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Strategy and Flexibility Needed in Teacher Pay Raises, PAR Says

Click here for a copy of the report.

Rather than grant the proposed across-the-board pay raise for teachers and school employees, the state should distribute the same statewide total amount to the districts in the proportion that they receive state MFP funding, according to a report released today by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR). The PAR report finds that a universal pay raise would fail to push teacher pay up to the regional average for almost two-thirds of Louisiana’s districts, and would reinforce current inequities throughout the state for both teachers and school employees.

The governor’s proposed pay plan would grant raises of $2,400 each for teachers and $750 for school support workers. The cost for the teacher pay increase would be $158 million and for the school support workers would be $35 million. Advocates point to the fact that such pay increases would raise average teacher pay in Louisiana to that of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), $46,400, for 2007-08—a goal that has been pursued for many years.

“Teacher and School Employee Pay: A Strategic Approach” examines a number of teacher and school employee pay issues, including the implications of attempting to reach the SREB average; the pros and cons of blanket pay raises; whether pay plans based on needs and performance are better alternatives than current pay models; and the viability of utilizing the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) to allocate additional funding.

The analysis in this report indicates that even if the SREB average is reached, teacher pay in 51 of Louisiana’s 68 districts will still fall below that target. Given the wide variation of pay among Louisiana’s districts and neighboring metro areas, lower-paying districts will face continuous challenges in retaining quality educators. Louisiana’s teacher retention rates are significantly lower than national averages.

National experts have long suggested that the key to attracting and retaining quality teachers is more complex than an equal pay raise for all. Louisiana and other SREB states have launched initiatives to link teacher pay to performance and areas of need. However, districts still lack the funding flexibility to target strategically the performance measures and areas of need that are most relevant to their schools.

“While politically attractive, the across-the-board approach to granting raises has major flaws. It continues the existing inequities in school funding across the state and treats higher-paid and lower-paid teachers equally,” said Jim Brandt, PAR president. “Even more importantly, it removes local discretion to reward performance or provide incentives to meet local recruitment needs.”

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Rather than grant an across-the-board teacher raise, the state should distribute the same statewide total amount to the districts in the same proportion that they receive state MFP funding. The districts should develop incentive pay programs that include pay for performance, teaching in shortage areas or other factors that meet local district needs.
  • The Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) should encourage and support local pay-for-performance innovations and experiments by assisting in program design, establishing the necessary databases and providing research and current data on teacher shortages, turnover, retention and other information relevant to pay policies. A system for tying individual student performance to individual teachers is an essential element.
  • In funding raises for non-professional school support workers, the state should appropriate the proposed $35 million to the school districts in proportion to their shares of MFP funding. The districts should have discretion as to how the raises are granted.
  • The state should eliminate any legal impediments that may discourage local school districts from considering and bidding out private contracts for school support services.

Primary authors of this report are Ann Heath and Ty Keller, PAR Research Analysts. Funding for this research was provided by the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation. For additional information or to download a copy of the report, write to PAR at P.O. Box 14776, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-4776, call (225) 926-8414, visit PAR’s website at www.la-par.org, or call (225) 926-8414.

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