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Ganey Arsement: About Louisiana’s State-Funded, $1,000 Teacher Raise

March 3, 2019

The following Educate Louisiana article was published on February 28, 2019, by Louisiana special education teacher, public education advocate, and writer, Ganey Arsement. (In this reproduction, some links added and mild editing to photos/captions):


Ganey Arsement

Supt. Voitier Suggests $10k Raise For Teachers.

Ganey Arsement

On February 28th, in what proved to be the most exciting meeting of the MFP task force, to date, Superintendent Doris Voitier suggested that the $1000 raise for teachers, recommended by the governor, is not enough and stated that she’d like to give teachers a $10, 000 raise. Voitier also happens to be a member of BESE, appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.


Doris Voitier

To be clear, what I said in the first paragraph actually did happen; however, without context related to Voitier’s statement, you likely made the wrong assumption based on what you read. To understand what really happened, let’s examine the events leading up to this meeting and the actual role of the MFP task force.

In the Summer of 2018, Gov. John Bel Edwards began to assert that he would be prioritizing raises for teachers in the upcoming legislative session. The average salary of Louisiana teachers is approximately $2500 below the Southeastern Regional average. Edwards acknowledges that $1000 won’t get us to the average, but hopes to make incremental increases over multiple years.

There was much ado about the announcement because when the story ran, it was accompanied by the photo shown on the right (*see below in this reposting). Supt. John White agreed with, and supported, Edwards’ proposal. Right away, the usual players in education policy began to weigh in on the matter. The Louisiana Association of Educators stated that it was a start and supported the $1000. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers supported the $1000, but urged Edwards to revisit and consider $2500. Chairman of the House Education Committee, Rep. Nancy Landry, made multiple public statements criticizing the $1000 while saying $1815 was more in line. Former chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Conrad Appel, protested saying that public schools have shown no progress and teachers don’t deserve a raise. (Edit: I originally stated that Nancy Landry supported a $2500 raise, but couldn’t confirm, or link to it, because she has resorted to blocking constituents, myself included. There are multiple public statements that she supported $1815. In addition, Appel’s comment was in a tweet that appears to no longer be available.)


Advocate file photo by Leslie Westbrook, May 24, 2017

In the days prior to the MFP task force meeting, Edwards released his “suggested” budget for consideration in the upcoming legislative session. I put the word “suggested” in quotes, because typically, the governor submits a budget proposal to the House for consideration, but this year, he couldn’t because efforts to approve revenue estimates have been blocked by the Speaker of the House, Taylor Barras. Because of this, the “suggested” budget included the $1000 raise for teachers, but did not include additional funding for early childhood education. For this reason, Supt. White abruptly stopped supporting the raise.


Taylor Barras

Now, the role of the MFP task force is strictly advisory. The task force is comprised of members with varying roles in K-12 education. The task force discusses and make recommendations for changes to the MFP formula, then submits its recommendation to BESE. BESE has the choice to accept the recommendations, or reject them. Either way, the task force’s responsibility stops there. It it then BESE’s responsibility to decide on the MFP formula then submit to the legislature. There is no negotiation in the legislature. It is either accepted, or rejected and sent back to BESE with explanation and request for revision.

Here’s where the fun part began. The task force was poised to vote on its recommendation to leave the formula unchanged, but increase specific spending for teacher salaries to allow for $1000 raise for teachers, and $500 for support workers. As the discussion ended, the executive director of A+PEL, Dr. Keith Courville, made a motion to amend the recommendation to triple the raises to $3000, and $1500. Stating that the starting point for negotiation should be higher and that asking for more is symbolic and communicates the need for a larger raise. The discussion on the amendment began.

The first person to speak was Dr. Doris Voitier, superintendent of St. Bernard parish and appointed BESE member. She began her comment by stating that she would like to give teachers a $10,000 raise; then she went on to explain that of course it didn’t matter how high the raise was amended, any request higher than the recommended $1000 would likely be rejected on principle because of the other priorities that weren’t getting funded. One by one, members of the task force took the position of making a responsible request for a raise. Ultimately, the amendment failed with representatives from both teacher unions, abstaining. The recommended $1000 raise passed with Supt. White being the sole “NO” vote.

Of course, it wasn’t long after the conclusion of the meeting for the story to circulate on Social Media about how the two teacher unions refused to vote in favor of tripling the raise. It quickly became apparent that the “symbolic communication” was not intended for the legislature. It was intended for members of the two teacher unions. That communication was accomplished by implying that the two teacher unions voted against tripling the raise and relying on the assumption that most teachers wouldn’t know any better with hopes that union members would run from their organizations and flock to the non-union organization asking for a BIG raise. That’s essentially what I did in the opening paragraph. Let’s get those teachers lining up to work in St. Bernard parish.

Context matters. Abstaining from a vote, in Robert’s Rules of Order, is understood to be an indication of ambivalence toward an issue; meaning, one isn’t against an issue, in principle, but unable to justify a yes vote based on other factors.

To view the motion and discussion, CLICK HERE and forward to about 1:25 into the video.

BESE is expected to include the MFP task force recommendation for the $1,000 raise to the Louisiana legislature as part of BESE’s MFP funding. In turn, the Louisiana legislature has the authority to either approve of disapprove of BESE’s proposed MFP.


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.


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