Friday, October 29, 2010

Increase in average teacher pay doesn't tell the whole story

Yesterday's announcement to the Education Estimating Conference that Louisiana teacher salaries have increased by 85% over 15 years doesn't come close to telling the whole story.

As Advocate reporter Will Sentell writes here, the Conference was informed that the average Louisiana teacher salary rose from $26,461 in 1994-95 to $48,903 in 2009-10.

Tellingly, the conference refused to adopt the report. Members questioned its methodology and meaning.

LFT Legislative Director Alison Ocmand also had issues with the report. In some school districts, it is impossible for teachers to earn over $48,000 because their salary schedules just don't go that high.

So the question arises: is the salary average skewed because veteran teachers with advanced degrees in higher-paying school earn much more than newer teachers in lower-paying districts? The report doesn't answer that question.

And there is no doubt that the gap between high and low paying districts is increasing. For example, in 1995, a beginning teacher in East Carroll Parish would have earned about $3,800 less than the same teacher could earn in East Baton Rouge Parish. This year, the difference is over $12,200.

There has been no statewide teacher pay raise since 2007, when freshman Gov. Bobby Jindal approved a $1,019 across-the-board pay raise. According to the conference's consultants, there will be no more teacher pay raises for at least two years.

Instead of self-congratulation for barely reaching the regional average a couple of years ago, we need to focus on paying teachers professional salaries in the years to come. Unless Gov. Jindal and the legislature get serious about dealing with the state's financial crisis, that goal will be mighty hard to achieve.

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