Friday, May 3, 2013

Democracy Works!

We live in a representative democracy. This means that while we do not get to vote on each individual law or regulation, we elect persons to represent us in making important laws and policies. Part of the process is the need for citizens to communicate with those elected representatives and tell them how we want them to vote. Finally this communication part of the system seems to be working much better this year than it did last year for educators.

HB 57 would have forced current educators to pay an additional 2% of their salary to help reduce the unfunded liability of the retirement system that was caused by underfunding by the legislature. It would have been an unfair tax on only some citizens (school employees) but not all others. That bill was voluntarily deferred by the author of the bill after he and the retirement committee members received hundreds upon hundreds of emails from school employees asking them to vote no on the bill. You did it! Once again you stopped a bad piece of legislation because you were willing to express your concerns to your representatives.
Congratulations! Keep it up.

Your next major democratic task, should you choose to continue to do your part in our democracy is to send more emails encouraging passage of several very important bills that will be voted on by your members of the House of Representatives as early as Monday next week. These are the good education bills approved by the House Education committee last week. They are:

HB 115 by Ted James: (Reverse Trigger) Allows parents to petition to require that under performing schools in the RSD go back to management by local school boards.

HB 466 by Havard: Stops the implementation of the new school grading system devised by Supt. White and stays with the present system.

HB 160 by Reynolds: Delays the punitive effects of the new COMPASS evaluation system for at least one year.

Please send an email to your State Representative (Not your Senator yet) and ask that he/she votes "yes" on each of these bills. The more emails they get the better. If you are not sure who your State Representative is, just click here and you will be taken to the legislative web site where you can enter your address to pull up the names and info. on your Representative. Click on the name to get his/her email address and then send an email with your recommendation. Be sure you point out that you live in her/his district. That's all there is to it. And you will feel good that you did your part for your profession. Send the emails now!
You may click on each bill number above to read the latest version of the bill or you can look at my blog post of April 19 to get additional clarification.

Keep it up. You are doing great!



Thursday, May 2, 2013

This Bill Will Cut All Public Educator Take Home Pay by 2%

Important Notice!

I just got this from the LAE legislative contact system. This bill is being heard in the retirement committee today! Please send an email to the members of the retirement committee if you do not want your take home pay to be cut by 2% just to fund excessive benefits approved for someone else by the legislature. This extra assessment is an unfair "tax" on present employees that they will never benefit from. I suggest you use the LAE contact system from the link at the bottom of the article.

The House Retirement Committee will hear bill today to increase employee contribution rate and reduce benefits.

HB 57, if passed, will increase the employee contribution rate by 2%. However, the additional employee contributions will not be credited to the employee's TRSL account. Instead, the additional 2% will go to the unfunded accrued liability of TRSL accrued after July 1, 1989.
In addition, HB 57 would increase the period over which pension benefits are calculated. In a defined benefit, such as TRSL, the benefit is determined by multiplying the number of years of service by the benefit factor (a fixed percentage of pay) by the “final average salary.”
HB 57 proposes to increase the period used to determine your "final average compensation" from 36 months to 60 months. This will result in a reduction of your retirement benefit or require you to work longer to achieve the same benefit. This change alone could reduce a TRSL member's retirement benefit by as much as 4.5%.
Since, HB 57 would apply to current employees, HB 57 would violate the obligation of contract. HB 57 alters the benefit aspects of TRSL for current employees, thereby, violating the Louisiana Constitution, and therefore also violates the contract you and your employer agreed to upon your participation in TRSL.

Contact House Retirement Committee Members today and ask them to oppose HB 57.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Let the People Choose Our Next State Superintendent

Important Update:

I regret to inform my readers that SB 41 by Senator Kostelka was killed in the Jindal hand-picked Senate Education Committee by a 2 to 4 vote. Unfortunately this was not unexpected. Senator Kostelka made an impressive presentation to the committee citing numerous examples of inappropriate influence by outside interests that intend to profit from Louisiana's "reform" initiatives. Herb Bassett pointed out the manipulation and misrepresentation of data by the DOE, and many others explained how unresponsive the present appointed superintendent is to legitimate concerns of educators and parents across the state about the ill conceived and poorly executed programs of our present DOE. I repeat: Our public education system is too important to be controlled by the amateurs that now operate the LDOE!

I once thought that it made sense to have BESE appoint the State Superintendent. The idea was that BESE could take applications from all over the country and from Louisiana in search of the most qualified candidate. You know, someone who has been properly trained in the field of education and who has devoted many years to his/her craft as a teacher and an administrator. Someone who has dealt first hand with the problems of properly educating the students who come to our schools with all manner of abilities, gifts, and handicaps. It just so happens we have many such professional educators here in Louisiana who could compete very favorably with out of state candidates.

Unfortunately, in recent years it has not worked out that way. BESE has simply waived all the important qualifications for Superintendent in favor of candidates with no training, no experience, and only bogus reformist ideology. First we had the appointment of a lawyer who had no training in education except for his service on BESE, who was appointed Superintendent based on his politics. He was a disaster in my opinion because he put Louisiana on this insane path of excessive standardized testing and systematic misuse of testing to the point that schools now mostly rehearse kids for state tests while important real life courses are neglected. Then we had the most recent atrocity visited upon public education by the appointment of a faux educator, who is here only to promote the ALEC agenda of privatization and teacher bashing.

There is no way in my opinion, a vote of the general public could not have done better. At least if we had a statewide campaign, the  voters would get to compare qualifications of the candidates, and I believe the voters would elect an experienced educator. Yes, big money supporters may try to influence the results, but at least Illinois recently elected a real educator over a big money supported reformer. He then went on to get himself "appointed" in Florida.

If you feel the way I do that's it's time we limited the power of the Governor to run and ruin education, please ask your legislators to vote for Senate Bill 41 by Kostelka, that would propose a constitutional amendment changing the position of State Superintendent to an elected office. What could be fairer? This is the ultimate parental choice legislation. At least this way we could judge each candidate on the important issues such as vouchers to religious schools (which has never received a vote of the people in Louisiana).

SB 41 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee this Wednesday, May 1 at 9:00 AM. Please send emails and make phone calls to the Senate Education Committee members asking them to vote "yes" for SB 41.

I just got word this morning that the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education will strongly support this legislation.

Here is the contact information for the Senate Education Committee:
Senator Conrad Appel (Chairman)
721 Papworth Avenue
Suite 102A
Metairie, LA 70005

(866) 946-3133
Senator Eric LaFleur (Vice-Chairman)
P.O. Box 617
Ville Platte, LA 70586

(337) 363-5019
Senator Dan Claitor
7520 Perkins Road
Suite 160
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

(225) 765-0206
Senator Jack Donahue
3030 East Causeway Approach
Mandeville, LA 70448

(985) 727-7949
Senator Elbert L. Guillory
633 East Landry Street
Opelousas, LA 70570

(337) 943-2457
Senator Mike Walsworth
4007 White's Ferry Rd
Suite A
West Monroe, LA 71291

(318) 340-6453
Senator Mack "Bodi" White
808 O'Neal Lane
Baton Rouge, LA 70816

(225) 272-1324
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508

(337) 993-7430