The work of an education union does not begin and end at school board and committee meetings. Educators’ ability to speak their minds freely depends on laws spelling out the rights implied by the term “academic freedom.” Louisiana teachers and school employees might be able to negotiate contracts in one district, but not in another.
The ability of classified employees to work enough hours to qualify for health care or retirement benefits may depend on statewide laws if a local school district administration is unable or unwilling to provide those hours. And the enemies of public education have always attempted to undermine us through legislative action.
In order to bring the perspective of the classroom into the legislature, Red River United makes sure legislators hear from K-12 teachers and classified employees on the issues that concern us. It matters to legislators when Red River United members talk with them, because lawmakers know they represent the collective voice of more than 2,700 educators in Caddo and Bossier Parishes. And that voice is multiplied still further, since the Red River United, affiliated with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers, and the AFL-CIO, also brings the weight of the organized labor movement to bear in its legislative efforts.
With term limits, legislators often are just becoming conversant with educational issues when they are termed out. The role of Red River United as institutional memory in the Capitol is critical for helping lawmakers and their staff to understand what is important and what isn’t, what works and what doesn’t in public education, based on the actual accumulated experiences of educators.
In addition, Red River United works with our national union to involve members in AFT’s Activists for Congressional Education (ACE) program to inform members of Congress, who act on federal legislation affecting public education. On the state level, ACE has LEGs (Legislative Education Groups). These members work to educate other members of our union on state legislative issues, distribute literature and convene informational meetings, work closely with Red River United and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers to monitor state legislative activities, and mobilize members in the building to communicate with local state legislators.