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Week 2 in the 2023 Legislative Session

Two weeks down: seven to go!

This week, LFT President Larry Carter testified before the House Appropriations Committee about the importance of passing a significant raise during this session.

His remarks focused on the experiences of Louisiana’s teachers and school employees. Our latest survey results revealed ninety-seven percent of teachers and ninety-eight percent of staff felt that they did not make enough to raise a family. Ninety-one percent of teachers said that the statewide pay raises they received in recent years were less than increases in cost of living and almost eighty percent said they’ve been completely absorbed by the rise in insurance premiums. Eighty-four percent of teachers and two-thirds of staff said they have considered leaving their current position. Thirty-seven percent of teachers and staff are working at least one other job.

He also spoke to the staffing crisis in our schools. State Superintendent Cade Brumley and LDOE have touted a decrease in the teacher vacancy rate over the last year, but as President Carter pointed out, that is not the whole story:

"In 2021-2022 LDOE also reported 5,349 uncertified teachers and 8,065 teaching outside their certification. That means a third of teachers in the classroom today are uncertified or teaching outside their certification area, up from twenty-three percent in 2019-2020. If we want every student to have a qualified and experienced teacher, which is the most important factor in students’ success, then we are falling far short of that goal. You could say the real vacancy rate is 14,617."

President Carter also focused on the importance of passing raises over stipends. “A stipend isn’t guaranteed from one year to the next and it can be taken away for any number of reasons. Stipends will not give teachers greater financial security and therefore, they won’t help end our extraordinary staffing shortage,” he said.

The pay raise debate has only just started. A lot of legislators and committees still need to weigh in on the existing MFP proposal, but we are already getting a lot of push back. Some representatives have expressed concern that previous raises are not delivering the “results” they want, and they are looking for any excuse to avoid giving teachers and school employees a raise this year.

We will continue to keep you updated throughout the process! Here are a few other bills that successfully passed through committee this week:

SB 18 (Price) was approved by the Senate Retirement Committee
Creates a new account for the accumulation of funds to pay for PBI/COLAs for retirees in perpetuity. This will help ensure that moving forward, retirees in TRSL, LASERS, LSERS and the La. State Police Retirement System will receive more regular cost of living increases.
SB 150 (Mills) was approved by the Senate Education Committee
It creates the Louisiana Literacy Commission within the state Dept. of Education (DOE) for the purpose of providing recommendations for improving, strengthening, and supporting literacy in Louisiana. Senator Jackson insisted that Mills add an amendment to include a representative from LFT on this Commission
HCR 17 (Mincey) was approved by the House Education Committee
It continues the Teacher Recruitment, Recovery, and Retention Task Force. The task force was created in 2021 to study the declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs and to study strategies and best practices by which the state, and individual school districts where there are teacher shortages, can increase rates of employment and retention of teachers. LFT is a member of this task force.
SB 197 (Peacock) was approved by the Senate Education Committee
This bill is a compromise measure. It lowers teaching certification standards for high needs areas, but it also attempts to correct a bill brought by the Louisiana Department of Education last year that forces all teachers to pay a fee for redundant background checks. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers has consistently pushed back on both of these issues.

Diminishing the teaching profession by lowering teacher qualifications is not going to improve student outcomes AND teachers should not bear the financial cost of LDOE’s red tape. Background checks are important, but teachers should not be required to pay for redundant checks, especially when LDOE stands to pocket some of that money. LFT will continue to work with Senator Peacock to amend this bill as needed.

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