Lafayette Parish School Board members discussed on Tuesday revising which employee groups qualify for pay hikes from a half-cent sales tax fund dedicated to teacher pay raises.
Prompted by questions from some employees as to why they were excluded, Human Resources Director Bruce Leininger had asked the board’s Executive and Finance committees to consider revising the criteria used to determine eligibility to benefit from the sales tax funds.
Eligibility for the tax fund benefits has been a point of debate for several years. The current board — now concluding the first year of its new term — sought in May to clarify that by excluding some employee groups with no direct, daily interaction with student instruction or student development. The excluded employee groups included such positions as curriculum coordinators, audiologists, physical therapists and social workers.
The 2002 sales tax was dedicated to raising teacher pay, but an administrative plan for the tax included other employee groups who were not classroom teachers, such as librarians and counselors.
Since 2002, prior school boards had added other employee groups to help reduce the strain on the general fund. The fund is used to pay annual raises, and money left over is distributed in an additional check to employees. That check has ranged from $1,200 to $2,100 in recent years. In October, eligible employees received an extra $1,438 check.
The revision says an eligible employee is one who: receives a “Compass rating” for teaching competency; has learning targets set for assigned students; provides daily classroom instruction directly to a roster of students; and teaches and assigns grades for a specified portion of the day. Employees also may be eligible for the benefits of the tax if they are employed as an assessment teacher, speech therapist, counselor or librarian.
During its meeting, the Executive Committee approved the staff’s recommendation to recognize school psychologists as eligible employees for the benefits of the tax. The employees had been inadvertently excluded during the board’s review earlier this year, Leininger told committee members.
Prior to the committee’s decision, school psychologist Nikki Buis said she and other school psychologists were excluded in the board’s vote earlier this year from receiving the sales tax benefits, even though their role is similar to that of an assessment teacher. Buis and other school psychologists are eligible for a $1,000 raise, as well as the $1,438 check other employees received in October, argued Rodolfo Espinoza, president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators.
“They were entitled to that $1,000 at that time. I would suggest that you consider that,” Espinoza said during the committee meeting.
The committee agreed, and its recommendation will be considered at the board’s meeting Wednesday.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.