Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Act 1 Ruling Helpful in Restoring Teacher and School Board Rights

Congratulations to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers for winning a partial victory against some of the anti-teacher legislation passed by the Jindal administration. The ruling by Judge Caldwell removes the provision of Act 1 that would have denied teacher seniority rights based upon a negative rating on the new Act 54 evaluation system. Another part of this court ruling also returns the right of school boards to make employment decisions. The judge also denied John White the right to tamper with local superintendent contracts.

Unfortunately the teacher tenure law remains mostly gutted, in that the new tenure procedure left in tact by the ruling no longer guarantees a fair hearing process to teachers recommended for dismissal. But by retaining the rights of school boards to make the final decision on dismissals, the ruling does give teachers some opportunity to appeal an unfair dismissal. This was the whole reason for tenure in the first place; not to protect incompetent teachers.

Judge Caldwell's ruling also allows to stand a provision of Act 1 that immediately does away with a teacher's tenure as soon as she/he receives one unsatisfactory rating from the new evaluation system. Such teachers then become "at will" employees and can be dismissed without a hearing of any kind. Considering the possibility of errors, particularly in the VAM, many good teachers could still have their careers wreaked unfairly.

This ruling may still be appealed by either the LFT or the Jindal administration. In the meantime, just as in the case of the ruling on Act 2 denying Jindal the right to raid the MFP to fund vouchers, the legislature is sure to be asked by Jindal to continue his attacks on public education.

That's why I strongly recommend that educators and school board members begin now to discuss these critical issues with their legislators. The final decision on much of Jindal's education "deform" still rests with the legislature.

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