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Judge agrees to hear arguments for new teacher evaluation trial

Update: The hearing for a new trial has been rescheduled and will be held on Monday, March 4, in Baton Rouge's 19th Judicial District Court.

(Baton Rouge – January 24, 2013) A Baton Rouge district judge has agreed to rehear arguments that one of Governor Bobby Jindal’s signature education acts violates a constitutional prohibition on bundling multiple objectives in one piece of legislation.

Nineteenth Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell has set Monday, February 25 at 9:30 A.M. as the hearing date to determine whether or not he will grant a new trial of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers’ lawsuit against Act 1 of 2012.

Last month, Judge Caldwell ruled that parts of Act 1 violated the constitution, but many sections were constitutional because they conformed with a title given to the act, “TEACHERS: Provides relative to teacher tenure, pay-for-performance and salaries.”

Act 1 tied virtually every aspect of a teacher’s professional life, from salaries to tenure to termination, to a new evaluation system. But it also changed several sections of law dealing with the powers of school boards and superintendents.

Article III, Section 15(A) of the State Constitution states that every bill shall have just one object. That is to prevent lawmakers from having to vote for a section of a bill they do not want in order to win a separate object of which they approve.

In his December ruling, the judge allowed to stand portions of Act 1 dealing with teacher tenure and salary, but tossed out provisions that changed the relationship between school boards and superintendents, altered Reduction in Force policies and created performance targets for struggling schools.

In documents asking for a new trial, LFT General Counsel Larry Samuel asserted that the language Judge Caldwell referred to as the title of the act is actually its “summary” or “one-liner,” not the bill’s legal title. That, Samuel said, is clearly spelled out in the glossary of terms used by the Louisiana Legislature.

Samuel cited numerous precedents in a memorandum explaining why the court’s interpretation of what constitutes the title of the act is incorrect, including one that states if both the title and the act embrace two or more objects, the entire act must be declared null.

In his memorandum to the court, Samuel wrote, “Neither the bill nor its act contains one general object or purpose. The actual title of both the bill and the act – not the provision which has been incorrectly determined to be the title – contains all of its many objects. The entire bill/act must be declared void.”

To read the LFT memorandum in support of a motion for a new trial, please click here.