La Crosse teachers fight for better pay amid low morale, budget problems

La Crosse School District offers teachers a 2% wage increase, which educators say does not keep pace with inflation

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — More than 40 educators have left the La Crosse School District in recent months, says Jesse Martinez, president of the La Crosse Education Association.

Low morale in the district has been compounded by an ongoing fight over pay, teachers say. The district is offering La Crosse teachers a 2% wage increase, but educators are asking for a 4.7% increase to keep pace with soaring inflation.

“The district offered us a 2% salary increase or if you look at it in terms of inflation, a 2.7% inflationary wage cut,” said Martinez, who teaches seventh grade at Logan Middle School .

The pay for teachers in the La Crosse district lags behind that of Onalaska and other nearby school districts, according to educators who spoke at a school board meeting Monday night.

Martinez said the district did not increase pay for teachers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and  educators have taken on a much heavier workload since that time.

Meanwhile, La Crosse Superintendent Aaron Engel said the state has underfunded schools for a decade, and that the district is facing both declining enrollment and inflationary issues.

“We don’t have new revenues in our school district,” Engel said. “The same budgetary concerns the teachers feel individually, we feel as a school district as a whole,” he added.

The district is facing “significant budget deficits,” Engel said.

“It’s a challenging time and without the ability to increase our revenues, we are really limited in what we can do,” he said.

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