Leaders of the Louisiana School Boards Association have told local school board members they may need a financial commitment to challenge two newly passed laws that are aimed at overhauling public schools.
The measures, which were pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, will change the way teachers are paid and evaluated, pave the way for more students to attend private schools at state expense and move authority from local school boards to superintendents.
Carolyn Wooten, interim executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association said Tuesday no final decision has been made on the lawsuit, including any grounds that would be used to challenge the laws.
“We are still working on an action plan,” Wooten said.
The LSBA represents about 650 local school board members statewide.
Some members will be at the State Capitol on Wednesday for the group’s Capitol Conference, which is aimed in part at allowing board members to meet with their House and Senate members.
John Smith, president of the LSBA, said in a letter dated April 11 that the group’s board of directors voted to coordinate and spearhead a legal challenge to parts of the laws, which are spelled out in House Bill 974 and House Bill 976.
Smith said a nine-member committee was named to develop a plan for the goals of any lawsuit, with an initial proposal set for consideration on Wednesday.
He wrote that, since the LSBA has no standing to serve as the plaintiff in any such case, individual school boards would need to join together in a class action challenge.
“This will require a financial commitment from each participating board,” Smith said in his letter.
How much would need to be raised is unclear.
“It is our intent to provide you with details associated with this effort in the coming weeks,” he said.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which opposed both bills, is also considering a legal challenge.
One issue under review is the use of state dollars long reserved for public schools to help finance tuition for some students to attend private and parochial schools.
Backers have said they are confident the laws can withstand any court challenge.
Under HB974, teachers rated as “ineffective” would lose a form of job protection called tenure and could be subject to dismissal proceedings.
It also says local school boards are supposed to set policy and that hiring and firing authority over teachers and others rests with superintendents and principals.
HB976 requires local school boards to use uniform timelines and applications for charter schools, which are public schools overseen by private panels.