Teacher pay hits another snag

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The Webster Association of Educators and the Webster Parish School Board are finally seeing eye to eye on the teachers’ salary schedule, but another snag has come into play.

With dwindling state revenue, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said the parish may not see the 2.75 “cost of living” increase in the Minimum Foundation Program funding, the formula used to pay teachers. Last year, they were given half of that, about 1.375 percent, but that may not come to pass either – and that means teachers’ pay could remain frozen.

“It’s been taken off the table for this year, and we’ve been told it’s been taken off the table for next year,” he said. “Our sales tax distribution check continues to be below previous years’ amounts. The amount of money we get from the MFP continues to decline because the child count in this parish continues to decline. The other issue is the inflationary factor for retirement has gone up 1 percent that we have to pay for, and they anticipate that inflation rate to increase for the next seven to eight years. Those are the kinds of issues that we’re facing.”

Finance Director Crevonne Odom said if the state can’t produce more funding, that means teachers won’t be able to move up on the step schedule, the parameters used to give teachers an increase in their pay.

“We’re probably going to be frozen for the next two or three years,” she said. “We’re trying to keep from laying off people and closing down schools. I don’t want anybody to think that just because we vote in a new salary schedule, it still could be frozen. If the state doesn’t send us any money, how are we going to move you to the next step on the new salary schedule when we’re not getting any more than we had last year? We’re maintaining what we have this year.”

WAE President Jim Croad said while he is pleased the association and the school board are now on the same page and errors were corrected, he’s disheartened to know the pay freeze will likely remain in effect.

“WAE is satisfied that all the concerns we had about the original compromise schedules have been corrected, and the changes have been applied fairly to all employees,” he said. “We feel confident that it’s a plan the board can support. However, we’re deeply disappointed the central office thinks the pay freeze will now likely continue despite the concessions of the compromise. We cannot simply accept an indefinite pay freeze as the only measure to offset and survive the state’s stagnant funding and rising costs.”

Odom went through the proposed salary schedule in a finance committee workshop Thursday, going through the corrections made, that included correcting inconsistencies in certified personnel, encompassing all employees.

She went through the history of the current salary schedule, how it was developed and who received raises.

The MFP covers teachers’ base salary while other employees are covered through the general fund and tax funding. She said teachers and some support personnel receive additional monies through the 1969 and 1996 sales taxes. Paraprofessionals are not included in the 1969 sales tax, she said.

Croad said more has to be done than just pay freezes.

“Proactive, creative measures must be pursued in a good faith effort to provide the very best education for our students that includes an investment in quality staff,” he said.

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