Lawmakers approve teacher due process compromise

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(Baton Rouge – May 30, 2014) A bill that improves the state law governing the discipline and dismissal of teachers was passed by the Senate Thursday, and awaits concurrence by the House of Representatives.

HB 1277 by Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Shreveport) represents a step toward bringing education reforms in line with teacher expectations, said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan.

“While this bill does not resolve all of our concerns with Act 1 of 2012,” Monaghan said, “it restores an element of due process and makes the system fairer. It is far better than what was passed in 2012 as part of Act 1.”

The bill is limited to those sections of Act 1 that deal with the discipline and dismissal of teachers. It replaces several sections of law that were unworkable and gutted the due process rights of teachers who were found "ineffective" under the act.

No longer will the superintendent have the sole final word on dismissal of teachers. Teachers recommended for termination may present their case to a hearing officer chosen at random from a list of individuals approved by the school board.

Unlike Act 1’s provisions, in which a three-person advisory panel’s decision was not binding, the hearing officer is empowered to reverse a superintendent’s decision.

The bill includes other provisions aimed at making sections of Act 1 into a clearer, fairer process:

  • The original Act 1 said that teachers recommended for termination are immediately removed from the payroll. This bill allows them to remain on salary for up to 50 days during the hearing process.
  • Instead of losing their tenure immediately upon being rated “ineffective,” teachers will retain their tenure through the grievance process. 
  • The bill deletes a provision of Act 1 that says an evaluation rating a teacher as “ineffective” requires no further documentation to substantiate the charges.

Thursday’s unanimous vote of approval by the Senate is a vindication of the idea that people of good will can bring very different perspectives to the table and come up with a plan that is better for all, Monaghan said.

“We appreciate the efforts of the governor’s office and all the other stakeholders in bringing this bill to fruition,” Monaghan said. “If the whole idea of education reform had been approached in the same manner, we could have avoided years of legal challenges, confusion in the teacher corps, and disruption in our schools.”