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State pay 'raise' for teachers, a slap in the face to many

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For months, school boards across the capital region have been searching for the money needed to give their employees a significant pay hike. Many teachers remained hopeful that raise could come from the state.

"We say teachers and paraprofessionals, all this, are heroes, then we're not getting paid like heroes," Jacob Newsom, a history teacher at Saint Amant high school, said, "When I don't get a raise that matches the cost of living increase, it's like you're taking food out of my kids mouth, but it seems like they have money for everything else."

All their hope was shattered on Thursday when a bill to provide teachers with a permanent raise did not pass. Instead, lawmakers are opting to give teachers a one time $2,000.00 stipend, and support staff a $1,000.00 stipend. The move is being called a slap in the face, and a band aid to a much larger wound.

"Just breeds a lot of instability," Newsom said. "I don't understand how we're going to get better teachers when it seems like every bill in the legislative session this year was in some way attacking the school system financially or culturally

Teachers are leaving to go where they are paid more, which poses a problem to the school systems. Louisiana teachers are paid nearly $4,000.00 less than neighboring states on average.

"We have a real problem with that because when you look at parishes that border Mississippi, Texas, or Arkansas, teachers will take a 30 minute drive across the border and go work in a different state because the pay is higher," Newsom said.

Both the Louisiana Association of Educators, and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers voiced their disappointment with the last minute decision.

“It is imperative that policymakers understand how valuable of a resource we have in Louisiana’s educators," Dr. Tia Mills, LAE President, said. "As veterans retire and receive a much needed rest for years of dedication and hard work, our profession continues to see a huge decline in replacements. The trend for vacant positions state-wide is detrimental to our children’s future and will continue if we don’t invest in them properly. Yesterday was a perfect opportunity to show just how much we are valued and the mark was simply missed.”

"Once again, teachers and school employees are forced to beg for what they deserve," Larry Carter, LFT President, said. "This year, legislators had a historic surplus and a unique opportunity to invest in our teachers, school employees, and students, now and into the future. Instead, they chose to approve one-time funds, which are not guaranteed next year. I think Louisiana's educators are tired of seeing legislators kick the can down the road as surrounding states make meaningful investments in their educator workforce. This funding plan will not give our educators, schools, and students the financial security that they need. Louisiana's staffing crisis will continue, fewer college students will choose this noble profession, and Louisiana's students will continue to be shortchanged."

Lawmakers say they will bring teacher pay raise back to the floor next year. Those organizations disappointed in their decision will also be there continuing the fight.

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