Bill would revamp teacher dismissals

Two state legislators want to repeal a key part of a law aimed at removing low-performing public school teachers from classrooms.

The Senate sponsor of several key education bills last year said he would oppose the change.

The proposal, House Bill 203, has been filed for action during the 2013 regular legislative session, which begins on April 8.

Lawmakers in 2010 approved legislation that allowed teachers who get back-to-back “ineffective” ratings would be dismissed.

The bill would change that to allow, but not require, local school boards to dismiss troubled educators.

State Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, who was elected to the House earlier this month, is chief sponsor of the legislation.

Ivey said he “wants to make things more fair for teachers” under the state’s new evaluation system.

The other sponsor is state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport.

But state Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said he would oppose Ivey’s proposal. “I am not favorably inclined toward making changes to the bill,” Appel said of last year’s law.

Backers said that, under the previous tenure law, most every teacher in the state routinely won satisfactory ratings even though student achievement in Louisiana is among the lowest in the nation.

Critics said the new rating system, which is being used this school year, has major problems and that linking half of a teacher’s evaluation to the growth of student achievement is a mistake.

The other half stems from classroom observations by principals and others.

The leader of one teachers’ union said that, while the group remains opposed to recent chances in teacher tenure laws, Ivey’s bill is a small step in the right direction.

“We have a product that is flawed that needs to be fixed,” said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

LFT officials filed the lawsuit that resulted in Caldwell’s ruling.

Joyce Haynes, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said the state’s evaluation law is flawed largely because it fails to consider multiple measures in rating teachers.

Haynes also said Ivey’s bill fails to address the key problem.

She said it would mean “giving the blame or responsibility” to already-anxious local school boards.