Teacher pay raises spark dispute

Controversy erupted Friday afternoon on whether all public school teachers will get pay raises or if those rated as “ineffective” in Louisiana’s new evaluations will be excluded.

State Superintendent of Education John White, in a late afternoon press conference, said the Legislature clearly intended for the increases to apply to teachers generally.

White said while it is up to local school districts to make the final call, he plans to make clear to them next week that lawmakers intended for all teachers to get the increase.

The superintendent’s comments were sparked by criticism from House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Bel Edwards, D-Amite,

“Now the state Department of Education is telling educators and legislators that the raises must be tied to the Jindal administration’s troubled, flawed teacher evaluation program,” Edwards said in a prepared statement.

White said department officials have made no such statements.

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said state lawmakers meant for the money to be a “onetime stipend for certified personnel” and not linked to annual evaluations.

“It was an across the board division of money,” Monaghan said.

Under a late-session budget agreement, teachers are in line for pay raises of about $575, and possibly more.

The funds stem from a $69 million appropriation, with half of the money to be used for teacher salaries and the other half for rising retirement, health care and other costs.

The state has about 50,000 public school teachers.

An estimated five or 10 percent are expected to be rated as “ineffective” under new evaluations that began with the 2012-13 school year.

Under the new reviews, half of the evaluation stems from the growth of student achievement for many teachers.

The rest stems from classroom observations by principals and others.