Summary of the Session
The legislative session ended on Thursday, June 10th at 6 P.M. after almost nine weeks of fast-paced and often contentious debate. LFT has tracked hundreds of bills throughout the session and sent our members and affiliate leaders regular updates with the most important information.
Now that the session has ended and the dust has settled, here are the main bills that impact teachers, school employees and students. Like at the end of every session, there is cause for both celebration and dread. We end this session knowing there is more that must be done to help teachers, school employees and students, and through our collective power we will continue to work towards those goals. Here’s what you need to know:
Pay Raise (SCR 2 & MFP)
After much back and forth, the MFP passed in the legislature provides for a 1.375% ($40 million) increase in per pupil funding (from $4,015 to $4,070 per student) as well as an $800 raise for every teachers/certified employee and a $400 for each non-certified support employee.
It was incredibly disappointing to see the legislature renege on promises to fund a more significant pay increase. Still, the final amount that was passed is double what was initially proposed in the Governor’s budget in February. Thank you to Senator Fields particularly for making pay raises for teachers and school employees a top priority throughout the session.
To see more about the process by which legislators finalized this amount, click here.
Uninterrupted Planning Time APPROVED
SB 128 (Sen. Jackson) passed the legislature on Wednesday, June 9th. Because of this legislation, all teachers will receive 45-minutes of uninterrupted planning time each day, or its weekly equivalent. Schools will no longer be able to pull teachers to cover classes or attend additional meetings during this time. This applies to “every teacher actively engaged in the instruction and supervision of students in the public schools,” including public charter schools.
The legislation will not go into effect until July 1st, 2022, so districts will have plenty of time to make the necessary scheduling changes to ensure that teachers get their guaranteed planning time. Thank you to Senator Jackson for her hard work on this legislation, on behalf of Louisiana teachers!
Duty-Free Lunch Study-Resolution APPROVED
SR 243 (Sen. Jackson): In the original draft of Sen. Jackson’s SB 128, the legislation also guaranteed every teacher 30-minutes of duty-free lunch each day. Ultimately, that provision of the bill was removed because legislators had concerns about the cost of implementing multiple breaks for teachers. However, Sen. Jackson also passed SR 243, which calls for a study resolution to determine how to get teachers needed breaks for lunch during the work day. This is just a task force to study the issue, but it is an important step towards guaranteeing teachers the time they need during the school day.
Mandatory Kindergarten APPROVED
SB 10 (Sen. Fields) will make kindergarten mandatory for all students (in-school or home school) and would fully fund the additional enrollment in the funding formula for Louisiana Public Schools. This new policy will give our students the foundation they need to be successful throughout their academic career. Considering LDOE’s new assessments for K-2 students, it is vital to make sure our children are prepared and have a chance to be successful in their formative years.
Retiree Benefit Increase APPROVED
SB 24 (Sen. Price) will increase the minimum benefit for retirees to $1,450 per month. Unfortunately, this won’t increase everyone’s monthly benefit, but it will provide an increase for those who have fallen below the poverty line. Sen. Price has expressed his intent to continue to work to increase benefits for retirees in future legislative sessions – this is a first step.
Additional Fees for Teachers FAILED
HB 312 (Rep. Freiberg) failed to pass through the legislature. This legislation was requested by the Louisiana Department of Education. In addition to the “criminal history review”, “criminal background check,” and an “FBI records check” that is currently required prior to employment, this legislation would have required teachers to also have these checks run prior to receiving their teaching certification or recertification. Most significantly, this legislation allowed the LDOE to collect fees related to the cost of these additional screenings. After LFT questioned the LDOE's basis for this legislation, the bill was voluntarily deferred.
Local Control Restored in ‘School Choice’ Bill
HB 211 (Rep. Wright) is a “school choice” bill that would have allowed BESE to overrule local school districts enrollment decisions and pursue additional funding for non-public schools. In the last few days of the session LFT worked with other stakeholders and members of the Senate Education Committee to amend this bill to protect the autonomy and integrity of local school districts.
GPO/WEP Resolution APPROVED
HCR 7 (Rep. M. Johnson) requests that Congress review and eliminate or reduce the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) Social Security benefit reductions. Unfortunately, the Louisiana legislature can only request that the Federal Government take up this issue – they do not have the power to eliminate the WEP or GPO. HCR 7 was passed by the full legislature, but it is important to note that similar resolutions have passed through the Louisiana legislature in past sessions. LFT will continue to work with AFT and our national partners to push Congress to address this issue, which unfairly limits teachers’ retirement benefits.
“Emergency” Rules Gets Much Needed Update
SB 136 (Rep. Fred Mills): In the past, state agencies have been able to create “emergency” authorizations that enable them to fast-track policy changes without appropriate over-site. This legislation would more clearly define what constitutes an “emergency” in order to prevent government agencies from evading proper protocols. This will improve transparency and public oversight.
Teacher Retention & Recruitment Task Force
HCR 39 (Rep. Mincey) will create a task force to study strategies and best procedures by which the state and individual school districts can recruit and retain a stronger educator workforce. This task force will include those who are most qualified to speak on these issues: active Louisiana teachers.
