• 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.
Read a complete transcript of Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s 2006 State of the State Address. Posted by Louisiana’s Office of the Governor.
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.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 2006 edition of Education Week