A n omission often stands out far more than thousands of words in a document, as seems to be the case with the budget proposals Gov. John Bel Edwards made last week.
The $32 billion budget proposal Edwards made for the coming fiscal year includes $25 million in additional revenue for early childhood education, along with $35 million for higher education and a $39 million boost to the Minimum Foundation Program, which funnels state money into public-school districts.
His proposal does not include boosts in teacher pay, something which has angered the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and likely most public-school educators statewide. In the process, it appears he turned his back on his biggest supporters.
The governor’s snub against teachers comes as an about-face in comparison to much of his rhetoric last year on the campaign trail.
He pushed in January 2019 for teachers to receive pay raises and expressed his determination to implement additional pay hikes to bring Louisiana K-12 educators to the Southern regional average within four years.
Edwards made the same promise during a campaign rally before a jubilant crowd at Scott Civic Center in New Roads.
Many of the spectators in the crowd either taught in the Pointe Coupee Parish public-school system or had children who attended those schools.
He stressed the need for a strong public-school system to retain quality teachers, improve test scores and build a more educated workforce in hopes of industrial development.
He kept true to his word last year when lawmakers approved the $1,000 per year pay raise. It was “modest,” as he said when he first pitched the proposal.
The pay raise amounted to $19.23 per week.
Tack in the rising costs of health insurance and the overall cost of living and it’s safe to guess that more teachers saw their pay diminish despite the “modest increase.”
Some of those educators may seek greener pastures in other professions, and a few may look to Texas or Arkansas in hopes of a better paycheck.
The commitment to Louisiana teachers played a big role in the Edwards campaign and contributed in some degree to his re-election.
They trusted him to keep his word.
We urge Edwards to reconsider his stand against the pay raises and move forward with the promise he made in the election.
A broken promise less than a month after he took his oath could tarnish his image among teachers for the rest of his term.