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Superintendent supports one-time stipends for Louisiana teachers over permanent pay raises

by Minden Press-Herald
Allison Allsop | Louisiana Illuminator

Louisiana Education Superintendent Cade Brumley announced his support Monday for one-time stipends for teachers over permanent pay raises. 

His stance came in a resolution he presented Monday to the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) Task Force. It requests the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Legislature create a temporary stipend for teachers in the 2024-2025 budget. 

Every year BESE approves a Minimum Foundation Program formula to determine how much money the state spends per pupil at K-12 public schools. The MFP Task Force includes policy experts, educators and key stakeholders in the conversation to inform BESE members and lawmakers. 

The task force is only an advisory panel, so BESE doesn’t have to follow its recommendations. 

Legislators cannot make changes to BESE’s formula proposal, so it must be accepted in its entirety or not at all. Last year, the Legislature rejected the MFP formula after lawmakers disagreed on a $61 million allocation for differential pay that BESE refused to remove. Differential compensation allows school districts to distribute money as needed for high-performing teachers and those in critical-need areas. 

Last year’s MFP also included a permanent pay raise of $2,000 for teachers and $1,000 for support workers. Legislators approved of the raise but had to add it as a one-time stipend in the budget because the formula was not approved. 

Gov. Jeff Landry has already included K-12 stipends in his executive budget for next year, but they might not be distributed equally. The governor has said he would support more money for high-performing teachers and those in subjects that have been difficult to fill, such as science, math and special education.   

Brumley said his resolution reflects conversations he’s had with legislative leadership. BESE Vice President Lance Harris, a former state representative and House Education Committee chairman, said he felt the Legislature would not support an MFP with permanent pay raises. 

“What I would hate to see is we set the precedent that BESE sends over an MFP every year that is rejected,” said Harris, a Republican from Alexandria.

After the meeting, Harris said he thinks all parties should work toward permanent pay raises for school personnel, but he understands why stipends are needed now given the state’s upcoming “fiscal restraints.” He’s referencing a $560 million financial deficit the state predicts for 2025 when a temporary 0.45% state sales tax increase ends. 

Brumley’s resolution was approved with only one task force member, Public Affairs Research Council President Steven Procopio, voting in opposition. 

Procopio stated that temporary stipends do not help with recruitment and retention, and the money could be more wisely used elsewhere, like paying down retirement debt.

After Brumley brought his resolution forward, several members of the task force spoke out against it during discussions. 

Joseph David, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Principals, was not in attendance Monday but submitted a statement that was read into the record.

“Actions … often speak louder than words,” David said in his statement. “And the legislature’s failure to provide competitive financial security to Louisiana educators only serves to degrade the profession.”

The task force failed to pass any recommendations for the MFP itself at Monday’s meeting. 

Brumley recommended a $71.3 million adjustment to the formula, including $25 million for differential compensation, $30 million for the Accelerate tutoring program, $14.3 million for increased per-pupil operational expenses and $2 million for student apprenticeships and internships. 

The Accelerate program would provide in-school tutoring to students in literacy and math. Brumley’s recommendation does not specify how schools must spend the money, giving them the option of using it for extra staffing, contracted services or online programming.

Accelerate is already implemented in some schools as part of a grant Louisiana and four other states received in 2023 to pilot the program. 

The $2 million for student apprenticeships and internships would allocate money to school systems per student enrolled in either program. Apprenticeships give school systems between $2,500 and $3,500 per student. Internships would give school systems $1,000 per student enrolled. 

The Legislature allocated $1.5 million for this last year as a line item, meaning it will not reoccur this year. 

Task force members Cynthia Posey with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and Tia Mills with the Louisiana Association of Educators voted against the recommendation. John Kay, policy director for the Landry administration, abstained from voting. 

The recommendation failed to pass, but BESE members can reconsider it when writing the final formula. 

The task force meeting occurred just hours before the Legislature’s special session on crime began. In his opening speech, Landry asked lawmakers to expand the death penalty, place more restrictions on parole and enact stricter punishment for juvenile offenders. 

Landry declared a state of emergency last week, citing a statewide shortage of law enforcement personnel. Task force members said the governor needs to have a similar mindset on education. 

“I agree [with what] the governor came out with law enforcement, and they’re wanting to make that a critical area,” said David Claxton, president of the Louisiana Association of Superintendents. “Why can’t we make education a critical area also?” 

This report was updated to include an explanation from Procopio on his vote against Brumley’s resolution.

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