The Jefferson Parish School Board has signed off on a $10.5 million plan to give raises to school employees aimed at bringing their pay up to where it would have been if a salary freeze had not been in place for the past three years.
The plan, approved Tuesday evening, was cheered by board members who said they were eager to reward teachers now that the district has the money to do so.
“We want to make everyone whole now that we’ve got our financial house in order,” board member Larry Dale said.
The eight members at Tuesday’s meeting all voted in favor of the increases. Cedric Floyd was absent.
Salaries for district employees consist of a base salary plus “step increases” that offer additional money based on years of experience. Because of the salary freeze, employees have missed three step increases in recent years. For teachers, each of those steps is worth about $600 a year.
The central element of the plan brings salaries up to the step where they would have been had the freeze not been implemented. That element of the proposal will affect about 3,800 of the district’s 6,000 employees.
The plan was developed by a committee of administrators, union representatives and others involved in the education system.
All employees will also be eligible for an additional step increase as long as they are not rated as “ineffective,” the lowest score on the district’s employee rating system. That additional increase will be available to employees even if they have reached the highest step in their pay scale, which for teachers maxes out at 25 years.
School officials said the salary freeze imposed three years ago was necessary to balance the budget. Without the freeze, administrators have said, they would have had to resort to layoffs to keep the district’s finances in line.
School Board member Mark Morgan said that while most teachers “don’t do their job for the money,” bringing their salaries back to where they should be is important to making sure educators are able to keep up with the rising cost of living and to undoing the “ills caused by the salary freeze.”
“If you freeze salaries, you’re forcing teachers into the difficult position of not to be able to continue teaching anymore,” Morgan said.
The pay plan approved Tuesday replaces an earlier proposal for an incentive program that would have offered bonuses to teachers based on how they were rated.
Superintendent James Meza said administrators expect to follow up the raises with a proposal to raise starting salaries for teachers by the middle of the coming year.
“I think that’s our next step,” he said. “I don’t see any reason we can’t make that a reality.”
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.