Tenure bill rehashes fight from 2012

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Certainly no one wants to repeat the 2012 Legislative Session, right?

(Baton Rouge – March 28, 2013) A teacher tenure bill filed by the chair of the Senate Education Committee will be seen by tens of thousands of Louisiana teachers as a sign of the administration’s continuing refusal to work with teachers and develop real solutions to real problems.

SB 89 by Sen. Conrad Appel simply repeats the teacher tenure language from Act 1 (2012), which was ruled unconstitutional by 19th Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell on March 4. LFT had challenged the constitutionality of Act 1 because it violated the state’s Constitutional mandate that bills be restricted to a "single object."

The administration has promised to appeal Judge Caldwell’s ruling to the State Supreme Court, and the Federation is prepared to argue in support of the trial judge's ruling.

Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said SB 89 suggests that the Governor is "doubling down on flawed policy borne of bad politics."

“Our hope is that SB 89 has been strategically filed as a place holder around which genuine discussions might evolve” Monaghan said. “We would rather not believe that administration is oblivious to the chaos and frustration fomented in schools and communities as a result of the hasty reforms of 2012.”

Appel’s bill effectively denies tenure to new teachers unless they are rated “highly effective” for five out of six consecutive years. These "ratings", imposed as a result of the Jindal evaluation reform of 2010, have been largely rejected by educators and continue to be "tweaked" by the Department of Education.

Under  the "5 of 6 year rule", virtually no teacher would earn tenure, according to the architect of the program, who said the complicated evaluation formula makes it nearly impossible for teachers to be rated “highly effective” every year.

Teachers who have already earned tenure would lose it if they are rated “ineffective” even once, even though experts say the evaluation formula known as the Value Added Model has an error rate as high as 30 percent.

Other sections of the bill make a mockery of fair process intended to protect educators from arbitrary or capricious disciplinary action.

"Last year, any possibility for good, fair policy reform was forfeited when teachers were vilified and hot rhetoric replaced thoughtful policy discussions,” Monaghan said. “The saddest thing is that it didn't have to be this way"

“However,” Monaghan concluded, “we remain hopeful that the tumult of last session and the litigation that followed has served to remind everyone that an inclusive, positive process is the best, and only, way to produce meaningful reform."