by Elliott Stonecipher

As many of you know, next Tuesday’s Caddo Parish School Board meeting is a very real test of the integrity of the Board and, in fact, our public school system itself.

The Caddo teacher union joined hands last week with board member Dottie Bell to sneak a new proposal before the CPSB for the April election ballot.  The public will have less than a week to consider the proposal before its intended vote, with no advance release of related details or explanations in justification.  The sales tax increase might, therefore, be passed by the Board upon its first reading.  The proposal voters were led to believe would be the only one voted on Tuesday, an equally offensive $134,000,000 bond issue, was proposed weeks ago.

This latest CPSB tax-and-spend bullet-train headed for tied-to-the-rails Caddo taxpayers must be considered in light of facts such as these:

… the system’s 78.20-mill property tax is tied for the highest in the state, and it already has a dedicated 1.5% sales tax,
… its annual cost for each child enrolled is over $12,000,
… the total spending by CPSB is just under a half-billion-dollars every year,
… its enrollment has been dropping for decades, and
… the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) grades its schools with a “D.”

As many of you will remember from my previous e-mail, the sales tax increase for a teacher pay raise is at the core of a not-at-all-sophisticated kind of CPSB vote-buying scheme:  give the teachers and other CPSB employees a generous pay raise, then turn to those thousands of employees to pass the bond issue on April’s low-voter-turnout ballot.  That thinking was openly and proudly articulated by Board member Charlotte Crawley, and then commented on by Craig Durrett at the Shreveport Times:

“Board member Charlotte Crawley, for instance, said adding a pay raise to the proposition would mean ‘we’d have 6,000 em­ployees and their families out to vote in support of a bond.’  Crawley’s comment … at least dovetails with her consistent advocacy for teacher pay boosts. But could we at least dress up the payraise ploy with a little discussion about its merits?”  (SEE full editorial here.)

With that background in mind, let’s at least inform ourselves about what we pay our Caddo Parish teachers:

(1)  First-year teacher pay in Caddo is 7.4% higher than the median household income of ALL Caddo households.

According to Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) data, the 2010-2011 beginning salary for a Caddo Parish teacher with a four-year degree was $40,914 (SEE data here).  U. S. Census Bureau data shows the median income for all Caddo Parish households of $38,095 (SEE data here).  (I leave to the reader his or her own conclusions concerning how well a new teacher’s first-year salary compares to annual salaries of those well into their working career who work year-around.)

(2)  Louisiana taxpayers have paid to dramatically raise – double, in fact – teacher salaries in recent years.

LDOE data show that the beginning salary for a Caddo teacher with a four-year degree in 1995-1996 was $20,436 (SEE data here), compared to the $40,914 cited above, a difference of $20,478.  That means the salary for beginning Caddo teacher with a four-year degree has increased 100.2% during that period.

(3)  Teacher pay raises have more than doubled the cost-of-living increase during the period.

The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index during that period has increased by 42.6% (SEE data here).  The 100.2% salary increase for teachers during that period is more than double the cost-of-living increase.

If I have a bias in this context, it exists within the the fact and history of my early career in teaching.  When I was hired, I knew very well that the salary was $400 a month, $4,800 a year.  I also knew salaries were too low, by a mile, and worked to raise them.

To put my beginning (Bossier Parish) salary in perspective, $4,800 then would be $17,884 now if it had kept up with the cost-of-living which has risen 373% since then.  What we now pay beginning Caddo teachers, though, is 752% higher.  Most beginning teachers, of course, work somewhere between nine and ten months a year, with better-than-average benefits, and a very good – albeit unsustainable – retirement plan.

I openly and agreeably stipulate that most Caddo teachers have a very tough job, in a system where their toil and accomplishments are far too often blurred by the fierce unwillingness of their “leadership” to appropriately respect those of us who pay the tab.

The only group with which I can compare teachers in this context is law enforcement.  We all know the differences between the two career choices, and most of us know that our law enforcement personnel have not fared nearly as well as teachers in the context of pay – not even close.

Ms. West, presumably Ms. Crawley, the teacher union and other Board members who will buy-in to their argument by their votes on Tuesday, are putting Caddo teachers on the point in this scheme.  Whether the interests of CPSB employees and those who pay them are sufficiently alike in this instance is an open and important question.  I urge the union and the Board members in its pocket to poll all teachers (and other personnel getting the planned-for raise) before any vote.

Teachers have a right to speak for themselves, rather than having a handful of politicos – doing it for their own reasons – speak for them.  Responsibility and accountability for this affront to Caddo taxpayers by some Board members and the union rests with no more than a few politicos, and not one of them is a teacher.

Elliott Stonecipher

For any reader who may not know, this and all other such analysis and commentary I forward to you has been done strictly in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.

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