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Estimating conference right to reject salary estimate, LFT says

(Baton Rouge – December 14, 2011) The state’s Education Estimating Conference was right to reject a guess that Louisiana’s average teacher salary has climbed to more than $51,000 per year, Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said today.

“In too many of our school systems, it is not possible for a teacher who has advanced degrees and is at the top of the salary schedule to ever earn that much money,” Monaghan said. “I believe it is fair to characterize this report as chatter, as noise that distracts us from inequities in the way we compensate educators.”

The LFT was responding to a report that consultant Mark Brantley presented to the estimating conference on Tuesday, in which he estimated that teachers this year earn an average of $51,560, an increase of nearly $2,000 over last year’s estimate, which Brantley pegged at $49,614.

Monaghan joined members of the Estimating Conference, including David Ray, in questioning even the possibility that teacher pay has risen that dramatically.

“In a year that saw no increase in state funding for education, a year in which multiple school systems declared fiscal crises, and in which teachers were furloughed or laid off around the state, it’s just bizarre to claim that salaries rose,” said Monaghan.

Expressing his mistrust of Brantley’s estimate, Ray said that it would have taken an additional state expenditure of $190 million to pay for a $2,000 teacher pay raise.

Even Brantley’s claim that teachers earned an average of $49,614 last year is questionable, Monaghan said.

“In 20 of our school districts, a teacher with a Master’s degree plus 30 hours could not have earned $49,614 last year because their salary schedules did not reach that high,” Monaghan said.

“That is for a teacher at the top of the salary schedule,” he said. “There are 48 districts that did not pay that much to a teacher with the same degree in the middle of a career, with 12 years’ experience.”

“It is clear that the term ‘average’ has little meaning when we discuss teacher compensation,” Monaghan said.

The LFT president said it is past time for the state to address the inequities in teacher pay from district to district.

“Our teacher with the Master’s plus 30 and 25 years’ experience would earn $66,600 in the highest paid district, and just $40,161 in the lowest,” Monaghan said. “For a mid-career teacher, the spread would be $58,800 in the highest and $36,729 in the lowest.

“While the idea of additional compensation for so-called ‘highly effective’ teachers makes for interesting parlor conversation,” Monaghan concluded, “it is premature until tens of thousands of good teachers are paid the salaries they deserve.”