The Lafayette Parish School Board’s decision this week to knock 119 educators off the list of those eligible for extra pay from a 2002 sales tax will save at least $600,000, school system chief financial officer Billy Guidry has said.
What’s not yet clear, however, is whether those 119 educators are now plumb out of luck or whether the School Board will try to find another way to boost their salaries.
In a nearly four-hour process Wednesday, the board culled the list of employees who can receive pay supplements from the 2002 sales tax dedicated for teacher salaries. Through the years, employee categories had been added to the list, some with and some without approval by prior school boards.
The current board asked staff to review the employee eligibility criteria approved by the board prior to the 2001 tax election. The plan defines which employees are eligible for the tax and which aren’t. Regular and special education teachers who provide direct or regular instruction to students are eligible for the tax benefits, as well as librarians, assessment teachers, speech therapists and counselors.
The board’s votes this week also included as eligible employees: academic interventionist, alternative to regular placement (teachers), elementary physical education coach, distance learning teacher, teacher-tutor, support teacher special education, and ROTC instructors.
Human resources director Bruce Leininger said his staff plans to send letters to those employees cut from the eligibility list, explaining the board’s decision.
Guidry said at least 37 of the 119 positions removed from the list are instructional strategists who work directly with teachers to help them improve instruction.
One strategist, Lisa Duhon, asked the board if it plans to find money elsewhere for pay supplements for those removed from the list. She also asked the board to consider funding the additional pay for the 119 educators from the 2002 sales tax until those employees leave the school system. The board had considered grandfathering in those employees but voted instead to make their decision effective for the upcoming fiscal year.
Some employees told the board that though they may not have an official roster of students, they do work with students daily to help them overcome their academic or behavioral struggles.
“My roster is the entire school body,” instructional strategist Amy Deslattes told the school board before it voted.
If the board wants to encourage teachers to tackle leadership roles, it needs to provide the compensation, and the 2002 sales tax helps ensure that pay boost, Deslattes said.
Justin Centanni and other board members said the board’s decisions on eligible positions did not reflect an employee’s value or impact on student instruction, but rather, the decisions were necessary to determine the proper account to pay employees.
During Wednesday’s meeting, some retired employees who supported the tax in 2001 said the public was not aware of the eligibility plan and criticized the then-board for not putting language that defined how the tax would be used on the ballot.
The then-board approved the eligibility plan at its Oct. 24, 2001, meeting, and voters approved the tax on Nov. 17, 2001. The tax went into effect in 2002.
“You have an opportunity now to clean some of this up so the taxpayers understand that you truly want to keep to the letter of the law which was (on ballot),” said Pat Sonnier, a retired educator.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.