State shouldn’t make promises it can’t keep

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Louisiana teachers and lawmakers are about to face a familiar problem:

wanting teacher pay raises but possibly not having the money to do it.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has proposed the state look at raising sin taxes to finance a $1,000 raise for teachers, while the Louisiana Federation of Teachers has requested a $2,000 per year raise for three years, to get teacher pay above the regional average.

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Local teachers interviewed last week were not too optimistic about the possibility of the larger raise.

Raising taxes on cigarettes, gambling and tobacco is a good start &045; such a move does not affect every consumer but does raise extra revenue to help give more to teachers.

We want to see teachers receive raises, but we don’t want to see the Legislature make promises it can’t live up to. The economic reality in every state is that lawmakers have less and less money to do more and more things.

In any business, making specific long-term commitments on pay raises is dangerous, because businesses &045; just like state government &045; are subject to economic winds. What happens if lawmakers pledge to make a major raise but in two years have to break their promise to teachers?

But we do believe the state must make a greater commitment to education, and one of the most important factors in improving education is looking at teacher pay. Schools in Louisiana must be able to attract the best and brightest, rather than losing them to better-paying jobs in other sectors to to better-paying teaching jobs in other states.

We hope Louisiana teachers and lawmakers can come to a compromise on pay raises &045; without leaving teachers in the lurch or making promises that might not come true.