School support staff to receive $500 raises
Teachers will see a bump in their salaries going forward after the state passed legislation authorizing $1,000 teacher pay raises, as well as $500 raises for school support staff and $39 million in additional state funding for public school aid.
The school financing plan was long debated and discussed, but its final form ultimately passed with overpowering support, approved by a vote of 37-1 by the Senate and then by the House of Representatives, 103-0.
Putting the plan into official action was a priority of Gov. John Bel Edwards, and that helped propel it past a key hurdle: the raises will be reoccurring, something that was not unanimously agreed upon early in the legislative session. The package will raise public school funding by $140 million per year.
Much like the House vote, St. Charles Parish officials were united in their view of the results, agreeing that for their teachers and those statewide, this was a very positive step — and a long time coming.
“We thank the Governor and state legislature for approving the pay raises for our teachers and support staff … There is no group of professionals more deserving of a pay increase than our teachers and staff. They have experienced a number of changes over the years and have earned this pay increase. This is an investment in public education and ultimately our students,” said St. Charles Parish schools superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker.
Ken Oertling, who will be succeeding Gomez-Walker as superintendent upon her retirement at month’s end, echoed her sentiment.
“We are ecstatic and very pleased that the state has followed through on investing in our educators, public education and, ultimately, our students,” said Ken Oertling, who will be succeeding Gomez-Walker as the parish’s schools superintendent at month’s end. “It’s refreshing to see bi-partisan support for educators throughout our state and the message sent that education should be one of our top priorities.”
Oertling noted this legislation follows the St. Charles Parish School Board’s recent approval of a two percent raise for employees next year. He said the additional raise in funding from the state will help defer some of the costs of continuing to operate a high-quality school system.
Arthur Aucoin, District 7 representative of the School Board, said that the demands upon teachers are only climbing these days.
“Our hard-working teachers deserve a raise,” Aucoin said. “The standards the state has put on our curriculum are demanding. Our teachers deserve this.”
He added the parish’s own two-percent bump to teacher salaries was necessary in order to retain talent in the field.
“We demand greatness from our teachers, too,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to recruit and retain teachers in the future … I hope we can do more for our teachers’ pay in the near future.”
Ellis Alexander, District 1 representative, called it an investment in our future.
“It’s just an incredibly important job to prepare our youngsters to be productive community members and citizens … it’s important we take care of each other,” Alexander said. “I’m happy as I can be about it. I’m as happy as I’d be if I got a raise, for those teachers … not just ours but in all of our state. They work so hard and prepare so well.”
Alexander’s father was a teacher and his mother was a staff worker in the cafeteria, and he says he still gets reminders of the impact they had on their students.
“They come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate what my parents did for them,” Alexander said. “I know how hard they work and how hard our teachers work today. This is so deserved for them. In this day and age, for the governor to get such strong support across the board for something, it’s a wonderful victory not just for him, but the whole state.”
School Board Vice President Sonny Savoie called teachers “the front lines of the education world.”
“Without great teachers in the classroom, you’re not setting your kids up to be successful in life,” Savoie said. “Not everyone can teach, I promise you that. You remember the teachers that made a big impact in your life.
Savoie said he applauds the governor for recognizing “how worthy and talented these teachers are.”
“Most of them don’t teach for salary … it’s a vocation for them. But to show appreciation for what they do, raising and teaching our kids, it’s a great thing that everyone came together, finally.”