CUNNINGHAM: From Buying Teachers’ Votes In 2019 To…Something Else

In what should be a surprise to no one in the fifth year of the John Bel Edwards administration, the 2020 budget proposal from the governor’s office includes no direct plan to increase teachers’ pay this year.

However, it came as a surprise to teachers, many of whom felt that when Edwards said the last teacher pay raise was good but not enough, and when he mentioned after his election that another pay increase was on the table, he was making a campaign promise he intended to keep. Many teachers, and even Edwards’ top allies in the unions, are upset and even angry with Edwards over this.

His way of explaining it away is saying that this proposal would send more money to the districts, who in turn would use it to increase teacher pay. This is a very good idea that would be wonderful in a perfect world where education funding and spending was immaculate and the right things got paid for. But, because education is a bureaucratic nightmare from top to bottom, that perfect world does not exist.

Instead, you’ll likely see school board announcements of new and upgraded facilities, key administrative hires, and maybe even opening an entirely new school here or there in order to meet the needs of growing student populations. You will, in a majority of parishes, probably not see significant pay raises for teachers (if you see any at all).

And Edwards knows this, which is why he’s scapegoating the districts. He is pre-emptively putting the blame on them and when teachers get angry that they don’t see more money in their paychecks , they’ll attack the school boards instead of him.

I’ve argued before that teachers don’t need a pay raise as much as new incentives to encourage better teaching habits and better teachers in lower-performing schools (and I am arguing against my own self-interest by not wanting more money straight away in my paycheck). I think there are key education reforms the state can start studying and looking into and passing immediately.  So, Edwards not burning state money on teacher pay raises is something I’m crying over.

What I wish would happen (again, perfect world and all that) is that the governor would take the time and figure out what each parish individually needs and help offset the costs of certain projects that school districts need to complete but struggle to fund. Imagine if we actually saw how much projects cost before we just handed over money to districts (many of which, just like the state, have a very keen eye for unnecessary spending). We might not need $194 million in extra education spending, but instead use less to accomplish a lot more in a cost-effective way.

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