I would like to respond to the recent letter in which several businessmen used the ongoing debate with regard to funding education to criticize the Louisiana Speaker of the House, state Rep. Taylor Barras, for, in their words, "refusing to recognize the additional revenues coming into the state, blocking (Gov. John Bel) Edwards' administration from moving forward with plans for teacher pay raises and jeopardizing other areas of the budget."
Mark your calendars, denizens of the State Capitol, and not in a good way.
This is a letter which doesn't move education forward, and on its face is factually incorrect. The Advocate article entitled "Outlook rosy for teacher pay raises" specifically mentions that the $1,000-per-year teacher pay raise is "winning wide support both inside and outside the Louisiana Legislature." Quoting GOP House Education Committee Chair Nancy Landry: "We want to give the teachers a pay raise." It is hard for this reader of the Advocate to find anyone who is against the pay raise. Teachers across this state are way overdue for the raise. Everyone agrees.
What this reader regrets is the sad state of affairs by both the governor and the Legislature in treating the pay raise as a win for education. The $1,000 raise is a slap in the face for those veteran teachers who have been working in the education trenches year after year. A nominal 4 percent raise for an average teacher salary of $50,000 is $2,000. The proposed raise is more like a cost of living adjustment. And no one appears to be seriously addressing the hemorrhaging of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers who are leaving the profession in droves.
The teaching profession in Louisiana does not have an accession problem. Plenty of teachers are joining the ranks every year, with the exception of STEM. What the profession has is a retention problem. Why stay after 5, 6 or 8 years when you are under-appreciated by principals, under-appreciated by union leadership, under-appreciated by parents and under-appreciated by politicians?
What this raise is saying is: Shut up, don't strike, go back to your classroom combat zones and make sure you vote for us (Democrat or Republican ... choose one). What it does not fix is retention. It does not reward loyalty to the profession. It does not reduce the "combative" nature of today's Louisiana public school classroom. And it does not incentivize any in the technical community to be a teacher in the classroom.
So, let us rejoice in the paltry pay raise for teachers — insultingly too small. And, all in Baton Rouge will smile and say to each other that they headed off another potential problem. And let us citizens look forward to more problems in our public school classrooms next year.
John S. White