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Week 1: Revenue



After a six month stalemate, the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) finally came to a decision on the projected revenue for the state budget on Tuesday. Playing political games, Speaker Taylor Barras has again and again refused to recognize new revenues projected by bi-partisan economists. From the first meeting, economist testified that their projections were conservative, but Barras kept rejecting them until he received a report that satisfied his political goals.

The REC voted to recognize a surplus of $308 million for 2018, increase revenue this current fiscal year by $110 million, and increase revenue by $119 million for next fiscal year. After years of special sessions, drastic cuts to higher ed and midyear budget cuts, we finally have a surplus! We should be excited…right? Not so fast.

By forcing the REC projection down, Barras has tried to take money away from our public schools. In Governor Edwards' budget, we were finally going to start seeing increased investment in our schools: $101 million towards raises for teacher and support employees and $39 million to be distributed to local school districts. While not nearly enough, it is a first step in getting in Louisiana educators to the Southern Regional Average and the first permanent raise in almost a decade. However, with the newly approved revenue "projections," some House republicans are trying to take away the $39 million that our local schools desperately need.

The fact is, it's unusual for the MFP resolution to be pushed through so early in the session. It's likely that the REC will meet in May and choose to recognize more revenue. If the House Education Committee votes to deny the MFP as is and return it to BESE this early in the session in an attempt to remove the $39 million from our schools, then it's clear they're just trying shift the blame to BESE: and they are using educators and students as political pawns.

In a survey conducted by LFT, echoing sentiments from striking teachers across the country, many educators cited lack of resources as a concern. The Louisiana Budget Project estimates that school districts have lost over $6.8 billion since 2008. For years, the state has asked teachers and students to meet ever increasing and changing goals, but has not provided the money to allow teachers and students to meet those goals. Local school districts need funding to help fix crumbling and leaking buildings, non-operating white boards, outdated computers, and more! Tell your legislators that we need comprehensive funding for our public schools:

Many of the house and senate committees did not meet this week, but next week we will be in full swing and there's a lot of variables to watch out for. There’s plenty of legislation that has the ability to impact your future and we'll be watching it closely. Keep in mind that things can change quickly, so be prepared for anything! Here are a few things to keep an eye on:


House Bill #453 by Rep. Miguez: This bill seeks to demolish teacher's collective bargaining rights. Under this law, a local Union would need to have a re-certification election EVERY TWO YEARS in which more than 50% of employees vote for that Union (not a majority of those who vote; 50% of all the employees). For perspective: only 20% of the people in Rep. Miguez's district voted for him in his last election - under these rules he wouldn't have won because it's hard to get 50% of people to vote in any election. Moreover, this new law would only pertain to teachers; not firefighters, police, or any other public employees. The more you read, the worse it gets: this is a direct assault on your ability to have a Union.


House Bill #337 by Rep. Patricia Smith: Under current law, BESE had to create a grievance process for teachers and administrators aggrieved by evaluation ratings including those portions of such ratings derived from the observation and value-added assessment model (VAAM) components. As it stands right now, educators can only grieve poor or inaccurate assessments on the local level. This bill would make it so that teachers can grieve on the state-level as well.


House Bill #28 by Rep. Ivey: Currently, the Teacher's Retirement System of Louisiana (TSRL) is one of the top public pension plans in the United States. In FY18 we had the highest investment return in the country; we have assets greater than $1 billion, a market value more than $21 billion, and lower per member administrative costs than most of other states. This bill could undermine the strength of our pension and jeopardize the retirement savings for generations of educators by creating hybrid direct contribution accounts to be spent by private, third party investors. By taking future teachers' retirement savings and putting it into individual 401K plans, this bill could undermine the strength of the the state pension. Statistically, 401K plans have a lower investment return then pensions and since teachers in Louisiana aren't able to collect social security, this could leave retired educators destitute. 
House Bill #19 by Rep. Pearson: Initial Unfunded Accrued Liability (IUAL) is the debt owed to TRSL by the State of Louisiana from the inception of the system through June 30, 1988. The IUAL, and other schedules, were funded with a back-loaded payment schedule, but a 1987 constitutional amendment led to a 40-year payment schedule for the IUAL requiring that the debt be paid off by 2029. As it stands now, these payments are made to TRSL in a roundabout way by putting the money into the per pupil amount in Level 1 of the MFP. Then, traditional school districts forward the money to TRSL. Charter school also receive the IUAL payment in their Level 1 funding, but because they do not owe TRSL for the IUAL, they just get to keep that money. This bill seeks to correct this: it would level the playing field and help create transparency by simply having the Dept. of Ed. take the payment directly from the MFP formula, instead of sending that money to local districts and having them take out the money themselves.

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