Lawsuit updates: Status of Act 1 and Act 2

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District courts have ruled two of Gov. Jindal's education schemes unconstitutional. What's next?

FROM THE LAWYER’S DESK

By:    Larry Samuel, LFT General Counsel

Update on Acts 1 and 2

Earlier this month, Judge R. Michael Caldwell of the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge ruled in our favor and declared Act 1 of the 2012 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature as unconstitutional.  As a result of this ruling, we have been asked: “what happens next”?

 1. What is “Act 1” and what does it do?

Act 1 is a hodge-podge of new laws and changes to laws passed by the 2012 legislature, dealing with salary schedules, promotions, reductions-in-force, tenure, contracts of local superintendents, and the authority of superintendents and principals. Act I amends nine separate laws, enacts two new laws and repeals twenty-six other laws

2. What is “Act 2” and what does it do?

ACT 2
Act 2 is also a hodge-podge of new laws and changes to laws passed by the 2012 legislature, dealing with transfer of failing schools to RSD, requiring local superintendents to report on the implementation of a total system of choice, bus transportation, a huge number of changes to the Charter School Law, the creation and funding of the “Course Choice Program” that - for the first time –uses MFP money for post-secondary institutions, online and virtual course providers, and business and industry to provide courses for students enrolled in public schools, certain non-public schools, or in a home study program, and the “Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program,” which – also for the first time – uses MFP money for vouchers.

3. What have the courts ruled so far on Act 1?

A trial court judge – the Honorable R. Michael Caldwell in Baton Rouge - has ruled that Act 1 is unconstitutional in its entirety because it violates a clause in the Louisiana Constitution which states that all bills considered by the legislature must be confined to a “single object.” Judge Caldwell ruled that Act 1 has multiple objects.

4. Who filed this lawsuit?

    The LFT, several LFT locals, and individual teachers who are members of LFT locals.

5. Because the Judge has ruled that Act 1 is unconstitutional, does this mean that school boards must follow the old laws and disregard Act 1?

The State has announced that it will appeal the judge’s ruling.  Once the state files its appeal, Act 1 may be in effect until the Louisiana Supreme Court rules.  

6. When will the Louisiana Supreme Court hear the Act 1 case?

At this time there is no way to determine when the Supreme Court will rule. When the Supreme Court receives the record from the trial court, the Supreme Court will first establish a schedule for briefs to be filed, then schedule a date for the attorneys to present oral argument, and then after oral argument, they will issue a ruling.

7. What happens if the Louisiana Supreme Court agrees that Act 1 is unconstitutional?

Any changes made in Act 1 will be void and have no legal effect.  The old laws will then again be in effect.  

8. If school boards continue to take action under Act 1, and then the Supreme Court declares that the law is unconstitutional, will all of the school boards’ actions be illegal?

Some actions may be illegal, and others may not.  For example, if school districts decide to follow the termination procedures in Act 1, and terminate an employee, then in our opinion the school board will have to hold a new hearing under the law as it read before Act 1.  

9. Can the legislature change any of this?

Yes.  The legislative session begins in April, and we expect that there will be proposals in the legislature to try to overcome the court’s ruling.  

10. What can I do?

Thanks for asking.  Please immediately call or email your state representative and state senator, asking them to reject the governor’s proposed changes to the tenure law.

11. Why is this so important?  

Because the Governor – and legislators who voted for this bill – stripped educators of important rights. Legislators respond to their constituents.  Now is the time to let them know that you will be closely watching how they vote when it comes to proposed laws that affect educators.

12. What have the courts ruled so far on Act 2?

    A trial court judge – the Honorable Timothy Kelley – has ruled that Act 2 is unconstitutional because funds is the Minimum Foundation Program are used for non-public purposes. The Louisiana Constitution requires that MFP funds must be allocated to city and parish public school systems.  

13. Who filed this lawsuit?

    The LFT, LAE, the Louisiana School Board Association and over 40 individual school boards.

14. Does this mean that MFP money cannot presently be used for vouchers?

    No. The Court did not issue an injunction stopping the flow of money.

15. What happens next?

    The State appealed the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court. We filed a cross-appeal on other constitutional claims. The Louisiana Supreme Court heard oral argument on March 19, 2013. We await their ruling.

16. When will the Louisiana Supreme Court rule?

    That is unknown.

17. Can the legislature change any of this?

Yes.  The legislative session begins in April, and we expect that there will be proposals in the legislature to try to overcome the court’s ruling.  

18. What can I do?

Please immediately call or email your state representative and state senator, asking them not to support MFP money for non-public schools.