For the second time in two weeks, teachers and staff in Evangeline Parish gathered to protest the lack of pay raises. What started on October 11th, after Superintendent Toni Hamlin received a three percent performance increase per her contract, continued Wednesday, as protestors stood in front of the Ville Platte Media Center. As board members and Hamlin arrived for the monthly meeting, educators, custodians and representatives held hand-made signs high in the air. Some read, ‘all for one, one for all’, while others read, ‘take care of us, we take care of your children.’ The main message, ‘everybody is somebody.’
After Hamlin’s performance increase, teachers become fed up with the lack of step increases. They claim they haven’t seen a raise in five years, support staff said it’s been seven years for them and coaches said they haven’t seen an increase in nearly two decades.
Educator and Louisiana Association of Educators Representative Phyllis Frank has worked in the parish for 25 years. She said, “It’s time for us to get one, we work hard. I still have to work two jobs and it shouldn’t be like that but it is what it is.”
In the past, teachers and support staff received step increases, a raise based on their experience and performance. However, according to Hamlin, “There is no longer a step increase, but rather the law calls for three components and it is experience, demand but all based on performance.”
Those three components come from Act One of the Louisiana Legislature; a new law that determines how raises can be given. Ultimately, it’s up to the board to decide how to compensate teachers.
Dr. Marie DeYoung, a long-time educator said, it’s simply not true that Act One canceled step increases.
“It was wrong for the superintendent and the board and the chief financial officer to claim that this was part of Act One, it never was a part of Act One.”
DeYoung said school districts in New Orleans, St. James Parish and East Baton Rouge still provide step increases, while continuing to abide by Act One.
Evaluations are also a reason of concern for educators. Currently, they are weighed 25 percent for experience, 25 percent for demand and 25 percent for performance. Educators believe the system is imbalanced and more emphasis should be placed on longevity. Hamlin agreed and will form a committee made of educators, representatives and board members.
“I will meet with them in January to come up with a plan that would satisfy what people still think of as a step increase but we have to stay within those three components, but changing the weight of those somewhat.”
The president of the board, Wayne Dardeau, said he wants to give raises and if there was money in the budget, teachers would already have them. Eighty-eight percent of the budget in the parish pays 800 teacher and support staff salaries, leaving 12 percent to operate the school district.
A disclaimer from educators; this is not a personal attack on Hamlin, but a personnel issue that should require they be acknowledged for their hard work through a raise.