Financial crisis could wipe out gains made over the years, says LFT president
(Baton Rouge – October 30, 2010) A recent announcement that average teacher salaries in Louisiana have risen by 85% over the past 15 years may be a tribute to the accomplishments of the past, but says little about the challenges of the future, according to Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan.
In a report that was heard Thursday by the state’s Education Estimating Conference, consultants said the average Louisiana teacher salary rose from $26,461 in 1994-95 to $48,903 in the 2009-10 school year.
Members of the commission refused to officially adopt the report, perhaps indicating dissatisfaction with its methodology and confusion over its meaning.
“Many teachers who see this report will be scratching their heads and wondering how this average was derived,” said Monaghan. “It seems to depend heavily on experienced teachers moving up into the top brackets in higher-paying school systems.”
The LFT president noted that Louisiana teachers have received no state pay raise since 2008, when freshman Gov. Bobby Jindal approved a $1,019 across-the-board raise.
“That raise was the last gasp of a serious, multi-year effort to reward teachers appropriately,” Monaghan said. “That year, the issue was how soon we could reach the national average. Unfortunately, now we are left wondering whether or not we can maintain the standing we have.”
A consultant for the Estimating Conference said there will be no real increases in teacher pay for at least two years.
While the raw numbers may look appealing, Monaghan said, a closer look at the statistics behind the reported average reveals a deep divide between have and have-not school systems.
“In too many Louisiana school districts, the salary schedule never approaches the state average. Teachers may spend a whole career, earning advanced degrees and experience, and never make as much money as the statistical average Louisiana teacher.”
In some cases, the salary discrepancies are worse now than in 1995. That year, a beginning teacher in East Carroll Parish would have earned about $3,800 less than the same teacher could earn in East Baton Rouge Parish. This year, the difference is over $12,200.
Seen in the context of the state’s current financial situation, the report has little real meaning, Monaghan said. Gains that were made after years of struggle can be wiped out unless the administration and legislature come to grips with the crisis.
“We will lose ground unless Gov. Jindal and the legislature adopt a balanced and responsible approach to the budget,” he said.
School districts in which the salary schedule does not reach $48,903 (including supplements):
Avoyelles, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Grant, Madison, St. Helena, Tensas, Union, Claiborne*, East Feliciana*, LaSalle*
(*Theoretically possible to earn $48,903, providing the teacher has a doctorate and 25 years’ experience.)