JBE teacher raise stock

Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at the conclusion of a teachers rally on the steps of the State Capitol.

Gov. John Bel Edwards' bid to boost teacher pay by $1,000 per year, and ensure the increases are recurring, cleared a pivotal hurdle Sunday when the previously skeptical Louisiana House Appropriations Committee endorsed the plan without objection.

The measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, would also authorize pay raises of $500 for support workers and increase state aid for public schools by $39 million, which would be the second such increase in the past decade.

The plan is the governor's top election-year legislative priority, and Sunday's vote boosts chances it will become reality.

The push has been slowed in the House for months amid concerns by its leaders that the state could not afford both teacher pay raises and a boost in state aid for public schools – $140 million.

But the powerful money panel approved the measure, the second such action in the past four days.

Last week the House Education Committee, in an about face, approved the same legislation after earlier rejecting the plan amid cost concerns.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, one of the House leaders who has been skeptical of the governor's plan, said Sunday doing so means the state could start its budget process for the Fiscal Year 2021 next year having to come up with between $23 million and $47 million in replacement revenue.

"We all need to know this as we move forward," Henry told the committee.

"It is significant for members ... to understand that we could start up next year a little bit in the hole, somewhere between $23 million and $47 million," he said.

Henry made his comments after House budget officials described how the Senate-passed budget would finance an education spending plan more costly than the one endorsed by the House.

State Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prarieville, was the lone committee members who expressed alarm. "It has a pricetag somewhere down the line," Bacala said of the education spending package.

Edwards wasted no time praising the committee vote.

“Many thanks to the House Appropriations committee for signing off on our proposal for teacher pay raises," the governor said in a message on Twitter.

"We're so close to giving our teachers & support staff much deserved, long overdue raises and giving our school systems a $39 million boost for classroom costs," he said.

"Because we are working together, our budget is stabilized and we’re now able to increase our investment in education, in our teachers and in our children. This is a first step in a multi-year process to bring our teacher pay back to the level of our peer states. As we enter the final days of the Legislative Session, I am hopeful, as are our educators, that this new investment will become a reality.”

The issue has sparked a session-long split, with Edwards, the state Senate and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on one side and House leaders on the other.

The governor has repeatedly said that, if House members have a chance, they would overwhelmingly support his bid to boost teacher pay by $1,000 and state aid for public schools by $39 million.

The legislation would authorize spending under Louisiana's school complex allocation method, which is called the Minimum Foundation Program.

It would provide $3.85 billion for public schools for the 2019-20 school year, up $140 million over the current year.

The Senate has already approved the legislation.

The House is set to debate the resolution on Monday.

The issue is also linked to the state's $30 billion operating budget, which is winding through the legislative process.

The House and Senate have passed different versions of the spending plans, which are expected to be ironed out in a House-Senate negotiating committee before adjournment on Thursday at 6 p.m.

The House-passed budget includes teacher pay raises of $1,200 and pay boosts of $600 for support workers.

However, there is a dispute on whether those raises would be onetime or recurring.

The governor has repeatedly branded the House-passed raises as one-time stipends.

Public school leaders said last week that such a plan would likely spark a job action by teachers.

The Senate-passed budget mirrors the legislation approved Sunday, which is also what BESE requested in March.

BESE President Gary Jones, who led efforts by BESE to stand by its initial request when the House Education Committee asked for major revisions, praised the committee vote Sunday evening.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan "Blade" Morrish, R-Jennings, sponsor of the MFP resolution, said state spending per student would rise from $3,961 to $4,014.

Those in line for $1,000 pay raises include teachers, counselors, school nurses, principals, assistant principals and other certificated personnel.

The state has about 50,000 public school teachers.

Average pay is about $50,000 per year, which Edwards said is about $2,200 below the regional average.

Those getting $500 pay bumps include non-certified aides, support supervisors, secretaries, service workers and skilled craftsmen.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.