BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As another special session gets up and running, healthcare and higher education are once again in the crosshairs for potential cuts if lawmakers don't fix the state's $1 billion budget gap.
Governor John Bel Edwards says the consequences of not solving the issue is no surprise as he addressed lawmakers at the start of the session Monday afternoon. "We've been through this song and dance before," said Edwards.
But now another group, Louisiana's K-12 teachers, are also feeling the effects of the ongoing money problems. "You want to feel appreciated and you want to feel like somebody cares and people are really not feeling that right now," said Crystal Williams Gordon, a biology teacher at Broadmoor High School.
According to the Southern Regional Education Board, Louisiana teachers get paid almost $2,000 less than those in any other southern state. The average in Louisiana is roughly $49,244 while in other southern states, the average teacher salary is about $50,949.
"I was shocked by that because we are getting so much less than people right around us," said Gordon.
Gordon says she is shocked, but not surprised, and if the state does not do better, she believes the long term effects could be too costly. "Teachers are getting frustrated and I think we're going to be losing our best and brightest as a result of not having any sort of a pay increase. They're choosing to do other things as a result and so yes, I think we will have a shortage," she added.
The last time Louisiana teachers got a pay raise was in 2007. Dr. Tia Mills with the EBR Association of Educators says 11 years is far too long and she has personally witnessed teachers leaving because of it. "It was because of the salary," Mills added.
She says teachers are not just looking for more money in another state, but leaving the profession altogether. The union does lobby at the state capitol regularly, but she says the bottom line is that Louisiana's teachers do so much to get so little in return.
"We're helping to secure the future of our great city and our great state and so with that being said, I mean, support us," said Mills.
Lawmakers cannot entertain a pay increase for teachers during the current special session. The earliest they could consider one is during the regular 2018 legislative session which is expected to begin Monday, March 18.