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Teacher stipends, early childhood funding back in latest budget proposal

Students at Young Audiences Charter School at Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep in New Orleans on March 21, 2022.
Aubri Juhasz
Students at Young Audiences Charter School at Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep in New Orleans on March 21, 2022.

This story was produced by the LSU Manship School News Service.

Lawmakers are adding back some of the money for public school teacher stipends next year, and they gave final approval Thursday to bills that would ban gender discussions and COVID-19 vaccines in schools.

The Senate Finance Committee restored $33 million for teacher stipends Wednesday evening after the House had cut the funds last month. The money was added back into next year’s budget in response to recent projections that tax revenues will increase in fiscal 2025, which starts July 1.

The restoration brings the total amount of stipends to $198 million for teachers and school support staff members. Under the latest plan, teachers could average the same one-time payments of $2,000 that they received this year. Support workers could receive $1,000 on average.

The state budget plan, also called House Bill 1, was presented to the Senate Finance Committee by Rep. Jack G. McFarland, R-Jonesboro, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The Senate committee also restored $24.2 million to early childhood education programs.

The full Senate on Thursday approved the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the ban on COVID-19 vaccines in schools, sending both bills to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry for his expected approval.

The Senate voted 28-7 for House Bill 122, which would ban classroom discussions of gender identify and sexual orientation.

The Senate voted 26-9 approve House Bill 46, which would ban public and private K-12 schools, colleges and day care centers from requiring COVID vaccines.

Also in education, the House passed two Senate bills Wednesday regarding supplemental pay for teachers and sick leave.

Senate Bill 205 by Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, requires additional compensation for teachers and other school employees under certain circumstances. The bill has six total amendments, and it passed the House by a vote of 99 to 2.

Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia, presented the bill in the House. When another representative asked him if the bill was an unfunded mandate, he said no, adding that 42 out of 60 parishes already do what the bill is trying to pass.

“It would take us where we’re 40th in education now,” Bryant said, referring to Louisiana’s rank among states, “and it would also help with teacher recruitment where a teacher knows she would not be forced to do all kinds of work that she’d never signed up for with no compensation.”

The bill offers additional compensation at an hourly rate of at least $30 per hour under circumstances such as overtime work and work beyond prescribed duties.

Senate Bill 213 by Sen. Samuel Jenkins, D-Shreveport, provides sick leave for school employees under certain circumstances. Rep. Kendricks “Ken” Brass, D-Vacherie, presented the bill to the House, and it passed 97-1.

The bill applies to city or parish school board employees who are disabled “as a result of physical contact with a student while providing physical assistance to a student to prevent danger or risk of injury to the student.”