St. Tammany Parish public school teachers and other school employees will see their pay increase 4.4% on average in the 2022-23 academic year, after the School Board agreed Thursday evening to spend an estimated $ 20.7 million on pay hikes and other incentives.
School Board members said agreements between the teachers union and the school system administration are welcome steps for employees, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It rewards those who have really struggled the last two years,” board member Matthew Greene said. “Thank God for all of them.”
Board member Michael Dirmann said he had never seen a compensation package of this size in 20 years on the School Board. “But we’ve never seen anything like that last 2½ years,” he said of the pandemic.
Brant Osborn, president of the St. Tammany Federation of Teachers and School Employees, said the raise is the largest the School Board has approved for teachers since 2020, and the largest ever for other employees.
The increase resulted from salary negotiations between the union and school system administration’s collective bargaining agreement with the school system.
Effect of raise
Employees will get a 3% raise and jump two levels in the normal salary progression.
Classroom teachers now average $ 48,600 a year and will be getting $ 2,383 under the plan, Superintendent Frank Jabbia said. A bus driver who currently makes $ 31,100 would get an additional $ 1,450 under the plan, while a clerical worker who is paid $ 34,365 would get an additional $ 1,889 , Jabbia said.
Employees also stand to receive a raise from the Louisiana Legislature, Jabbia said, with teachers anticipating to get another $ 1,500, possibly more.
Osborn said the agreement provides the pay equivalent of moving up four levels on the school system’s salary structure, and averages out to a 4.4% increase.
Under the agreement, the school system will also use half of any surplus in the general fund each year for teacher scholarships, Jabbia said.
Attracting, retaining staff
The increases will help the school system attract and retain teachers, Jabbia said. Tammany has 247 vacant teaching positions, and non-teaching vacancies across the board, officials said.
“We came away feeling like we did a true compromise,” Osborn said before the meeting. “No one deal gets us into the top three,” for teacher pay in Louisiana. “We hope this will get us closer to the top 10.”
Average teacher pay in St. Tammany is $ 53,751 and ranks 17th in the state, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. Red River Parish ranks No. 1 for teacher pay, at $ 61,383.
As a large school system, Osborn said, St. Tammany’s sheer number of employees and the costs of benefits such as retirement limit what can be done to raise pay. St. Tammany has about 5,600 employees and 55 schools.
“You have to consider that this is a very fiscally conservative board, focused on their bond rating,” he said.
Several board members quizzed Terri Prevost, the administration’s director of business affairs, on whether the package is sustainable. She said it is, based on existing revenue and anticipated growth with an expected increase in property tax revenue in the next parishwide assessment.
The system’s four-year collective bargaining agreement with the union expires in 2024, but it allows for a salary renegotiation in the third and fourth years, Osborn said. That process began in February.
It was the first collective bargaining process for Jabbia as superintendent and the first in which Osborn served as the union’s chief negotiator. The two stood together at the microphone at Thursday’s School Board meeting.
The agreement follows months of employee complaints about pay and a sickout by bus drivers who were pressing for a pay increase. The School Board agreed in March to a $ 2.16 million deal to give drivers an additional $ 4,100 through the end of May.
In a message on the union’s Facebook page, Osborn credited the bus drivers with changing the school system’s culture, adding that “this deal would not have been as good without them.”
Jabbia said negotiations with bus drivers will be opened after the current state legislative session ends.
Pushback on special ed
Osborn said an additional two-level increase for teachers certified to teach students with exceptionalities gives each $ 1,000 – and caused some pushback from regular teachers. They saw it as a statement that those teachers worked harder, he said.
But he called it an incentive for an area where there is a critical teacher shortage. Those teachers also must get additional certifications, he said.
The agreements with the union, which were in two parts, also provide:
- A pay increase from $ 500 to $ 1,000 for employees who get an advanced degree.
- A $ 500 pay increase for support staff who get advanced degrees, a first.
- Increasing pay from $ 500 to $ 1,000 for teachers who are deemed effective by state standards.
- Increased reimbursement to teachers for classroom supplies, from $ 100 to $ 500.
- The cost of professional license or certificates that teachers must have for their jobs.
- Increased compensation for employees who must drive for their job, to the standard set by the Internal Revenue Service.