The 2019 legislative session begins at noon on Monday, April 8 and while this will be a fiscal session there are still several items myself and our team at Stand for Children Louisiana will be monitoring.
Educator Pay Raises
One item that’s captured both public and media attention is the proposed teacher and school staff pay raises. The current MFP formula (Minimum Foundation Program), the school funding formula, adopted by BESE and forwarded to the Legislature includes teacher pay raises of $1,000, non-certificated staff raises of $500 and associated retirement costs totaling $101.2M. There is an additional increase of $39M in the base per pupil amount, with “no strings attached” on how local school districts would spend those dollars. Pledge your support to Raise Up Teachers here.
The Legislature cannot amend the MFP, it can only approve or reject the resolution. The MFP can be returned to BESE and resubmitted to the Legislature with changes, but if the Legislature does not agree on the resolution, the prior year’s MFP remains in place. This year, that would mean the proposed teacher pay raise would not go into affect.
The pay proposal has been somewhat controversial, though no one argues that teachers do not deserve a raise. Louisiana teacher pay is well below the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) average and neighboring states are in the process of raising teacher pay now.
Many questions continue to be raised in this discussion; some key ones we continue to hear include should pay be across the board or should merit and short be considered? Should the $39 million increase be allocated in a block grants with no direction, or should state leaders ensure it is protected to fund areas where student needs are highest? If Louisiana is middle of the pack in the funding of education among all states and near the bottom in outcomes, how are we spending dollars – or not spending them – to ensure more investments reach the classroom and produce stronger outcomes? Should we be prioritizing issues like early childhood education so more students start school prepared and ready to learn?
Standards, Accountability & Transparency
Stand is also engaging in legislation that would negatively impact quality educational standards, teacher evaluations, and those that could have a positive impact on protecting and sustaining teacher benefits and retirement. We will work to ensure that educators and parents always have a voice at the table. Please contact us if you would like to be involved at the Legislature.
“Parents, educators and community leaders need a seat at a table. Too often we look around and find that those sitting around the decision-making table are not the ones who will be impacted or charged with implementing the policy being discussed. We’ve worked hard to support parents and educators in having a seat at the table when critical discussions are happening and critical decisions are being made,” stated Carrie Griffin Monica, Executive Director of Stand for Children Louisiana.
As a fiscal session, legislators are limited to only five bills of a general nature but may file an unlimited number of bills dealing with taxes, fees, and the state budget. Thus far, 583 House bills have been pre-filed and 221 Senate bills, but legislation may be introduced until April 17. Fiscal sessions last only 60 calendar days, so the Legislature must approve a budget, the MFP (school financing formula), capital outlay, and consider hundreds of bills by 6pm on June 6.
Stand will keep you informed on these and other discussions as they develop. As the final term before legislative term limits take full effect and as we enter a gubernatorial election, we anticipate an intense and, hopefully, productive session.