Whether public school teachers walk off the job in the current school year depends on actions by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Republican-controlled Legislature, the president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers said Monday.
Larry Carter, who leads the group, said the LFT will ask the Legislature for an as yet unspecified teacher pay raise in 2019 and an increase of at least 2.75 percent in basic state aid for public schools.
Carter told the Press Club of Baton Rouge how big a pay increase the organization will get behind depends on Louisiana's financial outlook.
Earlier this year a survey by the LFT said 61 percent of teachers who responded said they would support a teacher walkout if they conclude state and local officials are not doing enough to address education shortcomings.
About 60 percent of teachers surveyed said they favor a statewide walkout or strike to land a "significant" pay raise, leaders of the Louisian…
Carter said that, in his visits around the state, some teachers and other school employees are ready to walk off the job today.
"They are also fed up with a lack of resources, poor student discipline and a lack of parental involvement," he said of teachers.
Carter said LFT members want to see if there are "true discussions" among state leaders about public education needs or "just rhetoric."
"Those (walkout) actions do not start with Larry Carter," he said. "They start from teachers in the classroom."
The state has 48,749 teachers, and the LFT has 20,000 members, including teachers and other school personnel.
Average teacher pay in Louisiana is $49,745. The regional average, as defined by the Southern Regional Education Board, is $50,955.
Carter said the state needs a 2-3 year plan on how to get teacher pay to the regional average and beyond.
Edwards said on Sept. 8 that he will recommend that the Legislature approve teacher pay raises of at least $1,000.
Amid teacher unrest and a widening pay gap with other states, Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to recommend an election-year salary increase of at …
The governor wants to boost salaries for cafeteria workers, school bus drivers and others by $500 annually.
The pricetag would be $114 million per year.
Carter said support workers last got a pay boost of $1,000 in 2008.
"It is shameful that people we trust with the safety and welfare of our children often earn less than $20,000 per year for a full-time job," he said.
The 2019 regular legislative sessions begins April 8 and ends June 6.
Most districts finish their school year in late May, well before any resolution of teacher pay raises and other budget issues.
Next year is also a gubernatorial election year, and the LFT has long backed Edwards.
A teacher walkout led by one of his key allies would be awkward for the governor, which would appear to reduce chances for any such action.
Carter said his group has had far greater access to Edwards than it did for former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who served two terms.
But he said that, if LFT members see the need for a walkout next year, "I will walk out with them."
The state's other teachers' union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, has called for teacher pay increases of at least $1,200 per year.
Carter said next session will be different because state finances have been stabilized, possibly until 2025.
He said both public schools and colleges and universities have suffered during repeated budget cuts since 2008.
"Our economy is starting to roll again and we cannot continue to make the mistakes of the past," Carter said.