Voters in Jefferson Parish will decide on May 4 whether to approve a millage to give Jefferson Parish teachers and staff a pay raise. It would be the first major across-the-board raise in about 10 years. Early voting is already underway on the new property tax, and goes through April 27th.
WWNO’s Jess Clark sat down with Jefferson Parish School Superintendent Cade Brumley to discuss the new millage. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: The proposal on the ballot would increase property taxes in Jefferson Parish by 7.9 mills - that would mean taxes on a $200,000 home would increase by about $100 a year. That millage would pay for an average raise of about $3,000 for teachers and staff. Why do you believe Jefferson Parish teachers and staff should get a raise?
It's more than just a raise for teachers and support staff. It's about creating a better Jefferson. This last three years we've lost over 1,500 teachers in Jefferson Parish. We just can't get the outcomes that our kids deserve while losing that many teachers. Right now, about 24 percent of our classes are taught by teachers who are uncertified or out-of-area. And today we probably have 40 t0 50 classrooms throughout our parish where we've been unable to staff a teacher.
Q: If this millage passes, how will Jefferson Parish’s salary compare to other districts?
Right now, we're somehwere near the bottom. And if this millage were to be passed, we think we would be second in our region in teacher pay, with starting teacher pay at $46,000 a year. But we add a "plus" to that, because if you're a highly effective teacher, or if you work in a hard-to-staff content area like math or science or special education, or if you choose to work in a challenged school, you have the opportunity to earn additional pay.
Q: Jefferson Parish isn’t just losing teachers to other districts. They’re losing many of them to other professions - ones with higher pay, but also with less stress. Are there other things the district can do to keep teachers?
We have to make sure that we have really great leaders in all of our schools. We have to make sure that we have principals and leaders in place who value the teachers in the building, who know how to both set ambitious goals, and also how to provide the support for the teachers to get there. That's really important. Alongside that, one of the things that we hear when people leave the profession is they struggle with classroom management and discipline. And so we've got to make sure that we're providing support and training to make sure teachers understand how to manage their classrooms. So there's a number of things that go into that, but we certainly know that when our pay is $5,000 or $10,000 less than districts that surround us, once the end of the year hits, teachers go into free agency, and they leave.
Q: Jefferson Parish voters have declined to approve recent millages for teacher raises. One theory is that many Jefferson Parish voters are not using the public education system - there are a lot of families who use the private schools. There are many voters without children. If I don’t have kids in the public school system, why should I approve this millage?
That's something that we hear. What we try to make sure we're educating the public about is just the value of a public education system, and how it improves the quality of life for everyone. We know that a quality public education system leads to lower crime rates, higher property values and better healthcare. But in order to improve the public education system, we need a workforce. And what this millage would do would be allow us to fund the workforce that is needed so that we can get the outcomes our kids need, and that our families deserve, and that will hopefully make our community stronger.
The headline of this post formerly read, Jefferson Parish School Leader Urges Voters To Approve Millage For Teacher Raises On May 4th. The district encourages people to vote, but does not explicitly tell them how to vote.