Mixing education goals with re-election themes, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday he is mapping plans to boost teacher pay to the regional average by 2022 on top of pay raises of $1,000 next year.
Edwards also said that, since teacher pay raises are winning bipartisan support, he does not see reasons for any work stoppage, which has drawn qualified support from some members of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
"I am not anticipating, quite honestly, any need for a walkout to make the point," the governor told reporters after a 30-minute address to the annual meeting of the LFT, one of Louisiana's two teachers unions.
Edwards also used the friendly gathering to roll out re-election themes expected during his 2019 bid for a second term.
He said the state has made huge strides in steadying state finances, overhauling the state's criminal justice system and expanding Medicaid.
"They (voters) have to know you are better off than when you were elected," the Democrat said.
"We can make that case," Edwards added. "That case can be made."
U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, has said he plans to announce by Dec. 1 whether he will challenge Edwards.
Without singling out any potential challengers, Edwards told the group, "You are going to hear some very backward-thinking people ask for your vote."
Edwards and the LFT are longtime allies, and the group backed the then little-known state representative in 2015 when he launched his long-shot bid for governor.
The governor's comments were interrupted by applause multiple times, including when he spelled out plans for the first teacher pay hike since 2013 amid recurring budget problems.
Edwards announced in September that he would propose raises of at least $1,000 for teachers and other certificated personnel, and an increase of $500 for cafeteria workers, school bus drivers and other support employees.
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 …
But Saturday was the first time he detailed plans to boost salaries to the Southern regional average over a three-year period.
Louisiana has about 50,000 classroom teachers. They are paid an average of $49,800 per year, which the governor said is $2,200 below the average spelled out by the Southern Regional Education Board.
Edwards said he will detail his outline to reach that always-changing salary target by 2022 and that it can be done without a tax hike or slashing other state services because of Louisiana's improved revenue outlook.
Teachers used to be paid the Southern average, but pay slipped below that mark during years of state financial problems.
Edwards also repeated plans to push for a 2.75 percent increase in basic state aid for public schools, which has been mostly frozen for the past decade.
Details of any teacher pay increase is sure to spark controversy when the Legislature convenes on April 8.
While Gov. John Bel Edwards has proposed a $1,000 pay raise for public school teachers, early battle lines started forming Wednesday on whethe…
The state's other teachers union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, has proposed increases of at least $100 per month — $1,200 annually.
Some lawmakers prefer focusing resources strictly on teachers, not support workers, to reach the regional average sooner.
The governor said pay raises are especially needed amid disturbing trends in public education.
He said 35 percent of students are led by a teacher who is either uncertified or teaching outside their area of expertise.
"For the first time that I can remember, we have teachers who are advising their children to do something other than teach," Edwards said. "That doesn't bode well for us."
LFT leaders announced in May that, in a survey of its teachers, 60 percent said they would back a statewide walkout or strike to get a "significant" pay raise.
About 60 percent of teachers surveyed said they favor a statewide walkout or strike to land a "significant" pay raise, leaders of the Louisian…
Exactly what that would be is unclear.
However, LFT President Larry Carter has called for multiyear increases to meet the regional average like the plan outlined by Edwards.
Whether public school teachers walk off the job in the current school year depends on actions by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Repu…
"No teacher groups, no individual teachers, have ever talked to me about a potential walkout," Edwards told reporters after his speech.
The governor also called for a school resource officer in every school as part of efforts to ensure school safety.
"Student safety is paramount, and I don't want to get to the point when you walk into a school you feel like you are walking in a penitentiary," he said.