A Pay Cut and a Raise
Gov. Mike Foster of Louisiana did something this month that some would argue is unusual for a politician: He kept a promise.
On the night he was elected governor in November 1995, the wealthy businessman pledged that if the state did not raise teacher salaries to the average for the Southern states by the end of his first two years in office, he would forgo his own $95,000 salary. And, as of next year, he will.
While Louisiana teachers received raises in 1996 and 1997, they are paid on average about $29,000, or $6,000 below the Southeast average of $35,000, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers says. So, Mr. Foster, a Republican, announced that as of Jan. 8, 1998, he will turn over his paycheck to the state fund for teacher pay. The $95,000 could raise the salaries of nearly 16 teachers to the regional average.
LFT President Fred Skelton said the step is appreciated, but "will be truly futile if we are unable to reach the regional average soon. We urge Governor Foster to present a budget that includes significant raises for teachers."
A Republican state senator in Arizona wants to give the state's 40,000 teachers bonuses of as much as $1,200 each. But the plan is leaving some Democrats and teachers a little suspicious.
The bonuses are designed to be incentives and to create a "direct linear relationship between performance and pay," said Sen. John Huppenthal, the chairman of his chamber's education committee. He plans to introduce the proposal when the legislature convenes in January.
The amount teachers received would depend on the percent of parents giving local schools an A-plus and the percent of students in a random statewide sampling scoring "excellent" on the Stanford Nine achievement test.
The state teachers' union, however, disagrees with using the Stanford test because it is not linked to the state's academic standards. And, some Democratic lawmakers think a proposed $50 million for the program in fiscal 1999 should go to other purposes.
"It raises a lot more questions than it answers," said Daphne Atkeson, the spokeswoman for the 30,000-member Arizona Education Association, which has opposed past merit-pay plans.
--MILLICENT LAWTON & LINDA JACOBSON