House Republicans are looking to give Louisiana teachers a larger pay raise than expected next year, as lawmakers decide how to spend $119 million in extra revenue.
Governor John Bel Edwards has said giving teachers a $1,000 pay raise is his top priority this session. An updated budget presented Monday by House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) would bump that raise to $1,200.
“My preference is to give teachers the biggest pay raise we possibly can, as well as the support workers,” explained Representative Henry.
Instead of a $500 raise requested by Governor Edwards, school support staff would receive a $600 raise. The changes would cost the state an additional $20 million.
But classroom funding continues to create a divide between Republicans in the House and the governor. Edwards is asking the Legislature to spend an extra $39 million on K-12 students. Committee members have rejected that request in the newest budget proposal.
Representative Walt Leger (D-New Orleans) says that’s money school districts need.
“Most of the school districts had expressed their desire to have $40 million...so that they could help alleviate some of the costs of retirement and other costs associated with the pay raises,” explained Representative Leger.
Governor Edwards defended his plan to increase classroom spending to help school districts afford the additional costs of retirement and other benefits associated with a salary increase. He says that adds financial pressure to local districts, who have received an increase in state dollars once in the last ten years.
“It would be a hollow victory for a teacher to get a raise on one hand and a lay-off notice on another," Edwards said in a press conference Monday.
This issue is one of the biggest spending debates of the legislative session. Meanwhile, committee members unanimously agreed to fully fund the TOPS scholarship program and send an additional $9 million to early childhood education.
The budget will be debated on the House floor Thursday.