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Teacher Pay Raises, Early Childhood Education Remained Top Priorities Of Lawmakers In 2019


Lawmakers and the governor entered the legislative session agreeing the state should raise teacher salaries and increase education spending. But it took the Legislature all session to determine exactly how much more money to spend and where to send it. 

They eventually settled on a $1,000 pay raise for teachers as part of a multi-year plan to bring their salaries back up to the regional average.

Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, a statewide teachers union, said average teacher pay in Louisiana is not competitive. 

"We are surrounded by states that can syphon off our best talent,” she explained.

States like Arkansas and Texas already have higher average salaries and their Legislatures have approved plans to increase them further over the next few years. Based on those plans, Louisiana will have to raise teacher pay even more to catch up to the southern regional average.

Barry Erwin, president of Council for a Better Louisiana, says it remains to be seen if future legislators will make teacher pay a priority.

“I do think that by having the debate and the discussion that they had this year," he said, "it does kind of set the stage for them to follow through afterwards.”

While the proposed teacher pay raises were gaining momentum, early childhood education emerged as another area of need.

Education leaders said it would take an additional $40 million in next year’s budget to adequately fund the program and expand it to include more than 5,000 children from low-income families.

They ended up with an additional $20 million.

“This gets us halfway there," explained Erwin.  "It's better than what we had when we started because we weren't really looking at much of anything, but I think it shows we still have a long way to go.”

A state commission released a report recently calling for an annual investment of about $86 million to meet the early childhood education needs in Louisiana.

Copyright 2019 WRKF

Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on health and health policy for Louisiana's Prescription.