Iberia School Board officials question mandate on stipends

Unanimous approval of a new teacher stipend plan Wednesday led some Iberia Parish School Board members to question the state’s leadership on new school system mandates.

Board member Jesse McDonald called the stipends another “unfunded mandate” because the stipend plan costs the school system $214,000 a year without new funds from the state.

The plan is part of the tenure legislation, known as Act 1, which passed the state House 60-43 and the state Senate 23-16 earlier this year and went into effect this school year. The plan rates teachers and pays them a stipend.

Fifty percent of the rating will stem from how students fare on standardized tests, and how scores compare with previous years. The rest will be based largely on formal and informal classroom observations by principals, which has been the key standard for years.

Superintendent of Schools Dale Henderson said the Louisiana Department of Education and the Legislature provided little direction to the school systems on how to craft their stipend plans.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools C. Michael Judice said Iberia Parish looked to stipend programs in the state of New York and in other parishes to construct its plan.

More than 70 school systems will be sending their own stipend plans to the state for approval, and because of little direction from the state, all plans will be different, he said.

Board President Elvin Pradia said that with lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of other provisions of Act 1, the School Board may have to revise and pass another stipend plan in the future.

Henderson said changes may come sooner after a group of school system employees attend a Thursday meeting in Baton Rouge with staff of the state Department of Education about the stipend plan. He said the board may have to revise its stipend plan once it hears clarifications about provisions in Act 1.

“I don’t think this is the last you’ll see of this,” Henderson said.

The board has until Dec. 31 to adopt the stipend pay schedule and submit it to the state.

The stipend plan pays teachers achieving a “Highly Effective” rating $600 once a year. The rating of “Effective: Proficient” would reward teachers with $300 once a year. Teachers receiving the ratings of “Effective: Emerging” and “Ineffective” would receive no compensation.

Henderson also said the stipend plan is part of an overhaul of teacher pay mandated in Act 1. He said the act also directs the school systems to stop providing teachers automatic raises each year. The act also says teachers’ performance, and not seniority, must be considered first when layoffs must occur.