Support workers ‘disheartened’ that raise slips away

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Concordia Parish’s public school support workers said Friday that they are disappointed, but not surprised, legislators voted Thursday not to grant them a raise of nearly $1,000.

&uot;It’s disheartening,&uot;&160;said teacher’s aide Linda Cothren. &uot;We work so hard, and then for the state to do us like it does. … I have a lot of years invested in this school system.&uot;

&uot;It’s not really surprising,&uot;&160;said Stephanie Burnette, a teacher’s aide who cannot remember the date of her last raise but said she will stay in her current job because she loves the students.

Legislators &uot;seem to push through everything else they want,&uot; Burnette said. &uot;But when they didn’t do much for teachers, I&160;figured they wouldn’t do much for us.&uot;

James Cockerham, president of the Concordia School Bus Drivers’ Association, said support workers have always been &uot;stepchildren&uot;&160;as far as the Legislature is concerned.

&uot;We’ve gone down to rally on the steps of the Capitol and that didn’t do the job,&uot;&160;Cockerham said. &uot;At this point, I don’t know what would work.&uot;

He noted that bus drivers pay for their own gas and vehicle maintenance and repair costs and, like all other support workers, are integral to the functioning of the school system.

Cothren is working on her teaching degree and plans to teach in the system. So she understands the need for teacher raises – but said &uot;I&160;wish they would consider us, too.&uot;

Lawmakers have promised teachers a $2,000 raise, with half coming from gambling-related revenues and half coming from an increase in the Minimum Foundation Program money used to fund local school districts.

But the Senate voted 17-21 against a pay raise for support workers such as food service workers, maintenance and janitorial employees, bus drivers and teachers’ aides. Most of the $19 million needed for the raise would have come from money set aside for high-tech research at five universities.

Cockerham said he does not begrudge teachers their raises but believes that money should have been split between teachers and support workers.

&uot;If you’ve got ‘x’ number of dollars available,&uot; he said, &uot;split it up and give everybody a piece of the pie.&uot;