Lawmakers say support workers raises in the works

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Although details of the plans have yet to emerge, Louisiana lawmakers said earlier this week they are working on ways to give school support workers at least a $500 a year raise.

About 100 school support workers – such food service workers, maintenance and janitorial employees, bus drivers and teachers’ aides – from around the state lobbied for raises Wednesday at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

And during a brief rally held by the support workers, Sen. Don Cravins, D-Arnaudville, said he is working with other lawmakers on a proposal to raise about $30 million for a $1,000 a year pay raise for each public school support worker.

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The money could be raised by taking $16 million from a drug court program and $12 million expected to be generated by a new riverboat casino in Shreveport, Cravins said.

Sen. Renee Pratt, D-New Orleans, also spoke to support workers about the possibility of a $500 raise, said Les Landon, spokesman for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees, which organized the event.

&uot;That would be a start to finding the money we need,&uot;&160;Pratt said.

Both proposals fall short of the $1,500 raise the LFT is requesting for school support workers.

Landon noted that while school support employees did receive one $350 raise since Mike Foster became governor in 1996, other costs, such as insurance, have increased more rapidly.

Rose Tillery, a school bus driver in Concordia Parish, said other expenses also eat into a bus driver’s paycheck.

She said she drives a bus because she loves the children and has a good assistant, and reimbursements do cover some of a bus driver’s expenses.

Still, drivers have to foot the bill for many expenses, Tillery said.

&uot;Gas has gotten outrageous, and (bus) insurance can run $1,500 a year for someone just getting a bus,&uot; she said. &uot;That’s why we need a raise.&uot;