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Louisiana lawmakers want teacher pay increase in 2024 | Education


Louisiana loses thousands of teachers every year. 

The state, like much of the country, is grappling with teacher shortages in nearly every subject as educators cite mounting workloads, large class sizes and persistently low pay. Data shows the state lost about 7,000 teachers in 2022 with a turnover rate of around 13% — a number higher than before the pandemic. 

It’s a worrying trend for lawmakers and education officials alike, many of whom agree that more needs to be done to support Louisiana’s teachers.

In an effort to mitigate the state’s retention woes, the legislature is considering a number of bills with bipartisan support this session to ease the burden on educators and increase their compensation.

“It all goes back to compensation, workload and discipline,” said Cynthia Posey, legislative director for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, one of the state’s main teachers unions. If the state can “genuinely do something about those three things, it will go a long way toward keeping teachers in classrooms.”

Here are some of the ways lawmakers want to make life easier for teachers.

Lighten their teaching load

As districts struggle with retention, one theory for why teachers are leaving the classroom is that they’re overloaded with required training and instructional mandates.

Several bills are trying to lighten that load.

House bill 115, sponsored by Rep. John Wyble, R-Franklinton, gets rid of mandates that require K-3 educators to teach certain issues, including preventing child abuse, litter prevention, mental health, water safety, internet and cell phone safety, eating disorders and substance abuse, among other topics.

HB 647 would keep teachers from having to give lessons on any topics not in the state’s learning standards, while also stipulating that no new instructional requirements can be added without eliminating existing ones.

Rep. Troy Romano, R-Jennings, the bill’s sponsor, said the Legislature has piled too many responsibilities on teachers that focus on issues outside of the classroom.

“While well-intended, these mandates often place heavy burdens on teachers as go-to solutions for all problems in society,” he said. “Though these requirements may seem inconsequential when passed as individual bills, they become quite cumbersome as a collective.”

Another, HB 320, sponsored by Rep. Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, removes teaching requirements related to health and physical education and up to 12 hours of mandatory training. It also says teachers no longer need training in first aid, suicide prevention, bullying and other issues.

While the bills are unlikely to alleviate the problem, “every little bit helps,” Posey said.

But not all legislation will ease teacher workloads.

Senate Bill 336 – sponsored by Sen. Thomas Pressly, R-Shreveport – would provide schools with a computer program to check students for reading challenges, but it would also require teachers to take additional training to oversee the dyslexia screenings.

Another bill, HB 267 by Rep. Kim Carver, R-Mandeville, would provide assessments to measure students’ math skills, while also requiring teachers to carry out improvement plans to boost student skills.

If it passes, state education department official Jenna Chiasson told the House Education Committee earlier this month that the bill will require teachers to undergo training paid for and administered by the DOE, leading some to worry that the bill and others like it will undo efforts to ease the burdens placed on educators.

“So again,” Posey said, “this is something else that’s added to their workload.”

Increase compensation

Better pay is at the forefront of the effort to keep teachers in their jobs.

Louisiana’s teachers unions want policymakers to offer permanent pay raises, but Gov. Jeff Landry proposed last month giving some teachers one-time stipends instead of pay hikes.

During a House appropriations meeting this week, LFT president Larry Carter Jr. said unfair pay is “a major reason why schools struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers.”

A report released last year by PAR Louisiana found that the state’s teachers, on average, earn less than their counterparts in other Southern states and more than $12,000 below the national average.

SB 205, sponsored by Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, would provide teachers with additional compensation for overtime work and for time spent planning lessons.

Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia, sponsored a similar bill, HB 420.

“Our districts are run on unpaid overtime,” Posey said. “In a sense, school districts need to make a choice. What we’re asking teachers to do outside the scope of their primary job duties – is it worth paying overtime for?”

Make it easier to deal with disruptive students

According to Posey, one of the biggest problems teachers face is disruptive students who upend classroom operations.

“When we talk to teachers, their main concern is discipline,” Posey said. “Because of classroom disruptions, they lose instructional time.”

If passed, HB 322, sponsored by Rep. Joe Stagni, R-Kenner, would keep a current state law that allows teachers to remove students who violate school rules or who interfere with classroom activities for a class period, while including an addendum that protects educators from facing retaliation for doing so from school officials.

In a 2023 survey administered by LFT, Posey said roughly 75% of teachers and 70% of support staff identified student behavior as one of the most pervasive issues they face.

“What we’re seeking is just to have the law followed,” Posey said.

Allow more flexibility for sick leave

In addition to teachers, some proposed legislation also aims to help support staff, like classroom aids, bus drivers and other school employees.

SB 213, sponsored by Samuel Jenkins, D-Shreveport, would ensure that personnel who are injured while helping students get adequate time to heal.

Posey gave an example of a classroom aide who might be required to help a student in and out of a wheelchair several times a day.

She noted that teachers currently receive a full year to recover from on-the-job injuries while support staff receive 90 days.

“All we’re asking for is parity,” she said.

Another bill, HB 600, would authorize teachers, bus operators and other school employees to donate paid leave to other employees.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, said it would keep some educators and other school staff from having to retire early because they could not afford to take unpaid leave.

“It’s a simple bill,” she said. “It helps to retain employees.”



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