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Teachers demand action on salaries

Nearly 4,000 teachers respond to LFT survey
LFT will confer with local leaders and partners about next steps

(Baton Rouge – May 21, 2018) Large majorities of Louisiana public school teachers favor some type of action to convince the state legislature and local school boards that pay raises are needed, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 teachers released by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers today.

“Our survey shows that teachers are fed up, not just with low pay, but also with a lack of resources, crumbling facilities, poor student discipline, and a lack of parental involvement,” LFT President Larry Carter said.

Some 3,832 teachers from 73 Local Education Agencies responded to the survey, taken between April 10 and May 7, Carter said.

“What we learned is that teachers want action, and soon, in a state that has frozen education funding in nine of the last 10 years, and in which the average teacher salary has actually declined,” Carter said.

When asked “Which of these steps are you willing to take to win significant pay raises,” 61% answered “Statewide walkout/strike,” and 59% said “Mass demonstration at state capitol in Baton Rouge.”

Teachers were given a list of options ranging from petitioning their local school boards all the way up to a state walkout. Fewer responded to a local walkout/strike (48%) than to a statewide action.

Seventy-eight percent of the teachers said they “have considered leaving the profession because of low pay.”

Told that teacher salaries in Louisiana are paid from a combination of local and state sources, the vast majority (84%) said that raises should come from both, and not just from the state or the local school board.

Seventy-nine percent said that local Industrial Tax Exemptions should be “limited in order to fund pay raises from your local school board,” and 82% said that the state should “limit business tax exemptions and rebates in order to fund pay raises from the state.”

Over half (59%) said they would support a small state income tax increase to fund state raises; fewer than half (42%) said they would support sales or property taxes for local pay raises.

Louisiana teacher salaries reached parity with other Southern states in 2007, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. Our average salaries reached a high-water mark in 2012-13, at $51,381. But by 2015-16 (the last year that figures are available) our average salary plunged to $49,745. That year, the Southern average was $50,955 (the national average was $58,363).

Some of that decline is due to a surge in teacher retirement after the state passed draconian reforms in 2012 that teachers saw as an attack on their profession. A Tulane University study showed that prior to the enactment of Act 1 of 2012, fewer than seven percent of teachers retired each year. But by 2013, that number had spiked to well over 10%.

But retirement is not the only factor in lowering the average teacher salary since 2012. Only 19% of the respondents said they have received a local pay raise (not including salary step increases) in the past five years, and 61% said their local school boards have frozen salaries during the same period.

Many believe that new state laws will make it difficult for them to get raises. Asked if the “merit pay” component in Act 1 of 2012 makes it more or less likely that they will receive a raise, 68% said “less likely,” confirming a suspicion that the change was made as a money-saving tactic by the state.

Teachers were asked to rank six issues that they believe are the most important ones facing their schools today. For 53%, salaries topped the list. Discipline was ranked at the top by 40%, building conditions by 38%, parental involvement by 35%, teacher evaluations by 31%, and school safety by 29%.

Carter said Federation leaders will meet over the summer to discuss actions the union may take in the coming school year. The survey is being broken down by school district to help local leaders plan their local strategies.

Since salary is both a state and local issue, we want to approach raises at every possible level,” he said. “You can expect a much higher level of activism than we have seen in the past.”

While the LFT survey only included teachers, Carter said, there is also a need to raise pay for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel.

“When we approach school boards and the state, we will come as a family he said. “Every school employee has a role to play in educating our children, and they all deserve significant pay raises.”

The failure of the state legislature to deal with a years-long budget crisis will not deter educators from making demands at the state capitol, he said.

“A decade-long funding drought has been devastating for our schools, our teachers and school employees, and the children we serve,” he said. “When lawmakers meet in a fiscal session next spring, they will be forced to decide whether they will support public education or face an angry, organized resistance.

“We applaud Governor John Bel Edwards’ decision to veto the $27 billion budget approved by the Legislature last week,” Carter said.

“Tomorrow the legislature begins another special session.  It is time that legislators address long term fiscal reform.  A blue ribbon commission, established by the legislature, has given recommendations that those same legislators refuse to consider.  We hope that instead of removing the statutory dedications for K-12, lawmakers will finally do their job and create a stable budget that will provide the necessary funding for our schools, our children and our future.”

Click here to see the full results of the survey.

Click here to see all of the questions asked on the survey.