Louisiana’s governor wants to raise teacher salaries by at least $1,000 through increased sin taxes, she said in her April 25 State of the State Address.
“Our teachers are producing results for our children, and we need to produce for them,” Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco told lawmakers in Baton Rouge on the first day of their legislative session. “This is not as much as we would like to provide our teachers, but it’s a good start.”
The governor, a first-term Democrat, noted that the increase would be in addition to the roughly $300 salary hike already scheduled to take effect under the state’s minimum foundation formula. The extra $120 million would come from higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and gambling.
But the raise sought by Gov. Blanco is well below the $2,000 increase that the two state teachers’ unions are calling for.
The proposed raises are part of an $18.1 billion state budget Gov. Blanco has submitted to the legislature for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. She is seeking $2.91 billion in overall state spending on pre-K-12 education, an increase of about 2.6 percent over the $2.84 billion budgeted for the current fiscal year.
In her address last week, the governor also highlighted plans to substantially expand the state’s prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds. Under her budget, funding for the program would grow from $49 million to $69 million.
“This is the only significant [program] expansion I’m proposing this session,” she said. The program now serves 7,200 pupils in 21 school districts. Gov. Blanco says the extra money would allow the program to reach an additional 4,000 children in 20 districts.