Thursday, March 15, 2012
HB 976 and 974 Pushed Through Committee
(The following is a report of events at the Capitol on Wednesday, by the Louisiana Association of Educators) See also The Advocate story linked here.
Gov. Jindal Attempts to Suppress Educators & Thousands Push Back to Make Voices Heard
Educators Testify on Capitol Steps to Express Outrage over Attempt To Ram Education Package Through Legislature
BATON ROUGE, LA – March 14, 2012 – Thousands of education stakeholders flooded the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol Wednesday, but a majority of the teachers, support professionals, administrators – even parents and students – who showed up, were forced to remain outside on the Capitol steps due to the governor’s orders of closing down alternative entrances into the building.
“They wouldn’t let people in because they said the committee rooms were full, but it looked like Governor Jindal was trying to keep educators out of the room during his testimony,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes. “If he really believed in his plan, then he should have taken this opportunity to stand before educators and put it all out on the table; instead, he chose to lock us out of the process.”
School employees from across the state came together in Baton Rouge to speak against the governor’s extreme education agenda brought forth in House Bill 976. The bill calls for taking public tax dollars and turning them over to for-profit charter schools. It also calls for the expansion of a statewide school choice program. Educators want to know why the governor is demanding a rush to vote on such complex legislation that impacts the future of Louisiana’s public schools.
“It is the Legislature’s responsibility to schedule a fair hearing process that allows us to offer input on those bills that affect us,” said Haynes.
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu sided with school employees as she spoke out against the rush. She agrees that the governor is moving outrageously fast to try to win committee approval for his plan.
"If this is such a great reform package, it should be able to stand the test of review. This is a democracy. This isn't a dictatorship," Landrieu said in an interview.
“We were forced to attend on a school day,” said Haynes. “Legislators should have made the appropriate move to schedule these hearings when education employees are available to attend, like in the evenings or on the weekends.”
House Education Committee approves both HB 976 and 974
The House Education Committee met until late Wednesday night and heard testimony from LAE, LFT and dozens of individual teachers before adopting both of Governor Jindal's key "reform" bills. Huge stacks of Red opposition cards sat on the committee desk top as teachers jammed every available inch of space inside the capitol. The rest waited patiently outside the Capitol. I was there also, and testified against HB 974. I witnessed only one teacher out of the crowd of about 2,000 who actually testified in favor of this bill. She said she was a second year teacher, and according to her testimony, she liked the provision of the bill that outlawed the use of seniority for reduction in force. She said her school system may soon be laying off teachers.
After initially insulting the teachers who had signed up to testify by passing a motion that testifiers should state the type of leave they were requesting before testifying, the committee met for over 15 hours and attempted to hear from everyone. The motion to intimidate teachers did not work as expected and was denounced by several members of the committee and even Senator Karen Peterson who came before the committee on personal privilege and called the motion shameful and unprecedented. Teachers went on to testify unfazed, with some expressing sarcasm about the "requirement".
Unfortunately, the committee was obviously stacked by the Governor and his floor leaders to insure that the bills would pass no mater what. The committee split on 12-6 and 13-5 votes in favor of approval of the two bills. I will report later on how individual legislators voted.
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear the Senate versions of the bills, at approximately 9:00 a.m. Thursday. Another large delegation of educators is expected to attend, and again request to be heard.
Posted by Michael Deshotels