Onerous Restrictions on Sensitive Subjects FAILS
HB 564 (Rep. Garofalo) This legislation would have created onerous restrictions around the subject material that Louisiana teachers and colleges may present to their students – further eroding the professional autonomy of Louisiana teachers and undermining the integrity of our profession. Teachers and staff cannot and should not discuss political preferences in their classroom, but this bill goes far beyond politics and seeks to silence the tradition of open discussion and critical analysis in schools.
Rep. Garofalo has received national attention regarding his presentation of HB 564 in the House Committee meeting and ultimately lost his Chairmanship over the committee.
Effort to Raise Retirement Age FAILS
SB 22 (Sen. Peacock) This bill sought to raise the age of retirement to 67 for all future employees. In order to receive full benefits, new teachers, school employees, bus drivers and other public servants would have to work 40 years, or until the age of 67, if this legislation had passed. Thanks to the hard work of LFT and other stakeholders, this bill did not pass through the Senate.
Pilot Program for Year-Round Schools FAILS
HB 528 (Rep. Garofalo) Would have required BESE to implement and design rules for a pilot program around implementing a year-round school calendar at certain schools. School districts interested in pursuing a “balanced calendar” may already do so at their own discretion. There is no need for state agencies to interfere in a local issue. Input from parents, students, educators and the community should be sought before implementing a change of this magnitude.
Public Funding for Private Schools FAILS
HB 556 (Rep. DeViller) Would divert public funding towards unapproved and unvetted educational institutions. After decades of underfunding, state educational funding should go towards public school districts that are transparent with their budget and accountable to their community. Ultimately, this bill failed because of the added cost to the budget.
Learning Pods Bill Amended for the Better
HB 421 (Rep. Emerson) could have forced local school districts to create “learning pods” within traditional schools, without giving school districts the resources they need to hire additional teachers and support alternative learning practices. Ultimately, this legislation was amended so it merely provided a definition for this practice in our code. This measure will place no undue burden on our school systems.
SLTs in Teacher Evaluations (SB 35, SB 117, HR 133, HCR 107)
LFT proposed multiple pieces of legislation this session that sought to hold teachers harmless, the way so many other businesses and professions have been protected in the pandemic. This legislation would build on the progress we made last year to exclude VAM scores from teacher evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year, and extend that common sense protection to SLTs. These assessments were not designed for such an unprecedented and incredibly difficult year where schools closed without notice and students bounced between in-person and virtual instruction.
Unfortunately, none of the bills passed into law. Still, Representative Gary Carter was able to pass House Resolution 133 to "urge and request the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to take all necessary actions to provide that no measure of student growth be used in the evaluation of teachers for the 2020-2021 school year." It will be up to BESE to decide how to incorporate that recommendation into policy. Unfortunately, at this point, SLTs will likely be used in teacher evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year, but LFT will lobby BESE to hold the teacher harmless if a teacher's SLT rating negatively affects their evaluation.
Changes to Student Discipline Rules
HB 411 (Rep. Hughes) revamps student discipline rules to promote “evidence-based interventions and supports” to address student behavior. It was amended multiple times throughout the session and includes some improvements to discipline rules like requiring school boards to adopt student codes of conduct with clear progressive levels of minor through major infractions, interventions, and consequences.
One major area of concern left in the bill after all the amendments were made is that parent/guardian conferences will no longer be required after a student has been removed from the classroom three times. This opportunity for teachers and parents to speak directly about the issues facing a student is an important part of the intervention process. Unfortunately, now this conference will be optional.
Opportunity to Expand Real Choice in LA Schools FAILS
HB 494 (Rep Mincey) was a common-sense approach to school choice. In would have reigned in state over-reach and retained local control over student enrollment. It allowed for more opportunities for students, regardless of geographic boundaries or faulty school letter-grades. After hitting a brick wall in the House Education Committee, Representative Buddy Mincey agreed to defer his bill voluntarily. The bill was not allowed to be brought up again during the session.
Teacher Tax Credit FAILS
SB 51 (Sen. Carter) Sought to authorize an annual individual income tax credit of $1000 for certified teachers currently employed in public/approved schools. After Senator Carter was elected to U.S. Congress, this bill could not move through the legislative process.
Child Care Tax Credit FAILS
SB 138 (Sen. Fields) Sought to expand the child care tax credit to help families afford early childhood education. This legislation was not scheduled in committee and therefore did not go through the legislative process.
Increase Compensation for Bus Owner/Operators FAILS
HB 364 (Rep. White) sought to increase the per mile compensation for rate for school bus owner-operators. Bus owner-operators have not seen an increase in their operational pay formula in over three decades and are often forced to come out of their own pocket to keep busses safe and operational for our students. Unfortunately, the bill failed in the Senate due to concerns about the cost to local school districts.
Threat to Teacher Organizations PASSES
HB 256 (Rep. Tarver) was intended to allow predatory organizations to recruit members and extract dues from school personnel, even when there is a union with collective bargaining & exclusivity. This means that the alternate and potentially exploitative organizations could make promises to “represent” and “advocate” for members, but wouldn’t actually be able to make good on those promises – leaving unsuspecting teachers and support staff left in the lurch.
At the last minute, there was an amendment by Sen. Cathy which would require every employee to sign up for their organization of choice every year. Not only would this put a financial burden on school districts who would have to re-process hundreds if not thousands of dues deduct requests each year, it would also put employees at risk of not having the coverage they need because the district automatically stopped their dues payment without the employees knowledge.
Thankfully, the Governor vetoed this harmful legislation.