Committee Approves your Right to Appeal Sabbatical Denial
HB 688 (Phelps) On Tuesday, the House Education Committee passed HB 688 by Rep. Phelps without objection. This bill would give teachers the ability to appeal if their sabbatical leave is denied. It will now proceed to the House floor, before making it through the rest of the legislative process.
HB 356: Gives Parents the Right to Examine all “Lessons”
HB 356 (Amedee) was approved by the House Education Committee by a vote of 6-2. Representatives Jefferson and Phelps objected to the bill while Harris, Amedee, Frieberg, Owen, St. Blanc, and Tarver voted to approve.
This bill seeks to expand the definition of instructional material to include “lessons.” This means that moving forward, parents will have the right to examine lessons that will be used in their child’s classroom. Generally, teachers want parents to be more engaged with the material that we’re teaching. However, there is still a lot of ambiguity about how this will be implemented and how much extra work it may make for teachers and school administrators. If parents have the right to examine all of a teacher’s lessons, how far in advance would they need to see them? Would teachers still be able to deviate from their original lesson plans in order to better adapt to the needs of their students? How detailed would they have to be? Furthermore, if a separate bill (this year or in future sessions) requires districts to post “instructional materials” prior to the beginning of the school year, this bill would ensure that those posts include all lesson plans.
HB 453: Was Voluntarily Deferred
On Wednesday, Chairman Harris asked the House Education Committee to defer HB 453 (Harris). He testified before the Committee that he had heard concerns from school districts and educators that this legislation could put an additional burden on our schools and create an unfunded mandate. Thank you, Chairman Harris, for being responsive to the concerns of Louisiana’s educators and deciding to defer this bill. Had it passed, this legislation would have required districts to post a list of materials and instructional activities prior to the beginning of the school year.
HB 837: Rejected by the House Education Committee
The House Education Committee voted to reject HB 837 (Horton) by a vote of 4-7. Representatives Amedee, Emerson, Owen, and Tarver voted for it. Representatives Brass, Freeman, Friberg, Hilferty, Jefferson, Phelps, and St. Blanc voted against it. This bill sought to prohibit teachers and school employees from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, but it would have a far broader scope than legislation that has been proposed in other states. Under HB 837, a teacher would not be able to casually mention his or her spouse, regardless of their gender or sexual identity. If you’ve ever told a student, “my husband and I went to the grocery store this weekend,” you would be in violation of this bill (regardless of whether you are a man or a woman).
Too many teachers already feel like they are used as scapegoats and blamed for things outside of their control. This type of legislation further vilifies teachers, and attempts to pit teachers against their own communities. In reality, teachers and parents need to work together to meet the needs of students. Legislators should be thinking of ways to support that critical collaboration, not create deeper divisions. Thankfully, this bill will not advance through the legislative process.
On Monday morning the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) will meet to review and revise the Official Revenue Forecast for FY22 and FY23 as well as recognize FY21 year-end balances. It is widely expected that the REC will recognize additional revenue. The question is, how will the legislature choose to spend this additional revenue.
LFT has long advocated that some of these additional monies should go towards teacher and school employee pay raises. We have asked legislators to boost the pay raise from $1,500 for certified staff and $750 for classified personnel to $2,500/$1,250 as a minimum. In truth, teachers and school employees deserve even more and as neighboring states continue to boost pay for their educators, Louisiana falls further behind. Next week, legislators will know how much additional revenue they have to work with and the horse-trading will begin.
Please, make sure your legislators hear directly from you about why they need to prioritize pay increases for Louisiana’s teachers and school employees. If you don’t make your voice heard now, then it will be too easy for legislators to divert the funding elsewhere.
Expanding School Vouchers Comes to the Senate
Soon, the Senate Committee on Education will hear a litany of bills aimed at increasing the state’s school voucher program, rebranded into "Education Savings Accounts" (ESAs). Louisiana’s school voucher program has failed students. According to a joint investigation by WVUE-TV, NOLA.com, WWNO, Fox 8 and Reveal, two-thirds of all students in the voucher system attended schools where they performed at a “D” or “F” level and not a single school in the voucher program received an A or B.
Ultimately, these bills aims to take public money, usually an amount equivalent to the per-pupil amount funded in the state MFP, and direct it to alternative “education” programs. The only difference between a traditional voucher and an ESA is that instead of the money going directly from the state to the alternative school, ESA money would go to the family and then to the alternative school or program. This creates more opportunity for fraud and abuse than traditional voucher programs.
Expanding Maternal Health for All School Employees
HB 819 (Cox) is scheduled to come before the House Education Committee on Tuesday, May 10th. It would do two things:
- Give teachers and school employees the ability to take their extended sick leave one day at a time, without having to take all 10 days at once.
- Make maternal health extended sick leave available to all employees. Right now, it’s only available to teachers.
On Thursday, May 5th, across the street from the Capitol, BESE held a Special Board Meeting. The main discussion focused on whether or not high school seniors should be exempt from certain LEAP 2025 graduation requirements. The proposed exception would have been temporary and due to COVID, but as Superintendent Dr. Brumley pointed out, this has been a problem that predates COVID. “This is hard every year, I have been a school principal and I have had these parents, these kids in my office that have gotten so close, but they just didn’t make it. Often times, they’re waiting on the result the day of graduation potentially, and the worst case is when that result doesn’t come back the way you want it.”
According to the Louisiana Department of Education, in 2019 4% of students failed to graduate as a result of not having one of their End-of-Course Assessments (EOCs) completed successfully. In 2021, that number would have been 6% (had it not been for COVID exemptions), and in 2022 (as of the morning of May 5th) that number is 7% (or about 2,400 students). Dr. Brumley added that his team expects the number for this year to decrease as more data becomes available.
BESE Member Holly Boffy, who has been a long-time advocate for these types of assessments, made the motion to allow for an exception to the requirements for this year. Currently, Dr. Boffy serves as a school principal and has now come face-to-face with students who are unable to graduate because they failed one of these standardized tests. Many educators have been criticizing the usefulness and legitimacy of these high stakes tests for years because of situations just like the one Dr. Boffy is currently dealing with at her school. These problems have been a persistent feature of Louisiana’s broken accountability system.
Many advocates testified before the Board highlighting the difficulty students have faced over the last three years. BESE Member Dr. Doris Voitier commented that “These kids have been operating under a handicap for the past three years…This year, for this class, have some humanity in here."
After a lengthy discussion, the Board voted against the proposed exceptions to LEAP 2025 graduation requirements. Dr. Holly Boffy, Mr. Preston Castille, Dr. Belinda Davis, Mr. Thomas Roque, and Ms. Doris Voitier voted in favor of the exceptions while Mr. Ronnie Morris, Ms. Sandy Holloway, and Mr. James Garvey voted against. Ms. Ashley Ellis, Mr. Michael Melanchie and Ms. Kira Orange-Jones did not attend the meeting and therefore their lack-of-a-vote counts against the motion.
The Board did, however, unanimously approve a waiver to certain graduation requirements for School Districts wherein the Governor declared an Emergency due to Hurricane Ida. The exemption was approved for this school year.