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Parish teachers slated for pay raise next year

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish teachers will take home an additional $500 next year as part of additional funds added to Louisiana’s public school funding formula.

Louisiana lawmakers included a last-minute addition of $69 million Thursday to next year’s budget. At least half of the money must go to boosting certified teacher salaries, under the provisions included in the state budget that was approved by lawmakers Thursday before they ended their session. School districts will decide how to spend the rest of the money.

Superintendent Paul Nelson said the additional funds were a pleasant surprise to a legislative session he didn’t think would end with many benefits for school districts.

“The Louisiana School Board Association and other groups have been pushing from the very beginning for an increase to teacher salaries, but it didn’t seem like there was much support for it,” Nelson said. “In the last four or five days of the session, that seemed to start changing.

“We’re very thankful that legislators saw the need for that, and I think it’s a great way to pat our teachers on the back after they hung in through so many changes in curriculum and state tests this year.”

The Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula determines how much each school district will receive in state funds depending on the amount of students in the district.

Director of business affairs Tom O’Neal said the district will receive approximately $21.6 million in MFP funds by the end of June. O’Neal estimates the district will receive an additional $364,000 from the state funding increase.

“They’ve not released any officials numbers yet, but that’s what we’re hearing we will get,” O’Neal said. “It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of money at the end of the day, but any increase from the state is a good thing.”

Nelson said the increased funding will be the first growth factor added to the school funding formula in five years.

“If you go back and look at how much we would have gotten through those five years, it adds up to be a significant amount,” Nelson said. “So we’re very thankful the legislators saw the need for that.”

In other areas of legislative debate, lawmakers refused to relinquish their control over college tuition rates and rejected attempts to put a cap on the tuition awards given to students through the free college program called TOPS.

“We constantly talk to our students and parents about how significant an impact TOPS can be for their children financially, so we’re glad those things weren’t harnessed because earlier conversations in the legislatures seemed to be that they would limit funding for those,” Nelson said. “If you’re going to have a high school junior next year, you’d certainly have been counting on that money for tuition help, so it’s good to see that money will still be there for those parents.”