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Pay an issue for Bossier teachers

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As cost of living rises, many educated, experienced teachers can’t make ends meet solely educating children

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

Stacey Favor is a single mother of two with 20 years of teaching experience and a master’s degree. However, despite her experience and education, Favor has to work both a full time job and a part time job to supplement her income. And that is still not enough to cover her expenses.

“If you can read this article, if you have a job, if you can count or write a paragraph, then thank a teacher,” the 5th grade teacher at W.T. Lewis Elementary said. “I am a single mom and I have two girls. We do not live extravagantly — we have not gone on a vacation for years, and I could not make it on my salary without the help of my parents. I work all the time. I take papers to grade with me wherever I go. I work during school, after school, and on weekends. I tutor three days per week to supplement my salary and I still need help from my parents to make ends meet.”

A day in the life of a teacher goes something like arriving at school early to prepare, teaching students on their “off time” to supplement their income, bringing papers to grade wherever they go, attending meetings, and then managing their own families.

Stacey Favor

“I get to W.T. Lewis about 7:20 a.m. and start my day.  I use the time until kids arrive at 7:45 to get ready for the day — set out papers, create slides with directions for the kids when they enter the class, etc. The school day ends for us at 3:15 p.m., but we have meetings on Mondays that go until usually 4:30. Teachers also have to go to workshops that usually fall after school or during the school day. After the after school activities, many teachers have something that they do to earn extra income,” Favor said.

“After I tutor, I come home to take care of my own girls — cook dinner, make lunches, listen to the trials and tribulations of teenage girls. I usually try to put in an hour or two of school work while I am watching TV with my girls, that includes grading papers, writing plans, planning and creating lessons for our remediation groups, answering emails, and emailing/texting parents,” said Favor.

With the cost of living increasing in Bossier Parish and around the country, some residents have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. But sometimes working additional part time jobs to supplement income to cover expenses is not enough. Teachers are not immune to this lifestyle.

Reported by NOLA.com, Gov. John Bel Edwards said in September that his “number one priority” for 2019 is to pass a pay raise for teachers and other public school support staff statewide.

Superintendent of Bossier Parish Schools, Scott Smith, says any pay raise from the state for teachers would be a welcome gift to the Bossier school system employees.

“Any pay raise from the state would be welcomed, because teachers statewide are underpaid. From a regional perspective, Bossier Parish would still trail several of our surrounding school districts in beginning pay.  Just two weeks ago, we lost a teacher to Desoto Parish because they pay more,” Smith said.

Smith has vocalized his concerns about attracting and retaining quality teachers with pay at previous meetings, conferences, and events.

“In order to recruit and retain the best teachers for our children, we must be able to offer competitive salaries, especially considering the shrinking pool of applicants. Fewer are going into the education profession and others are exiting earlier than anticipated, before retirement,” Smith said.

“I understand that we are paid less than our surrounding parishes and I do think that that negatively affects our otherwise great reputation,” said Favor.

Voters approved a $212 million construction bond program in April 2012 to alleviate overcrowding throughout the school district due to unprecedented growth. Bond issues to invest in technology and increase pay for teachers were voted down.

However, relief may be on the way. The Bossier Parish School Board is in the very early stages of investigating the need for another bond measure to fund school construction, technology upgrades, and teacher salaries.

Favor wanted Bossier Parish voters to know that their schools’ teachers deserve a long-awaited pay raise.

“I want parish voters to know that while my hours at work end at 3:15 p.m. and while I have the summer off I have to grade and plan when I go home. I work during the summers taking professional developments, setting up plans, and reading all of the novels that I teach,” said Favor.