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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bodi White, R-Central, whose committee has approved a nearly $37 billion operating budget that includes $800 pay raises for public school teachers.

The leaders of three teacher groups said Tuesday they are disappointed and angry that Louisiana lawmakers have backed off $1,000 pay raises after signaling last month that the hikes were all but certain.

"I think the Legislature and the governor once again sold out teachers," said Keith Courville, executive director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, or A+PEL.

"They have enough money," Courville said of legislators. "They have tons of money. It is politicians. They spread it out to get every single vote they can."

The Senate Finance Committee on Monday approved its version of the state's nearly $37 billion operating budget, including $800 pay raises for teachers and other certificated personnel and $400 pay boosts for support workers, including cafeteria employees and school bus drivers.

The action marked a turnaround from April 28, when Senate Education Committee Chairman Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, said House and Senate leaders were getting behind raises of $1,000 per year, more than double Gov. John Bel Edwards' proposal to boost pay by $400 annually.

The budget next faces action in the full Senate, likely Thursday.

However, the $800 teacher pay raises match the increase approved earlier by the House, which means it is unlikely to change before adjournment on June 10.

Tia Mills, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said $800 pay raises would be disappointing.

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"There was a commitment to get us there," Mills said of the $1,000 benchmark.

"And while there are some individuals who are making every effort to make sure our educators get what they need some are backpedaling now on those promises."

Neither Fields nor Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bodi White, R-Central, could be reached for comment.

Teachers in Louisiana were paid an average of $50,923 per year for the 2018-19 school year compared to $54,930 across a 16-state region covered by the Southern Regional Education Board.

The 2018-19 figures are the latest available for comparisons.

Cynthia Posey, director of political and legislative affairs for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said the fact raises will be $200 less than expected is a surprise and disappointing.

"LSU did a study last year of superintendents and principals in the state and they cited pay as the number one reason that teachers left or students were not majoring in education," Posey said.

She said Louisiana spends $9 billion per year on tax credits or exemptions, with little oversight.

"I would say 'Where are the legislators' priorities?' "It is obviously not on education and our students."

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