Jefferson Parish Voters Agree to Raise Property Taxes to Increase Teacher Wages, Improve Schools
Jefferson Parish schools were once some of the best in the New Orleans metropolitan area. But a rapid decline in recent years has seen the academic performance plummet to a C grade school district, and a loss of quality educators.
But voters are hoping a decision they made in May will turn that around quickly.
Voters overwhelmingly agreed to raise property taxes for public education by $28.8 million over the span of 10 years. A whopping 72.2 percent of voters approved this increase just 18 months after a similar tax increase narrowly failed in the school district.
With the election of new school board members and the hiring of a new superintendent of schools, a plan was put in place to return the Jefferson Parish schools to prominence and improve the academic performance from a C grade to an A grade in just five years.
The plan earned endorsements from a wide array of groups and organizations including the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, the New Orleans Metro Association of REALTORS®, the Chamber of Commerce, the Jefferson Business Council and even the Bureau of Governmental Research, a non-partisan research group which outwardly opposed the 2017 tax increase.
Part of that strategy included significant raises for teachers in the school district – an average of approximately $3,400 annually.
Teacher salaries in Jefferson Parish ranked eighth out of nine surrounding school districts in the New Orleans area. This raise, which will bring the average starting salary to approximately $46,000 – an increase of about $5,000 – will vault Jefferson Parish to second-best among those same school districts.
Jefferson Parish administrators said it had lost a whopping 1,500 teachers in the past three years.
An additional $5 million in savings for the school district will come from the elimination of 15 jobs in the school district’s central office. Ten were cut in the summer of 2018 and an additional five are being eliminated in the summer of 2019.
New superintendent Cade Brumley, who took over in March of 2018, has won over the support of the residents of Jefferson Parish with his aggressive plan to improve the city’s schools.
Jefferson Parish schools are the largest public school system in Louisiana with nearly 50,000 students. However, it ranks low – 47th state-wide out of 71 schools – in performance, and many believe low teacher pay has been a primary reason for that.
Since 2016, 30 percent of veteran teachers and 40 percent of first-year teachers have left their job in Jefferson Parish at the end of each school year.
The tax approved by voters would add an additional $117.71 annually to the average sales price of a home in Jefferson Parish, which is a property valued at $224,000.
Commercial properties worth about $500,000 would see an increase of $592.50 a year.
“I’m grateful Jefferson Parish came together to make an investment in the future of our parish through our workforce,” Brumley told the New Orleans Advocate. “This vote is validation of the bold steps we have taken and the ambitious course we have set for our children.”
Brumley also said that a successful public education system benefits everyone in the community, even indirectly.
It lowers the crime rate, increases property values, brings good workers to local businesses and increases the accessibility to better health care.