The State of Education
The regular session of the Louisiana legislature is scheduled to begin on Monday, March 14th. The legislature has the power to impact many different aspects of the educational experience for Louisiana’s students and educators. This series will examine some of those most pressing issues.
Why Do Educators in Louisiana Get Paid So Little?
The Minimum Foundation Program is the funding formula for Louisiana public schools. It was established in order to determine the minimum cost of education in all public elementary and secondary schools. However, given the current state of our schools, one must ask: how much does it cost to educate a child in Louisiana?
It’s no secret that Louisiana’s teachers and school employees are underpaid. The average salary for a teacher in Louisiana
in the 2019-2020 school year is 51,566, compared to $55,205 for the whole Southern Region. For our most experienced teachers, that gap jumps to almost $11,000. Overall, teachers in the south are paid 16% less than teachers nationwide and nearly 21% less than professionals with similar education levels.
Fifteen years ago, Louisiana was on par with other states in the south. Each year, the legislature would pass a consistent increase to school funding and educator pay to keep up with the inflation and to stay competitive with other states. Following the 2008 financial crisis, Louisiana stopped funding regular increases to school funding and teacher and school employee pay.
Instead, education funding stalled and former Governor Bobby Jindal created a marketplace
wherein everyone gets to dip into the funds allocated for public schools and carve out a piece for themselves, for vouchers, charters, home-schoolers, and for-profit online providers.
Even as the economy began to recover, funding for teacher and school employees pay remained stagnant. It wasn’t until 2019 when teachers and school employees saw their first state-wide pay raise: $1,000 for teachers and $500 for support staff. By this time, teacher pay in Louisiana had already fallen below neighboring states. Despite a subsequent pay raises in 2021, Louisiana has failed to match increases passed in other southern states and therefore continues to fall below the regional average.
As the cost of education has continued to rise, state funding hasn’t kept up, and we’re seeing the consequences in our schools. Louisiana’s teacher shortage has reached catastrophic levels, and as our educators struggle to do more with less, many are realizing that they can receive better pay and working conditions in neighboring states.
The truth is, Louisiana has never known the cost of educating a student. Neither the LDOE or the legislature has completed an analysis to understand the true cost of educating a child in Louisiana. The state needs to take a real look at understanding these costs so that we can pay our educators what they deserve and ensure that schools and students have the support they need.