Louisiana teacher pay starts higher than peers, but falls


December 12, 2020

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s public school teachers start off with salaries better than average, but plummet in the rankings for the rest of their careers, according to new information comparing teacher pay across the South.

The average starting pre-tax salary — $40,400 per year — is better than both the Southern and national averages, which are $38,420 and $40,154 respectively.

But The Advocate reports the pay for Louisiana teachers declines after that when compared to their peers across 15 other states in the South, according to a teacher compensation dashboard released by the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, known as SREB.

First grade teacher Bella Legault bends down to greet a nervous incoming student on the first day back at school for fifth-12th grade students at Foundation Preparatory School in New Orleans on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. Because of coronavirus restrictions it was the first day of in-person learning for public school students in those grades in Orleans Parish. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

Overall teacher salaries average $50,288 in Louisiana, compared to $53,340 in the South and $62,304 nationwide. Top salaries average $56,660 in Louisiana versus $66,534 across the region and $74,582 in the U.S., according to the SREB.

“One thing the data shows us is some states are taking a frontloading approach and trying to raise the salary at the starting end,” said Megan Boren, a policy researcher who leads the regional education board’s work on teacher and workforce issues.

“Some states are kind of taking the opposite approach and adjust their salary schedules so they kind of focus on retaining teachers,” Boren said. “Louisiana is more of a frontloading state.”

The issue has been a sore point for teacher leaders for years.

“After the first year, your money doesn’t grow,” said Keith Courville, executive director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana. “The increases for your years of service as well as increases for degrees are not large enough.”

Looking at a different metric, take-home pay for Louisiana teachers who have been on the job for 15 years averages $32,110 after deductions for taxes, retirement and health insurance — compared to the regional average of $34,613. After 35 years, Louisiana teachers take home an average of $36,592 per year compared to $44,105 across the region.

Both of those comparisons put Louisiana 11th of the 16 states included in the SREB region.

Louisiana had 47,586 public school teachers during the 2019-20 school year, the latest data available from the state education department. The newest teachers make up 13% of the workforce, while those with the most experience are 14% of the total.

State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said it makes sense to focus on starting pay.

“Systems are not just recruiting in-state. They are recruiting out-of-state and competing with systems coming from out of state to recruit Louisiana educators,” he said.

Brumley also said he supports pay differentials for teachers who take on added responsibilities, work in more challenging environments and who produce better outcomes for students.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has promised to get teacher pay to the regional average before he leaves office in 2024, but those plans have been at least temporarily derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Cover Photo: Students and teachers get settled in their classrooms at Foundation Preparatory School as the process of classroom learning returns during the coronavirus in New Orleans on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. It was the first day of in-person learning for fifth-12th grade public school students in Orleans Parish. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

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