The October Edition

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Teacher Shortage Worsening

The fact that Louisiana doesn’t have enough qualified teachers to fill the need in each school is nothing new, but the latest data reveals the problem is even worse than previously believed. Student enrollment at LSU School of Education plunged 57% in the past decade and 39% in the past five years. Meanwhile, TRSL reports that K-12 retirements went up 25% from 2020 to 2021 and according to the Louisiana Department of Education, 61% of teachers who leave are doing so within their first 10 years, highlighting the state’s issues retaining qualified teachers. There are fewer teachers and school employees in the schools’ serving students, and fewer than ever entering the profession, painting a bleak picture for the future.
 
As the shortage reaches a critical intensity for our schools, policy makers are beginning to debate the causes. In the latest meeting of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this month, LFT Legislative and Political Director Cynthia Posey laid out the issues quite plainly, telling board members “you’re doing everything in your power to make it an undesirable profession.”
 
During the 2021 Legislative Session, LFT worked with Representative Buddy Mincey to pass a resolution which creates a task force to study strategies and best procedures by which the state and individual school districts can recruit and retain a stronger educator workforce. What makes this task force different than past discussions, is that the task force will include those who are most qualified to speak on these issues: active Louisiana teachers. While a step in the right direction, more can be done now to stem the flow of qualified educators leaving the profession.
 
Following the devastating impact of COVID-19 and Louisiana’s many natural disasters, teachers and students need some relief. Valuable instructional time is taken up by expensive and wasteful testing. Teachers are buried under a mountain of unnecessary paperwork and meetings, while their passion and creativity are stifled by restrictive curriculum and arbitrary targets. What’s worse is the constant disrespect that teachers get from their administration and their elected officials in government. Without teachers, no other profession can exist. They are the bedrock to our society, but aren’t treated or paid like the professionals they are.
 

BESE Update

This month BESE conducted their regularly scheduled Committee meetings and full Board Meeting on October 12th and 13th. During their lengthy discussions, the Board considered waiver requested from different school districts, including a state-wide waiver for school letter grades. LFT Legislative & Political Director addressed the board three times during the meeting to point out their failure to prioritize the needs of teachers and school employees.
 

“I would be remiss if I did not point out that none of the waivers considered today would help to staunch the bleed of qualified educators leaving the profession or increase the negligible drip of people wanting to enter the profession.

In 2021 at the legislative session, LFT and other stakeholders, submitted two bills and two resolutions to request and address waivers for SLTs in the accountability system. The inaction to consider or implement any type of relief to address the plight and frustration of current teachers speaks louder than any overused platitude given in place of respect and acknowledgement of them as professionals and advocates for their children.

We would urge you to listen to the conversations that we’ve had today about the loss of teachers and people not wanting to come into the profession. This is one of the reasons why. Because we’ve asked repeatedly for waivers to give some relief to what they’re facing. To use SLTs to judge teachers in a classroom where you have kids continuously cycling in and out - are they remote, hybrid, in the classroom, quarantined - it’s not fair to judge them by that.”

Ultimately, the Board did vote to suspend school letter grades for the 2021-2022 school year (pending federal approval), but they will still publish “advisory” school performance scores which will not account for the disruption schools face as a result of the pandemic and natural disasters.

Click here for more information.

 

Identity Theft Protection

 

Upcoming Elections

Elections this fall were postponed as a result of Hurricane Ida, but November’s election includes four constitutional amendments with the power to impact you! LFT and the Louisiana AFL-CIO have made the following endorsements:
 
#1 – VOTE NO
#2 – No position
#3 – No position
#4 – VOTE NO
 
 
Please check with your LFT local affiliate for candidates and ballot initiatives on your ballot.
 

Student Debt

Since 2016, the AFT has been working to address and abate this student debt crisis. We hosted thousands of debt clinics, pressed lawmakers for changes and took this fight to the courts. We took on one of the largest loan servicers in the country, Navient, and then in July of 2019, in a groundbreaking legal action, we sued then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for mismanaging the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and leaving tens of thousands of borrowers with nowhere to turn when their relief was denied.
 
On October 12th AFT reached a settlement in the Weingarten v. Devos suit. The Department of Education led by Secretary Miguel Cardona agreed to work with us to ensure relief for the countless borrowers who relied on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Millions of Americans will now have their loans completely forgiven or will be properly enrolled in a forgiveness program crediting their years of past payments, putting them much closer to full forgiveness. Click here to learn more.

 

TRSL Ends Fiscal Year with Historic ROI

 
TRSL is the state's largest public retirement system, and has provided a reliable source of income to Louisiana educators for more than 80 years. The System has made great strides in recent years to ensure members and their beneficiaries can count on a healthy and sustainable retirement plan for years to come.
 
TRSL recently announced a record 35.7% market rate of return on investment for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021. The historic return generated more than $6.5 billion in the 12-month period, bringing the System’s investment assets to an all-time high of $26.9 billion. TRSL has consistently achieved top tier market returns over the past 10 years when compared to other public pension plans with assets greater than $5 billion, often coming in with the highest return, as it did in FY 2021.  
 
Additionally, TRSL’s latest annual valuation report, which includes information about the financial position of the retirement plan, contained very good news. As of the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021, the System’s funded level, which is a common metric used to determine the retirement plan’s health, increased to 71.8% from last year’s 67.9%. In addition, TRSL’s unfunded accrued liability (UAL) dropped by $1 billion, and now stands at $9.3 billion.
 
The valuation report also projected lower employer contribution rates for the fifth consecutive year, with the recommended K-12 employer rate at 24.8%. Employer contributions pay for the actual cost of the benefit (3.63% of payroll) which is well below the Social Security employer rate of 6.2%. The remaining 20.8% of the employer rate goes toward paying down the unfunded accrued liability (UAL).
 
The UAL is often referred to as TRSL’s debt, but it is a debt owed by the State of Louisiana. The UAL exists, in large part, because required contributions were not made prior to the 1990s, and further growth resulted from a back-loaded payment plan put in place in the 1990s. This growth has since been changed with recent reforms; however, the UAL continues to be paid with funds which flow through the MFP to TRSL, which makes Louisiana’s per-pupil spending look larger than it actually is. It is also important to note, schools that don’t pay into TRSL (i.e. certain charter schools) receive this money, but do not have to flow it through their budgets to TRSL, meaning they are able to keep these additional funds.
 
 

AFT Hardship Relief Grant for Hurricane Ida Victims

Representatives from AFT and LFT have been working to go through all the Hardship Relief applications we received after Hurricane Ida. It is devastating to see how many members were so tragically impacted by the storm. We appreciate your patience as we do our best to sort through the applications and process the checks as quickly as possible. Grants will be awarded based on the amount of damage incurred by the applicant, and the availability of funds. Grants will vary between $100 - $500. An email will be sent to all applicants that were not awarded funding, informing them of the decision made, so please continue to check the personal email address that you used to apply for the grant. We hope to notify members and begin distribution of the checks through your Local office in the coming weeks.