BATON ROUGE – Public school teachers and support workers in Louisiana are long overdue for a pay raise. A decade of financial stagnation means the average teacher would need to earn an extra $4,004 to have the same buying power as their salary did in 2008.

But as state policymakers consider the first across-the-board teacher pay raise in a decade, they should be mindful of the wide pay gaps that already exist between different school districts, and seek to prioritize the poorest districts. They also should ensure that teachers and support workers are able to keep up with the rising cost of living by providing annual pay adjustments.

A new report by LBP’s Neva Butkus tracks teacher pay in each of Louisiana’s school districts, and how it has evolved since the last time teachers received annual cost-of-living adjustments.

“An across-the-board pay raise is the easiest solution, but it does not do enough to address the district-to-district pay gap for teachers,” Butkus said. “It cannot continue to be one-year bumps. Louisiana needs to make sure teacher pay keeps up with the rising cost of living to ensure that teaching remains a financially viable career path.”

Teacher pay in Louisiana trailed the rest of the South for years until 2008, when it finally caught up. But that was also the year Louisiana policymakers stopped providing annual inflation adjustments to the Minimum Foundation Program, the funding formula for public schools. The average pay for a teacher has fallen below the Southern Regional Education Board average for the past five years and Louisiana is the only Southern state where average pay has actually decreased during that time.

Focusing on statewide averages can give an incomplete picture because it does not account for the broad disparities that exist between different school districts. In 2018, teachers in 45 of the state’s 69 public school districts were paid below the statewide average. Average salaries for teachers varies from a low of $35,273 to a high of $62,205 depending on the district.

“The freeze to the annual increase of the MFP affected all school districts, but wealthier districts are more capable of raising local revenue to fill the gap,” Butkus said. “As a result, the freezing of state support served to widen the gap between wealthy districts and those that are less well-off.”