A report by the Associated Press highlights increasing salaries within the Louisiana Department of Education. Between 2007 and 2009, the payroll has increased by 21%, while the number of employees has decreased. State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek argues that the increase is needed to get the “best human capital.”

Pastorek, who earns a $430,000 compensation package, has eighteen top deputies that are paid six figures. Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Ben Nevers, has stated that there must be tangible results to justify the steep salary hikes.

A report card published by the American Legislative Exchange Council has consistently ranked Louisiana as one of the worst states in terms of education. For example, Louisiana falls well below the national average in regards to 4th and 8th grade math and reading proficiency.

There are a few bright spots however found in the ALEC report card. From 1998-2008, Louisiana has greatly exceeded the national average for improving ACT and SAT scores. Additionally, from 1998 to 2002 the state consistently maintained an overall rank of 49th, but has raised its rank to 46th in 2006-2007.

Pastorek has argued that he has added a focus on reading and math initiatives, some of which are receiving national attention, and could help to explain the increased ranking. Lawmakers will undoubtedly debate the merits of the salary increases within the Department of Education, and if Pastorek cannot produce consistent results, then there is sure to be a reevaluation of who the “best human capital” is.