COURVILLE: Teachers’ Unions Would Rather Fight For JBE Than Their Membership

Editor’s Note: a guest post from Dr. Keith Courville, Executive Director of Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana

I’ve spoken with teachers and staff from across Louisiana, and they are united: the Governor’s proposed pay raise of $1,000 is simply not enough.

Educators work countless hours and tirelessly engage in the work of running schools. Yet despite all of this effort, our salary schedules are no different than they were 10 years ago, while our insurance costs and the daily cost of living continues to rise on us. And now, Louisiana teachers are faced with the news that Texas is giving a $5,000 raise for their educators….

Well, I’m tired of losing great Louisiana teachers to Texas!

On February 28th, as the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana’s (A+PEL) representative on the state Minimum Foundation Program committee, I offered a motion to TRIPLE the governor’s original plan, creating a $3,000 raise for teachers and a $1,500 raise for support staff.

And the representatives from the state’s teacher unions, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators, REFUSED to vote in support of this greater level of increased pay. Even though their votes were tallied at the end of the roll call, where they could have voiced a “Yes” vote symbolically…they still refused to stand for educators…they would rather support the governor’s re-election plan than put teachers first. Simply put, in an election year, the governor has to spread the state’s surplus and increased revenue to as many sources as possible to garner votes instead of focusing it on teachers.

I’m tired of educators always being the last concern of politicians. This pay raise has been long overdue, and we need more than $1,000 to catch up to the Southern Regional Average.

Who even generated Louisiana’s financial surplus? It was hard working, middle class Louisiana teachers that faced an increased tax burden (after all, we are the ones buying supplies and supplemental materials for our own students!). It is only fair that a surplus is returned to teachers in the form of a significant pay raise.

Within a $33 billion budget, there should be room to give 50,000 teachers a $3,000 raise. We are talking about less than 1% of the state’s budget here! If Texas can afford $5,000 per teacher, surely we can afford $3,000?

The political entanglements of traditional teacher unions have now cost Louisiana teachers a $3,000 raise, with LFT and LAE refusing to support anything but the governor’s $1,000 raise.

It’s important for Louisiana educators to know that these political entanglements were once the very reason many Louisiana teachers in the 1970’s left the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) to form A+PEL. As an independent, non-union association for teachers A+PEL provides the same insurance benefits and legal representation, without the politics. Back then, the initial split occurred over the National Education Association (NEA)’s support for “reproductive rights,”  a disregard for the sanctity of life that continues today. After all, if we don’t cherish the lives of our future students, how will we even have future generations to teach in our classrooms? (this support for abortion by the NEA continues today, simply google “NEA and abortion” and see for yourself).

I know that many teachers are disappointed that the unions won’t support a higher raise than $1,000. But I want to leave my fellow educators with a sense of optimism…because this fight isn’t over yet. In the last few years, A+PEL has grown dramatically, expanding its insurance, legal services, support, and advocacy. We are now empowered by nearly 9,000 educators! So even if LAE and LFT refuse to demand more from the governor, you have my promise as A+PEL’s executive director, that we’ll keep fighting for an even higher raise for teachers and support personnel!

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