- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - Rapides Parish educators are hoping to see an 8.5-percent raise paid for by a half-cent sales tax proposed for the April 9 ballot.

Compared to school districts across the state, Rapides teachers are underpaid, according to Louisiana Department of Education data.

The Town Talk reports (https://townta.lk/1R6XaFO) the most recent data available puts Rapides Parish teacher pay 55th out of 69 school districts in the state.

Rapides teachers make an average of about $44,000 to $45,000, depending on extra compensation, below the state average of about $49,000.

“Passing this tax proposal is critical to the economic future of our community,” Rapides schools Superintendent Nason “Tony” Authement said.

If passed, the half-cent sales tax would affect all school district employees, including support personnel, and would be the first to pass in nearly 30 years. The last time voters passed such a tax for school employees was in 1987.

“That shows you right there we’re behind the times,” Alexandria Senior High Principal Duane Urbina said.

“It’s long overdue, and in my opinion, it’s well-deserved,” Authement said.

The tax is a local solution, but low pay for teachers is not just a local problem. In fact, most Central Louisiana teachers are on the low end of the pay scale. Of nine Cenla parishes, seven are among the 20 lowest-paid districts in Louisiana. Five are among the 11 lowest-paid districts.

Only Natchitoches and Vernon parishes are among the top half of districts when it comes to teacher pay. Natchitoches ranks 23rd with an average salary of $49,719 and Vernon ranks 31st with an average salary of $48,650.

The highest-paid Louisiana teachers are in DeSoto Parish with an average classroom teacher salary of more than $60,000. That’s nearly $22,000 more than the lowest salaries for teachers - an average of about $39,000 a year in Tensas Parish.

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com

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