Teachers and frontline workers helped Virginia navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and are bearing more than their share of harm from rising costs on their everyday expenses. Across Virginia, workers and families say that their top priority for lawmakers this legislative session is to help them make ends meet. Instead of using tax policy to provide targeted, economic relief, Governor Youngkin’s proposed budget amendments double down on Virginia’s upside-down tax code through wasteful giveaways to profitable corporations by way of a lower tax rate than the top rate 86% of taxpayers pay. The final budget agreement must prioritize families over corporations and plan carefully for the future.
The Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) administers the Pre-Kindergarten Program, Child Care Services, Nutrition Services and Quality Initiatives. State resources only support the pre-K program and Child Care Services. While the governor did not add resources in his proposed amended fiscal year budget for DECAL, he did propose $498 million for the agency for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget. It includes a marginal increase for Child Care Services and a $2,000 cost-of-living adjustment for state workers and pre-K lead and assistant teachers. The FY 2024 proposal would increase investment in the agency by about $36 million, or about eight percent, more than the approved FY 2023 budget.
Most of the recommended increases come from additional lottery funds to pay for a $2,000 bump in the base salary for pre-K and assistant teachers. If approved, these pay increases would be the second in two years.
Louisianans are working at near record numbers, and the state’s unemployment rate continues at or near
record lows. The state’s rapid recovery follows a chaotic period of massive, pandemic-related job losses,
seesawing energy prices and structural changes to the state and national economies.
Beneath this recent good news lies some stark realities: Wages for most workers are flat, and often are
not enough to support a family. There continues to be large wage and income disparities between Blacks
and whites, the young and the old, men and women, the highly educated and those with less education.
Several of the sectors that employ the largest number of Louisianans and have added the most jobs –
retail trade, accommodation and food service, and health care – tend to pay some of the lowest wages and
often offer little room for advancement.
This report is meant to give an overview of Louisiana’s economy through the eyes of its workers. While
the strength of an economy is often measured in gross domestic product, corporate profits or the fate of
the stock market, the most important economic question is how it serves ordinary citizens: Do most
people’s jobs allow them to afford a safe place to live, food for their table, and reliable transportation?
A strong minimum wage, tax credits for working families, new investments in education and training,
and pro-union policies that make it easier for workers to advocate for themselves can all move Louisiana
toward a more equitable economy that works for everyone. But these policy solutions can only take root if
we start by asking the right questions.
Our public schools and education workforce are in crisis. Despite broad support for public schools and staff, 77 percent of educators considered leaving their job in 2022, up by 19 percent since 2020. A Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT) survey showed teachers felt forced to leave the profession due to low wages, poor working conditions, and safety concerns. Whether Black, brown or white, it costs all of us when our schools and workforce are underfunded and treated poorly.