The 2020 legislative session began Monday, March 9th. It kicked off with the Governor’s annual State of the State address on Monday afternoon. In his remarks, Governor Edwards affirmed his commitment to public education and renewed his pledge to ensure that Louisiana teachers reach or exceed the Southern Regional Average for pay before the end of his second term. Click here to watch his entire speech.
The rest of the week was filled with a flurry of introductory committee meetings, including the House Education Committee and Senate Education Committee on Wednesday afternoon.
BESE also met this week. They decide their MFP proposal (which is the school funding formula for K-12 public schools) and determined, without objection, to approve the recommendation from the MFP task force:
- A 2.75% increase in level one of the MFP (the base per-pupil amount)
- Given the requirement that in districts where teachers are paid below the Southern Regional Average, ½ of that increase must go to teacher pay raises.
This adds up to an $80 million dollar increase in the MFP.
While we’re happy that this is more than what was originally proposed by the Governor’s office, it does not include any money specifically allocated for support staff raises. LFT President Larry Carter testified before BESE on Tuesday about the importance of guaranteeing raises for our dedicated and underpaid support staff. As it stands, local school districts can use the additional funding in Level 1 of the MFP to give support staff a pay raise, but there is nothing requiring them to do so.
Now the MFP proposal will move on to the legislature for approval. The legislature can only vote the resolution up or down. If they want any changes, they have to send it back to the Board and restart the process.
To read more about the MFP and see our full BESE report, click here: http://la.aft.org/bese/march-report-2020
As we begin this new session, we are preparing for an onslaught of attacks against our rights as Union members, our retirement savings and our profession. However, we do also see some opportunities to increase educator and school funding and get a grip on the ever-more ridiculous testing systems.
Here are our priorities this session:
1. REDUCE UNNECESSARY TESTING
Year in and year out we have watched as our students are subjected to intense and unrelenting testing. Tests are and always have been an important part of the learning process, but they must serve a specific purpose and accurately evaluate what students have learned. It’s important that we look at the impact his testing is having on our students and our school’s budget and eliminate what isn’t needed.
): The Value Added Model (VAM) is one such test that does not serve students, teachers or schools. That is why LFT has partnered with Senator Jackson on Senate Bill 298. A student's VAM score data is currently weighted at 35% of a teacher's evaluation score, despite the fact that teachers have no control over many of the factors which impact that score. SB 298 completely removes VAM scores from teachers’ evaluations
. Governor Edwards has made passage of SB 298 a part of his legislative agenda this year. (SUPPORT)
): Gives teachers and administrators who have been consistently evaluated as “ineffective” an opportunity to improve before facing termination. This bill would give them the opportunity to be placed in an intensive assistance program prior to receiving a formal rating of "ineffective".
No one wants to see unsuccessful teachers in the classroom, but it takes time to become a great teacher and it’s important that we give those who are willing to try, an opportunity to get better, especially when you think about how few certified teachers we have in Louisiana. (SUPPORT)
2. SECURE PAY RAISES AND INCREASE SCHOOL FUNDING
Louisiana’s public schools have been underfunded for too long. It’s vital that we continue to see increases in school funding and teachers/school employee pay. We will be closely monitoring the MFP and the Budget Bill and will continue to do everything in our power to secure the largest possible pay increase for teachers and support staff.
3. PROTECT RETIREMENT
Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana is one of the most efficient pension systems in the country and research shows that it is key to key to recruitment and retention of educators. Over the past 30 years, TRSL has worked with lawmakers to implement pension reforms that reduce costs and ensure funding sufficiency and now we are on track to pay off the systems debt even sooner than anticipated. However, despite this success, some legislators want to chip away at our retirement savings or scrap the system altogether.
): This would allow retired teachers to work as substitutes without losing or suspending their benefits
and would remove the 25% annual cap on earnings. We have concerns about technical aspects of this bill and will continue to work with Rep. Bourriaque to improve it, but it is important for students and schools that retired teachers be able to return to the classroom as substitutes after a year of retirement. (SUPPORT WITH AMENDMENTS)
HB 26 (Rep Ivey): Would create a Constitutional Amendment which would limit current protections of benefits of state retirement members. This bill would threaten survivor benefits, disability payments and DROP payment for both active and retired members. (OPPOSE)
HB 28, 32, 33, 34
): These bills could undermine the strength of our pensions and jeopardize the retirement savings for generations of educators by creating hybrid direct contribution accounts to be spent by private, third party investors. By taking future teachers' retirement savings and putting it into individual 401K plans, these bills could undermine the strength of the state pension
. Statistically, 401K plans have a lower investment return then pensions and since teachers in Louisiana aren't able to collect social security, this could leave retired educators destitute. (OPPOSE)
SB 18 (Sen. Peacock): Would raise the retirement age from 62 to 67 for teachers and other state workers. It would also create more red tape for disabled workers – requiring that they continuously re-certify their disability status. (OPPOSE)
): Proposes that the legislature annually appropriate sufficient funds to cover the UAL payment to TRSL through the general appropriations bill. This would provide a more accurate assessment of how Louisiana funds public education
. Without this bill, we will continue paying off the legislature’s debt with MFP funds. (SUPPORT)
4. IMPROVE SCHOOL SAFETY & DISCIPLINE
): Would tighten up the language around existing laws regarding crime and disruptions at schools
and school-sponsored functions. This would limit the ability of students, teachers and non-students from behavior that could place teachers or students in sustained fear for their health, safety or welfare or would disrupt, obstruct or interfere with school. (SUPPORT)
HB 286 (Rep Gadberry): Extends the assault-leave protections that public-school teachers already have to those who work in juvenile detention facilities. (SUPPORT)
HB 663 (Rep Hughes): Completely revises the current law regarding school discipline. This bill would limit teachers’ control over their classroom, limit referrals and limit our ability to remove a disruptive or menacing student from the classroom. (OPPOSE)
): Creates a comprehensive school counseling program for every single public school
in Louisiana in order to support equitable access to public school counseling services. (SUPPORT)
5. EXPAND AND PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF WORKING PEOPLE
HB 238 (Rep Duplessis): Would create the Louisiana Employment Non-Discrimination Act (LENDA) and protect workers from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. (SUPPORT)
), SB 279
), SB 317
): would increase the minimum wage
HB 94 would raise it to $9 per hour by Jan. 1, 2021; SB 317 goes on to raise the minimum wage again on July 1, 2021 to $10 per hour; SB 279 would raise it to $15 per hour by Aug 1, 2025. (SUPPORT)
), SB 38
) & HB 447
) are aimed at addressing the gender pay gap
by expanding pay equity protections to the private sector, preventing employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay, and preventing employer from asking about or relying on an applicant’s wage history when determining what to pay them. (SUPPORT)
HB 273 (Rep. Edmonds) & HB 572 (Rep. Owen): Are designed to weaken and ultimately eliminate our collective power. These bills would limit the ways that you could pay dues to your Union and make it more difficult for us to fund representation of members and other vital services. (OPPOSE)