Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The 2011 Legislative Session is right around the corner. We’ve seen what other states are currently facing, but what can we expect here in Louisiana? We’ve broken out the seven biggest issues facing Louisiana educators in the 2011 Legislative Session.
1. Funding: Louisiana ranks 30th out of the 50 states for the overall revenue provided to school districts. The state receives a “D” grade for our regressive funding system (which provides more funding to wealthy districts than to poor districts).
LAE plans to push for ways to broaden the tax base, close loopholes and examine the widespread use of tax credits and exemptions that plague the state’s level of revenue and the overall fairness of the tax system. In order for a wise and prudent investment in K-12 and higher public education to be sustainable, Louisiana policymakers must evaluate and reform the current tax structure.
2. Teacher tenure: There are already aggressive efforts in several other states to eliminate due process rights for teachers. You can expect to see those same efforts surface here in Louisiana. In recent education committee hearings, tenure has been referred to as a barrier and a hindrance to student growth.
At the public K-12 level, tenure does not guarantee a job for life; tenure rewards teachers for being effective in the classroom. LAE will push to maintain and strengthen due process provisions regarding contractual, statutory and constitutional rights for all public school employees.
3. Retirement: LAE anticipates a continued effort to move the current Teacher Retirement System of Louisiana from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. Research indicates that converting the TRSL retirement plan to a defined contribution plan would be much more costly than maintaining the current defined benefit plan.
LAE will aggressively oppose any attempts to eliminate the current TRSL defined benefit plan. TRSL benefits provide economic security for tens of thousands of retirees and support the economic activity/output of Louisiana. Secured pensions from the TRSL defined benefit plan help the state recruit quality teachers who educate future Louisiana workers.
4. Red Tape Reduction Act: LAE expects Governor Jindal to propose legislation to amend Act 921 which would strike “teacher approval” from the school/district waiver law. This would allow districts to waive laws pertaining to teacher tenure, class size and instructional time, as well as the student discipline curriculum without teacher approval.
LAE will fight any legislation that would reduce a teacher’s participation and input in the school district’s decision making process on a waiver of any state laws under Title 17.
5. Charter schools: Governor Jindal has recently come out in support of a proposal for businesses to team up with charter schools by allowing a business to provide a “facility or land” for the school and fill half the seats in the school with children of the business operators. The proposal would also have a minority percentage of the seats on the governing board filled by the business operator.
Public schools should not be run like a business. LAE strongly opposes any plan that would turn public schools over to for-profit companies. Privatization is a failed approach that provides an inferior education to our students.
6. Student discipline: LAE anticipates proposed legislation that would “dumb down” the current student discipline law, teacher bill of rights and student assault on a teacher.
It is vital to maintain orderly schools and provide programs to eliminate violence, verbal and physical abuse to students and education employees. Any violence directed at staff or students must be dealt with swiftly, and those involved should be immediately removed from the classroom.
7. Student-based budgeting: We anticipate a proposal to overhaul the way Louisiana would finance 1,300 public schools in the state. Proposed financing would require school districts to let the money follow the students, giving school principals sole-authority on how to spend federal, state and local education dollars without a site-based committee/board.
LAE is currently conducting extensive research around the student-based budgeting concept. Even though student-based budgeting is not new to the national scene, it is a relatively new concept to Louisiana.
Be sure to visit our website, http://www.lae.org/ as the session approaches for updates on these and other legislative issues!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Board members Vickie Jacquet and Rachel Gifford rally for Wisconsin during a trip to Washington D.C.
The NEA family has come out in full force to support our colleagues in Wisconsin, as well as those in Idaho, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee, who are also facing unprecedented threats.
Governor Scott Walker’s proposed legislation strips away worker rights and destroys the collaborative partnerships that have been established between labor and management in Wisconsin – the nation's oldest collective bargaining state. The protest is not about pay and benefits; it’s not about pensions and health care. This protest is about public sector employees retaining a voice in their profession and Wisconsin's future.
The people of Wisconsin are asking the governor and legislature to hear them out - and work with them to find bipartisan solutions that will address Wisconsin's challenges. Silencing the voices of public sector employees by busting up their unions is not a going to help the state move forward; it will only divide its people.
What is happening right now is historic. Tens of thousands of citizens are gathering in unprecedented numbers and speaking out to show their support for the state's public servants. They are voicing support for the third grade teacher who stays late to help a student with math. They are voicing support for nurses who work every day to care for patients and the firefighters who keep us safe. These public workers are on the front-lines everyday to support us - and they should have a say in their profession.
As all eyes continue to be on Wisconsin, LAE urges you to stay informed. Remember to talk about our collective fights and the attacks on the hard working teachers and public sector employees of our nation. Lend your voice to help us fight this battle. LAE has sent a letter of support to the WEAC team; we encourage you to do the same. Email President Mary Bell (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any words of encouragement. Sign any petitions in favor of collective bargaining and public sector workers. You can start by logging onto NEA’s Education Votes website educationvotes.nea.org/nationalpetition. Email information about local or state solidarity actions to email@example.com. Wear “Red for Ed" every Tuesday this spring. Spread the word in any way you can.
We are leaders in this national fight for working people. We are in this fight together; let's take action together. We need to win this fight for educators and public sector employees across the nation.