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LFT Weekly Legislative Digest

March 14th, 2014

Controversy swirls around new MFP formula

After the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was unable to agree on a public education funding formula at its regular March meeting, members convened in special session on March 13 to try again. In a contentious session, members were able to adopt a $3.5 billion Minimum Foundation Program plan, but considerable opposition from stakeholders raised questions of the MFP’s viability when it gets to the legislature.

Opponents such as LFT President Steve Monaghan were disappointed that the Department of Education deviated from the recommendations made by a special MFP Task Force which met for months. The proposal did not annualize a 2.75% increase to public education funding, which would have added another $69 million to the MFP. The plan does, however, drain resources from local school boards to pay for state schools and for the scandal-plagued Course Choice program.

“You are taking money for state schools and course choice away from local school districts that are already stressed,” Monaghan said. In essence, he said, the plan asks school boards to stretch basically the same amount of money to cover programs that may not have the approval of local voters.

In addition, he said, the Federation is disappointed that BESE does not want to direct half of the MFP funds to salary increases for teachers and school employees.

Lawmakers who testified complained that a standstill MFP will not help with growing expenses for retirement, insurance and classroom technology. Spokesmen for school superintendents and school boards also opposed the MFP, saying that changes made after the task force completed its mission were not shared with stakeholders.

Passage of the MFP was no sure thing. After BESE members voted once to defeat the plan, BESE President Chas Roemer recessed the board to meet with staff and write a compromise. A hastily written addition suggested that the legislature will be allowed to pump more money into the formula provided that funds are identified and that lawmakers refrain from watering down educational standards and accountability.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Tell Jindal and White to stop the lawsuits and work together

For the second time, a state court has struck down Act 1 of 2012, the so-called “talent act,” because it violates a prohibition on bundling too many objectives in a single law.

Act 1 is a reflection of the governor’s very wrong opinions about teachers. We strongly believe that the law has harmed teachers. If each of its elements had been introduced as separate laws, we would have opposed all of them.

We wish the lawsuits were not necessary. But until the Jindal administration respects both the rule of law and the teachers who dedicate their lives to the children of Louisiana, we have no choice.

To learn more and send Gov. Jindal and Supt. White a letter, please click here. Tell Gov. Jindal and Supt. White that it’s time to stop the lawsuits and work together in the best interest of all our children and the professionals who work in our schools.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Textbook selection bill passes committee

A plan to change the way textbooks are selected in Louisiana was approved by the Senate Education committee.

SB 336 by Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) would give parents and local school system more of a say in choosing textbooks. Public comment would be allowed on every text considered by the state, and the ultimate authority to choose a book would be up to the local school board.

Some controversy erupted over the bill when parents opposed to Common Core standards complained about a section that requires Louisiana textbooks to align with state content standards. Sen. Appel told the parents that Common Core has nothing to do with this bill, and noted that many opportunities will arise to discuss Common Core as the session progresses.

LFT opposes the bill because of the bill could result in increased costs to local school systems. The bill goes to the full Senate for a vote.

An identical bill in the House of Representatives, HB 867 by Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), was deferred by the House Education Committee.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Panel okays bill to give principals more power

Over the objection of the Louisiana Principals’ Association and LFT, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill that enhances the authority of certain principals.

SB 385 by Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte) would allow schools with a principal rated “highly effective” to be declared “empowered community schools.” The principal would have much more control over hiring decisions, instructional planning, budget decisions and more.

LFT opposed the bill, along with the principals association and other groups. Saying that there “has not been a lot of empowerment for teachers over the last few years,” LFT President Steve Monaghan questioned whether a principal should be given so much of the credit for a school’s success.

It’s wrong to “celebrate one leader without acknowledging all those who make a school work,” he said.

The bill is identical to one that passed the Senate last year before being deferred by the House Education Committee.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Sick leave bill progresses; LFT objects

A bill that could affect the benefits allowed to teachers who are assaulted on the job was approved by the Senate Education Committee over the objection of the LFT.

SB 172 by Sen. Page Cortez (R-Lafayette) has several sections that could reduce benefits for teachers on long term leave after being assaulted or otherwise injured on the job.

LFT President Steve Monaghan said the bill is unclear about whether its passage could “force or pressure a person to retire” early in order to retain benefits.

Sen. Cortez agreed to address the LFT’s concerns before the bill is heard on the Senate floor.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Move to change Regents appointments proceeds

A plan to restrict the governor’s ability to appoint members of the Board of Regents and to further define the requirements for serving on the board was partially approved by the H9use Education Committee.

HB 588 and HB 696, both by Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) require passage of a constitutional amendment by voters. HB 588, the proposed amendment, was approved by the committee but HB 696, which spells out the new requirements to serve on Regents, was delayed until later in the session. Rep. Carter expressed optimism that the two bills will ultimately pass and be sent to voters for a decision.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org



Campus gun auctions approved by committee

HB 244 by Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond) would allow non-profit organizations to hold higher education campuses fund raising events on that include the auction of firearms. The bill was unanimously approved by the House Education Committee.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Single college application bill proceeds

A bill that would create a single application process for all Louisiana colleges and universities was approved by the Senate Education Committee. No one spoke in opposition to SB 62 by Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie), and it was unanimously approved. It moves to the Senate floor for debate.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Return to work bills heard

One bill that would allow educators to return to work as substitutes without a requirement that they earn no more than 25% of their retirement income was defeated by the House retirement Committee, while another was voluntarily deferred for clarification.

HB 29 by Rep. Kenny Cox (D-Natchitoches) would allow all members of the retirement system to return to work without the cap on their income. It was rejected by the committee when Reps. Nick Lorusso (R-New Orleans, Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge), Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge), Paul Hollis (R-Covington), and Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) voted no. Supporting the bill were Reps. Gene Reynolds (D-Minden), Sam Jones (D-Franklin), Jack Montoucet (D-Crowley) and Ed Price (D-Gonzales.)

A second bill, HB 82 by Rep. Sam Jones, was voluntarily deferred in order to get a new fiscal note and work out other details. The bill is intended to make sure that more certificated classroom teachers can return to work as substitutes in the future.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org


Rep. Landry plans bills to re-enact Act 1

An Acadiana lawmaker has introduced a package of bills aimed at recreating the effects of Act 1 of 2012 in case the Louisiana Supreme Court agrees with a lower court and rules the act unconstitutional. A Baton Rouge court has ruled the act unconstitutional either entirely or in part three times; a final decision is awaited from the Supreme Court.

In case the act is indeed ruled unconstitutional, Rep. Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) has asked the colleagues to pass a package of bills that recreate the most egregiously offensive sections of the 2012 law.

HB 651 restricts the authority of local school boards and grants it to superintendents instead.

HB 652 bases teacher salaries mainly on evaluations, requires new salary schedules, and prevents teachers rated “ineffective” from receiving raises.

HB 653 requires teachers to be rated “highly effective” for five of six years to earn tenure, to immediately lose tenure if rated ineffective once, to make non-tenured teachers at-will employees, and guts due process protections.

A related bill, HB 1022, removes school boards from virtually and personnel decisions, grants that authority to superintendents, and makes it very difficult for a school board to terminate a superintendent.

LFT will oppose all of these bills when they are heard in committee.

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest Now available on the Web at http://la.aft.org