Jefferson Parish public school employees would get their first raise in three years under a proposal released Thursday that is aimed at bringing salaries up to where they would have been without the three-year freeze while also providing additional pay hikes to teachers rated as “effective.”
School Superintendent James Meza’s plan, which would cover all 6,000 Jefferson Parish public school employees, would replace a previous plan — approved by the parish School Board but never implemented — that offered bonuses to teachers based on how they were rated in yearly evaluations.
The new plan could mean raises of up to $2,400 for some teachers, and all teachers would be eligible for some increase.
Meza said the school district has emerged from rocky financial footing.
“Now that the district’s budget is stabilized, I’m thrilled to recommend that our board provide our staff with the salary raises they deserve,” Meza said in a news release. “Not only will these increases help us to retain our most effective teachers, but it will allow us to remain competitive in attracting other talented employees to the district.”
All employees in the school system are currently paid a base salary plus “step increases” for years of service. For teachers, each step increase is worth $600 a year; principals and assistant principals get a $500 increase at each step. Other employees get either $400 or $500 per step, depending on their classification.
About 3,800 employees would receive raises under that part of the proposal.
Salaries for teachers currently range from about $41,000 a year for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience to more than $58,300 for a teacher with a doctorate and 25 years of step increases. Principals make between about $79,700 and $98,200, depending on their education, the numbers of step increases they’ve received and what level of school they oversee.
Part of the rationale for the new proposal is the way the salary freeze has affected teachers who have worked in the system for years, compared with experienced teachers hired from other districts, Meza said in an interview. For example, because of the lack of raises in recent years, a teacher hired this year with 10 years of experience in other school systems makes $1,800 more a year than a teacher who has worked for 10 years in the Jefferson school system.
In addition to bringing employees up to the pay levels they would have reached without the salary freeze, the proposal also calls for awarding an additional step increase to workers who earn an “effective” rating on their performance evaluations.
That step increase is expected to cover nearly all teachers in the district. Only about 2 percent of the teachers were rated as ineffective last year, and Meza said he expects a similar number will get that rating this year.
A final element of the proposal would offer an additional benefit to long-term employees who have already reached the maximum number of step increases for their job. For example, teachers are now eligible for 25 step increases during their career; the plan would make them eligible for a 26th step this year.
As a whole, the plan would replace one-time stipends that were offered to teachers under the previously approved incentive program. The new pay plan will have to be approved by the School Board before it goes into effect.
Meza said he wanted to focus on existing teachers’ salaries first, but he said increases for first-year teachers might come next year.
Overall, the plan is estimated to cost about $10.5 million. That money is expected to come from a $4.5 million increase in tax revenue, a $2.5 million increase in the state’s school funding formula, increases in Medicaid reimbursements and the use of bond money instead of the school system’s general fund to pay for maintenance costs, which is expected to free up $3 million.
Officials with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, the union that represents educators in the school system, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.