SLTs in Teacher Evaluations
LFT has proposed multiple bills this session that seek to protect teachers from having SLTs used in their evaluations this year. These SLTs were not designed for such an unprecedented and incredibly difficult year where schools closed without notice and students bounced between in-person and virtual instruction. Unlike in other states, teachers showed up again and again for our students and developed novel, innovative ways to help students throughout the pandemic. That's why thousands of teachers sent letters to the Senate Education Committee this session asking them to ensure that measures of student growth -- which were not designed for virtual learning or pandemic teaching -- could not be used to adversely affect teacher evaluations.
HCR 107 by Representative Gary Carter asked BESE to take all necessary actions to provide that teachers should be held harmless for measures of student growth used to evaluate teachers for the 2020-2021 school year. Despite the outcry from teachers, HCR 107 failed to pass out of the Senate Education Committee meeting today, with a tie vote. Senator Kirk Talbot, Senator Beth Mizell, and Senator Robert Mills voted against the resolution.
As Senator Jackson pointed out in the hearing, the legislature has passed bills to ensure schools, school districts, businesses, hospitals, and healthcare professions were held harmless this year. Why not teachers? Join us in thanking Rep. Gary Carter, Senator Katrina Jackson, Senator Mark Abraham, and Senator Cleo Fields for supporting teachers!
There was an identical resolution that did pass in the House earlier this week (HR 133). That resolution will be sent to BESE, asking them to ensure that measures of student growth aren't used in teacher evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year. Still, it will be up to BESE to decide how to incorporate that recommendation into policy. Unfortunately, at this point, SLTs will likely be used in teacher evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year, but LFT will lobby BESE to hold the teacher harmless if a teacher's SLT rating negatively affects their evaluation.
Teachers worked hard this year like they always do. Some excelled through the trauma of the pandemic, despite all the obstacles they faced. In the hearing, Senator Talbot said that if the LDOE doesn't count SLTs in teacher evaluations, then all the work that the good teachers did this year would be for not. Teachers don't work so hard to get a score; we work hard because we love our students, we love seeing them succeed, and we have pride in our work. It's frustrating that hard work too often goes unrecognized, but teachers understand the importance of tracking our students' progress and holding ourselves accountable. However, distilling all that we do down into a simple score and implying that that score is all that matters is an insult to our profession, especially after the year we have had.
Threat to Collective Power Passes Senate Education Committee
There are six school districts in Louisiana where the district and the employees have entered into a collective bargaining agreement. House Bill 256 by Rep. Tarver seeks to undermine that relationship and allow potentially exploitative organizations to extract payroll deductions from employees. These organizations could make promises to "represent" and "advocate" for members but wouldn't actually be able to make good on those promises – leaving unsuspecting teachers and support staff left in the lurch.
The existing collective bargaining agreements are renegotiated every few years. Each time, both the employees and the school board members will vote on whether or not to approve the agreement. None of these agreements prevent employees from joining any other organization. Still, many create an exclusive relationship between the district and the union wherein the union is charged with enforcing the agreement and representing the employees. Therefore, alternate organizations don't have the same responsibilities to represent everyone, and they also don't have the right to dues deduction. This bill would undermine the autonomy of both the school board and the district employees to determine the organizations they want to work with and how they want to structure that relationship.
Uninterrupted Planning Time PASSES House Education Committee
On Wednesday, June 2nd, Senate Bill 128 by Senator Jackson passed the House Education Committee. This bill would mandate that all teachers receive 45-minutes of uninterrupted planning time each day. Planning time could only be used for planning, specific training, or evaluations, and schools couldn't pull teachers to cover classes or attend additional meetings during this time. If passed, this wouldn't go into effect until July 1st, 2022, to give districts time to make the necessary changes to ensure that teachers get their guaranteed planning time. SB 128 is expected to come before the full House for a vote next week.
Mandatory Kindergarten APPROVED in the House
On Thursday afternoon, SB 10 by Senator Fields passed the full House. This legislation would make kindergarten mandatory for all students (in-school or home school) and fully fund the additional enrollment in the funding formula for Louisiana Public Schools. Considering LDOE's the proposed K-12 state standards, it is vital to make sure our children are prepared and have a chance to be successful in their formative years. The House made one change to the bill regarding the age of children required to start kindergarten which must be agreed to by the Senate before being finalized.
MFP APPROVED by the House Education Committee
As expected, SCR 2 by Sen. Fields, the legislative instrument that carries the MFP, passed through the House Education Committee on Wednesday. This is the school funding formula as outlined by BESE. The MFP calls for an increase in per-pupil funding, an $800 raise for teachers/certified personnel, and $400 for support employees. The legislature does not have the power to amend the MFP; they can only approve or deny it. It is scheduled to go before the House Appropriations Committee for approval on Monday before returning to the full House for a vote.
Discipline Bill Passes Senate Education Committee
House Bill 411 by Representative Hughes, which seeks to revamp school discipline procedures was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. While we can all support sensible, transparent and progressive discipline practices, we need to ensure that students have a safe space to learn and educators have the respect and support they need to be effective.
We do appreciate Representative Hughes’ willingness to address many of our concerns in this legislation. However, there is one major problem with language in this bill. There is a provision that would take away the parent-conference requirement for students who have been removed from a class three times. This means that students can continue to be put back in the same classroom without any involvement from their parent or guardians. LFT has consistently opposed this change when it has been proposed in past legislative sessions.
Teacher cannot be expected to do everything at once. In order to effectively educate our students, they need the ability to maintain an orderly classroom and sometimes that means removing a persistently disruptive student until they are able to work with parents and administration to develop a plan of action to address that student's unique needs.