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Your LFT Connection: January 2013

A message from LFT President Steve Monaghan

Dear Colleague,

      As we return to school for the second semester, there is a sadness that weighs down our excitement at the start of a new term. Once again, our nation has lived through the all-too-familiar tragedy of a mass murder in a school. As our hearts go out to the parents and relatives of the victims in Newtown, Connecticut, we wonder about the safety of our own children and colleagues in our communities.

In 2001, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers sponsored legislation to improve school safety. The law, LRS 17:416.16, requires school districts to create crisis management and response plans for each school in the district. The plan is supposed to “detail the roles and responsibilities of each school employee and the relevant coordination agreements, services and security measures of a school in the event of a violent incident or emergency situation.”

In light of the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the LFT is considering legislation to strengthen the 2001 Act. We would like to have your ideas about school safety as we consider our proposals. Your response to this short survey will be helpful as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Please click here to complete the Louisiana School Safety and Violence Survey.

LFT General Counsel Larry Samuel has a section on school safety on his Web site, which you can visit by clicking here.

Legislators: It’s broken. What are you going to do about it?

Three times in the past few weeks judges on both the state and federal levels have overturned all or part of Gov. Jindal’s education overhaul.

First a federal judge slammed Act 2, the governor’s “choice” act, ruling that it violates a desegregation agreement in Tangipahoa Parish. That ruling could affect agreements in more than 30 other school districts as well.

Then a state judge determined that Act 2 violates the state constitution The act diverts public education funds to pay for an array of school choices, including nonpublic schools, early graduation college scholarships, nonpublic online education and individual courses created by private providers.

Judge Tim Kelley said that the constitution clearly reserves state education funds for public elementary and secondary schools and school districts.

Just before Christmas, another state judge ruled that portions of Act 1, which Gov. Jindal calls the “talent” act, violate a section of the constitution that prohibits bundling more than one object into a piece of legislation.

Judge Michael Caldwell allowed to stand three sections of Act 1 dealing with teacher tenure and salary, but tossed our provisions that changed the relationship between school boards and superintendents, altered Reduction in Force policies and created performance targets for struggling schools.

In all of these legal cases, appeals will be filed and it will be some time before the outcomes are ultimately decided. But it is obvious that the legislature overstepped the constitution when Gov. Jindal and his allies steamrolled a package of bills aimed at a radical deconstruction of public education through the process last spring.

As a result, teachers are demoralized and concerned about their future, parents are unsure about their options, and children have been denied their constitutional promise of a free and appropriate public education.

That puts the problem squarely in the lap of the body that approved Gov. Jindal’s agenda in the first place: the legislature. In the weeks leading up to the next legislative session, the LFT will be asking you to contact your senator and representative with this simple message: It’s broken. What are you going to do about it?

LFT convention a celebration of hope and promise

Just before Thanksgiving, the LFT celebrated its 48th annual convention with a nod to both the past and to the future.

In one moment, the convention congratulated the United Teachers of New Orleans on its75th anniversary. In the next moment, LFT welcomed its newest chapter, the Iberia Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel.

We were treated to an uplifting address by Sister Simone Campbell, the “Nun on the Bus” who is traveling the country in a quest for social justice.

And the Federation reaffirmed our commitment to fairness, equality and educational excellence in public schools. That commitment will be demonstrated in the legislative agenda that we bring to Baton Rouge next spring. Details of the convention are available on our Web site at http://la.aft.org.

The highest honor the LFT bestows is the Friend of Education Award. It is usually presented to an individual for making significant contributions to public education. This year the convention unanimously approved naming all of Louisiana’s teachers and school employees the Friends of Education, “for their perseverance in the face of adversity, for their service to our children, and for their refusal to be defeated by unfounded and unfair political assaults.” You will be hearing much more about the award in the weeks to come.

More details of the convention are available on our Web site by clicking here.

On behalf of the leadership and staff of the LFT, I want to wish you all the very best in the New Year, and pledge that your union will work tirelessly to help build the kind of profession that you and our children deserve.