State budget advances with increased teacher pay raises, no per-pupil bump

State budget advances with increased teacher pay raises, no per-pupil bump

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The House Appropriations Committee advanced the first iteration of the state operating budget without objection Monday, May 6.

TOPS would be fully funded and higher education would get a $6 million increase. The Department of Corrections would get an additional $13 million bump.

The plan would also fund a $1,200 pay raise for teachers and a $600 raise for school support staff, which is an increase from the governor’s proposal and the original budget filed before lawmakers had a higher revenue estimate.

“My preference is to give teachers the biggest pay raise that we possibly can,” budget author, Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, said.

Henry’s plan does not include an increase to K-12 funding that the governor sought in his budget proposal.

“We’re about at the southern average for the money that’s spent per pupil - about $12,100,” he said. “But we’re not at the average as it relates to teacher pay, so this is taking an additional $20 million to try and get teachers back up to the southern average."

The governor had proposed raises of $1,000 and $500, respectively, but also sought a $40 million bump to per-pupil spending. Instead of funding that increase, Republicans spread the $40 million across multiple agencies and used the remainder to pay for higher teacher raises.

That $40 million proposal represents one of the 2019 Regular Session’s biggest debates, although it pales in comparison to a decade of budget crises.

“We’re not debating revenue measures to try and fill a budget deficit,” appropriations member, Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said. “It’s just been a lot easier to work with everyone to accommodate some of the needs, maybe not all of the wants, but the needs.”

McFarland said he thinks members have done a better job of communicating their opinions and desires to Henry this year.

Appropriations’ top Democrat, New Orleans’ Rep. Walt Leger, said his amendments were “90 to 95 percent” in line with Henry’s changes to the original budget proposal that did not account for surplus money later recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC).

The Senate, often friendly to the governor’s proposals, could restore some money for K-12. The budget should leave the House after debate on Thursday, May 9.

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