and have no remaining extended sick leave to take up to 30 additional days of extended sick leave for maternal and child health. This extended sick leave is already available to teachers, but this bill would ensure all school employees have the same access to extended maternal health leave to care for their families.
✅ HB 205 (Bryant) Would require teachers to receive extra compensation when they work outside their job description. Teachers would be paid an hourly rate when participating in after-school activities involving students.
✅ HB 348 (Jenkins) Changes the reporting requirements so that immediate action is taken to protect staff and students when there is a credible and imminent threat to an educator or student. The passage of this bill would help ensure that staff, students, and parents are notified of serious threats and that all credible threats are appropriately investigated.
Thank you to everyone who sent a letter to the Committee. HB 348 and HB 21 are scheduled for floor debate on Thursday, May 11th and HB 205 will go before the House Appropriations Committee.
We are also pleased to report that SB 71 by Sen. Bouie was reported favorably by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday afternoon and will soon move to a vote before the full Senate.
✅ SB 71 (Bouie) Cleans up some of the language around public-school learning pods to protect parents and students. It would require that learning pods associated with a public school be free, provide transportation and food services and further requires that the governing authority of the school adopt a student fee policy and post it at the beginning of each academic year.