With teachers protesting across the country for better wages, where do Baton Rouge educators fit in?

In May, East Baton Rouge teachers and other school employees protested at a school board meeting over a resolution that would end Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program in the parish. The exemption allows manufacturing companies to waive property taxes. Opponents say it’s kept the school district from more than $300 million in the past 20 years.

School employees argued the funding could cover raises for the more than 5,500 workers in the system and school improvements. But citing lack of understanding of the program and its implications, the school board ultimately tabled the resolution, effectively delaying any changes.

The episode served as a reminder of the financial obstacles teachers in Baton Rouge have been facing—educators have not seen pay raises in more than 6 years. It also places the local issue in the context of nationwide protests and strikes in multiple states this year over inadequate pay for educators.

(Average salary per year)

• Louisiana: $50,000
• East Baton Rouge Parish: $52,061
• United States: $58,950

• Statewide: East Baton Rouge Parish ranks 53rd among 69 school districts for hourly wages of educators.
• Nationwide: Louisiana experienced the third largest salary decrease in the nation between 2010 and 2016.

• 43% of teachers in the parish felt they were paid unfairly, according to an Indeed satisfaction poll
• 78% of Americans believe teachers do not make enough money, according to an AP/NORC poll in April
• 52% of Americans approve of teachers protesting for higher pay, even if they leave the classroom, according to the AP/NORC poll

• $28 million: The cost of Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program to the East Baton Rouge Parish School District in 2018, according to Together Baton Rouge’s findings
• 6: Number of years—2012 to 2018—EBR teachers have gone without a raise

“For a long time, teachers and employees have complained about low wages, but what do we do? We continue to go to work and continue to do our job, because our No. 1 priority are the children. … But it gets to a point where somebody has to step up and say we have had enough.”

–Angela Reams Brown, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers

Sources: National Center for Educational Statistics, Louisiana Department of Education, Louisiana Association of Educators, Together Baton Rouge and news reports

This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.