Gov. Edwards proposes more education funding

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a $36 billion budget proposal last week. The proposal includes changes to Louisiana’s education budget. 

If the proposal is approved, public colleges like ULM will receive an increase in funding for the GO Grant and TOPS programs, as well as health and retirement costs and salaries. 

In a KNOE article, Lisa Miller said she believes the increased funding of the GO Grant and TOPS programs could help different types of students access higher education. 

“We can’t award all [students] a GO Grant because we simply don’t have the dollars that come to us. So, an increase in this funding will allow us to award a lot more students who have that need,” said Miller, the interim vice president of Enrollment Management and University Relations. 

The budget also includes changes for K-12 public school teachers. If the proposal is approved, public school teachers would receive an annual $400 pay raise. Bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school support staff members would receive an annual $200 pay raise.

Louisiana’s overall teacher annual salaries are approximately $3,000 below the southern regional average and $12,000 below the national average, according to the most recent Southern Regional Education Board teacher compensation report.

Amy Weems, an assistant education professor, said although teachers would be thankful for the $400 raise, it is not the answer. Weems believes the issue of teacher wages is one that can only be solved by a complete change in how education funding is structured in Louisiana. 

“To support the future of our teaching profession and ultimately the quality of education we provide to our future generations of students, we must look for robust long-term funding solutions,” Weems said. 

Holly Middleton, a ULM alumna, said instead of an annual $400 pay raise, teachers should be given an annual $400 tax-free lump sum to spend on their classrooms. 

“Teachers end up spending more money than you can imagine on supplies and décor for their rooms and students,” Middleton said.