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NV conservation group supports FERC's transmission planning rule; Memorial Day weekend includes Tornadoes and record-high temperatures; A focus on the Farm Bill for Latino Advocacy Week in D.C; and Southeast Alaska is heating homes with its rainfall.

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U.S. Supreme Court allows South Carolina gerrymander that dilutes Black voters, Sen. Ted Cruz refuses to say if he'll accept 2024 election results, and Trump calls Mar-a-Lago search an attempt to have him assassinated.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

As Louisiana teachers await permanent pay hikes, federal loan relief helps some

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Tuesday, March 26, 2024   

In a 2023 survey, 66% of teachers -- compared with 39% of adults in other fields -- said they were unsatisfied with their starting salary.

When adjusted for cost of living, Louisiana's average teacher salary of around $57,000 is one of the lowest of the southern states - which are among the lowest in the country and the state's teacher turnover rate is above the national average.

However, for the second year in a row it looks like the Louisiana State Legislature may offer stipends rather than pay raises.

Larry Carter, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said it is particularly disappointing after last year, when teachers thought they would be getting a permanent raise until nearly the end of the session.

"That's something that we're continuing to fight for," Carter vowed. "That's something that we see as important to keeping our best and brightest teachers here in the state of Louisiana and retaining our experienced veteran teachers as well."

Many teachers cited low pay as a major reason for leaving a position or the profession entirely. But three federal student loan relief programs are improving some Louisiana teachers financial circumstances. Nearly 11,000 Louisianans, a number of them teachers, have had their federal student loan debt forgiven by the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program since 2021.

The program requires 10 years of working for a government agency or qualifying nonprofit and paying a minimum of 120 loan payments. Other federal programs forgive qualifying student loans for teaching in low-income schools or high-need subject areas.

Susan Kemper Patrick, senior researcher at the Learning Policy Institute, said student loan debt must be considered when looking at the financial challenges teachers face.

"Thirty percent of all teachers with 16 to 20 years of experience report that they still owe money on their student loans," Kemper Patrick reported. "This is more than half of Black teachers with this level of experience."

Kemper Patrick pointed out "systemic barriers" have led to students of color carrying more commercial student loan debt, which does not qualify for federal relief. Only commercial student loans meeting certain criteria can be "discharged" through bankruptcy.

Carter noted another challenge affecting teacher recruitment and retention in Louisiana is the fact many parishes have a "very compressed" salary schedule.

"You can have a starting salary of someone in a particular parish at $42,000 or $43,000, and then, 20 years later or even 25, there's only about a $5,000 or $7,000 difference between a starting-salary teacher and an experienced teacher at the top of the scale," Carter emphasized.


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