Governor John Bel Edwards has made giving teachers a pay raise of at $1,000 the cornerstone issue of his 2019 legislative agenda, but questions remain as to how the state will pay for the roughly 135-million dollar proposal. Edwards says he plans to pay for the raise with increased revenue from an improving economy and cuts to other budget items.

“We’re not going to have to raise taxes. We started this year by lowering taxes by 597 million dollars, we have the economic growth, and the economy is doing better.”

The plan also calls for a 500 dollar raise for support personnel like bus drivers, and cafeteria workers.

Many Republicans have signaled their support for the move, but some have suggested the pay raise should be funded with cuts in other areas of the budget. Republican Jennings Senator Blade Morrish says no matter how it gets done, it needs to get done.

“The budget is balanced, we have additional revenue, and it is time to give teachers that pay. We should have done this a long time ago, but unfortunately, we did not have the money to do it.”

Louisiana teacher pay is about 2,000 dollars a year below the southern regional average.

Teachers unions nationwide have won a series of pay raises after striking, and Louisiana unions have indicated their members are seriously considering a work stoppage if the Legislature and governor fail to deliver. Louisiana Association of Educators President Debbie Meaux on Talk Louisiana with Jim Engster.

“If there isn’t some kind of action by the legislature this year, then there may be some kind of action, if not by the end of this year, then maybe at the beginning of next year.”

A survey from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers showed 61 percent of their members would strike if a pay raise fails to materialize.