Teachers should meet Foster halfway on pay

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2001

Gov. Mike Foster believes Louisiana took a step away from the &uot;backwater&uot; Thursday by passing a compromise riverboat tax increase that will help fund part of a pay raise for the state’s public school teachers.

The gambling package will give teachers a $2,000 pay raise for next fall, although the raise does not meet Foster’s goal of increasing teacher salaries to the Southern regional average. The gaming plan, which is expected to raise about $140 million for public school teachers and university professors, is twofold: the state’s 14 riverboat casinos will pay a higher tax, and Harrah’s New Orleans casino has a new contract with the state.

Over the past several weeks, teachers unions across the state – including Concordia Parish – have staged sickouts to try to convince legislators to pass the pay raise plan.

And some teachers had threatened to strike if the pay raise plan did not meet the $5,000 goal to reach the Southern regional average.

But by the time the Legislature’s special session ended Thursday, lawmakers were already admitting the plan has a long way to go.

&uot;I’m not giving up,&uot; Foster said as he promised to find more money.

Lawmakers meet in general session beginning Monday, and we hope teachers give them the benefit of the doubt that they will continue the effort toward raises.

Because while we agree that teachers need more money, we believe a strike would accomplish little and hurt students most.

If teachers can meet the governor halfway for now, we can all take that step away from the label of &uot;backwater state.&uot;