State of the States
Gov. Blanco Seeks Teacher-Pay Hike
• Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco made teacher pay a top education priority in her State of the State Address last week, asking Louisiana lawmakers to hand teachers raises of about $1,500.
Teachers: A similar effort by the Democratic governor last year, tied to a controversial plan to increase cigarette taxes by $1 per pack, was rebuffed by the legislature.
“I ask you to support my proposal to offer more-competitive salaries to teachers across the state,” the Democrat told legislators in her March 27 address. “The proposal is both fiscally and educationally sound. Our teachers are among the lowest-paid in the region, and in the country.”
Gov. Blanco wants the legislature to set aside $105 million for the pay raise in fiscal 2007, which begins July 1. Her overall request for state spending on K-12 education, $2.9 billion—out of a $20.5 billion state budget plan—is about the same as for the current year.
Hurricane Recovery: The governor’s State of the State proposals come as Louisiana continues to deal with the devastating impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. After those Gulf Coast storms half a year ago, lawmakers passed a package of budget cuts, including a reduction of $63 million in K-12 aid. In that special session, Gov. Blanco succeeded in her efforts to wrest control of most New Orleans schools from the city school system, which was beleaguered even before Katrina struck.
In last year’s session, the governor sought raises of about $3,300 for teachers over two years. Although legislators rejected that plan, they did pass a measure ensuring all teachers at least a $530 one-time bonus. Teachers in some districts received raises under the state’s school funding formula.
“A strong recovery demands a strong education system,” Gov. Blanco said last week. “It is our best weapon to fight the poverty exposed by Katrina and Rita.”
Vol. 25, Issue 30, Page 29