Ending a nearly two-month stalemate, the Louisiana Legislature on Monday approved legislation that authorizes $1,000 teacher pay raises and a rare $39 million increase in state aid for public schools.
School support workers will get $500 pay raises under the measure, which won House approval 103-0.
The plan earlier cleared the Senate 37-1.
The key details of a teacher pay raise remained unresolved Tuesday with nine days left in the session, sparking questions on whether a controv…
The package represents Gov. John Bel Edwards' key legislative priority.
The vote ensures that the raises are recurring, which has been one of the sticking points since mid-April.
House leaders have long questioned whether the state could afford both the $1,000 teacher pay raises and the $39 million boost for public schools – 1.375 percent and just the second such hike in the past decade.
In a repeat of budget battles, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state Senate are lining up against the Louisiana House on whether public schools …
The cost is $140 million per year.
State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, former superintendent of the Livingston Parish School District, handled the legislation and urged House members to give it quick approval. "All of the school people I have had conversations with say this is what they want and this is what I am advocating," Pope said.
The resolution was backed by virtually every statewide public school group in the state, including the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, Louisiana Association of Principals, Louisiana Schools Boards Association and the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.
The governor, Senate leaders and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have long said the package is affordable and long overdue.
"Today is an exciting day: the first pay raise our teachers and support staff have had in many years has passed the Legislature," Edwards said in a statement.
The resolution that won final approval is the Minimum Foundation Program, which will include $3.85 billion in school aid for the 2019-20 school year.
It is up $140 million over current year spending and provides aid for about 720,000 students statewide.
The funds for the increases spelled out in the MFP are expected to be included in Louisiana's $30 billion operating budget, which is in a House-Senate negotiating committee.
The session ends on Thursday at 6 p.m.
"Only one hurdle for this raise remains in the Legislature and that's approval of the budget bill that supports this raise and the increase to the MFP per pupil amount," the governor said.
State aid for public schools used to routinely rise by 2.75 percent per year before a decade of state budget problems.
Lawmakers noted that this year's allocation is hardly a windfall.
"We call this the Minimum Foundation Program," Pope said.
"The word minimum is key to me," he added. "It is not adequate. It is minimum."
Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Monroe Democrat, made the same point.
Jackson said that, even with the increase, "kids will still share textbooks."
"This is just a step to give students what we should have been giving for the past 10 years," she said.
School leaders have said the $39 million increase in state aid is crucial amid rising retirement and other costs.
Earlier this year the House Education Committee rejected the same plan that won House approval on Monday, and asked BESE to submit a revamped proposal.
BESE stuck with its original plan, which it approved in March.
The House version of the $30 billion operating budget includes $1,200 teacher pay raises and $600 pay boosts for support workers but no increase for public schools.
However, House leaders slowly backed off their stance in the past week amid pressure from Edwards and school groups.
Both House Education Committee Chairwoman Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, voted for the resolution.
Both had expressed cost concerns about the governor's plan for weeks even while saying the teacher pay raises are needed.
Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, a member of the House Education Committee, cited the earlier House support for $1,200 and $600 pay raises.
"I think we could have done a better job in here," Simon told the House.
The governor, who is running for re-election this year, has said the $1,000 raises will be the first of three years aimed at reaching the regional average.
Teachers are paid an average of $50,000 per year, which Edwards says is about $2,200 below the Southern average.