Edwards says teacher pay hike will be top priority next year

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As he heads into a re-election campaign year, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that a teacher pay raise will be his "number one priority" in next year's legislative session.

The Democratic governor, elected with the support of teacher unions, said he'll seek a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers in the 2019 session that begins in April. He said he'll also push for a $500 raise for school support employees, such as cafeteria workers and classroom aides.

The price tag for the raises, if lawmakers agree, would be $114 million.

Edwards said on his monthly radio call-in show that he expects Louisiana's tax revenue to grow enough in the next budget year that starts July 1 to cover the cost, though those income estimates won't be settled for months. He said the salary boosts are "critically important" to keep attracting motivated people to the profession.

"It's the right thing to do, and it's the number one priority, and we're going to be able to make that happen," the governor said.

The proposal comes as teachers in other states staged strikes for pay hikes and as Edwards and lawmakers move into the 2019 election cycle.

Lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, have expressed interest in raising teacher pay, though they differ on the size and type of proposals, such as whether to include support workers and whether to focus pay hikes on hard-to-recruit positions.

If the governor and lawmakers approve the dollars for the increase, that wouldn't get Louisiana's to the Southern regional average in pay.

The average teacher earns $49,244 in Louisiana, according to the governor's office. Edwards said that's $2,200 less than the Southern average.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte


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