Covering Louisiana

Aug 21, 2014 12:57 PM by AP

Terrebonne schools hire more uncertified teachers

HOUMA, La. (AP) - Superintendent Philip Martin says low teacher pay has forced the Terrebonne Parish school system to hire 80 non-certified teachers, which is more than last school year.

Martin says two non-certified instructors lead gifted classes.

School board member Gregory Harding says the system has non-certified teachers in the district and it doesn't mean they're not qualified.

Martin tells The Courier the school system struggles to attract new teachers because it can't compete with higher wages in neighboring parishes. He says the bigger problem is their inability to retain veteran teachers.

The parish's average teacher salary, $46,381 a year, ranks 47th in the state. Starter teaching salary in Terrebonne is $37,909, which also ranks in the bottom third of the state.

Parish teachers received a $500 one-time bonus last year and support workers got $250. The last state pay raise for teachers was awarded in 2008. The last locally funded pay raise, 2 percent for all school employees, was given in 2007.

Terrebonne's public school system has faced a $9 million decline in state revenue over the past five years. Sales tax revenue, however, has increased from about $44 million in 2009 to $49 million in 2012.

Declining revenue and increased required costs, such as state retirement programs, have forced the board to cut more than 500 employee positions over the past five years, as well as consolidate several schools.

Voters will have the opportunity to approve a half-cent sales tax on Dec. 6 to raise teacher and support staff salaries.

Shoppers in Terrebonne now pay a sales tax of 9 cents on the dollar. Four cents of that goes to the state. A little more than 2 cents goes to the school district, accounting for about a quarter of the district's annual budget. The rest is split among other local government agencies.

Raising the sales tax by a half cent is estimated to provide the district about $12 million in recurring revenue.

If approved, teachers are expected to receive a $5,000-a-year pay raise. Support workers, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, would receive a $2,000 annual pay raise.

The system ranks 18th out of 74 Louisiana school districts in state academic performance scores but 68th in per-pupil spending.

In November, Terrebonne officials estimated they had 60 teacher vacancies. Those positions were filled with non-certified teachers, Martin said.

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