Lang, Risse discuss teacher pay

Candidates for State Representative for HD 60 began the candidates forum hosted by the Early Chamber of Commerce Friday by answering a question concerning teacher pay.

The question asked was, “We all agree that teachers need pay raises, but how do you propose that we fund this increase?”

Incumbent State Rep. Mike Lang said the issue could be resolved by shifting money away from school administration and back into the classroom.

“We need to have money put back into the classroom,” Lang said. “What has happened over time is that we’ve spent money more on administration than in the classroom. What we need to do is stop paying into the administration that we’re doing through unfunded mandates. I put in a bill last session to stop unfunded mandates, but the administrators association said ‘Wait, if we do away with these unfunded mandates, our jobs go away.’ And that’s exactly right. Those jobs would go back into the classroom.”

Challenger Gregory Risse said the reason teachers struggle financially was due to high health insurance premiums.

“I’m a retired teacher, I walk every day to teachers,” Risse said. “Teacher pay borders good, it’s just right at adequate until their health insurance premiums cut about half of it away. That’s the key. If their health insurance were commensurate with the jobs they do, they’d have about an $800 per month raise.”

Dr. Jim Largent, who was not in attendance, replied to the question via email. Dr. Largent said that teachers could receive pay raises if unfunded mandates were cut.