House member complains of delay

The sponsor of a House-passed bill that would delay the impact of Louisiana’s new teacher evaluations said Thursday action on his proposal is being unfairly delayed in a state Senate committee, as the session nears its June 6 adjournment.

“If they do succeed in stalling it out, there is going to be a backlash you wouldn’t believe,” said state Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Dubberly.

But Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said that, despite a lengthy hearing on another measure Wednesday, Reynolds’ bill could have been heard if he had stuck around.

“That doesn’t even deserve an answer because it is wrong,” Appel said of comments that inaction on Reynolds’ bill is aimed at killing it.

The proposal is House Bill 160. It would delay the full impact of teacher evaluations to the 2014-15 school year.

Under current rules, teachers rated as “ineffective” in the current and next school year could be dismissed at the end of the 2013-14 school session.

Backers said the change, which links half of the annual evaluation to the growth of student achievement, will improve the quality of students and boost student achievement.

Rayne Martin, executive director of Stand For Children and a former top official of the state Department of Education, said her group opposes a delay for a variety of reasons.

Martin said about 400 teachers rated “ineffective” are teaching about 40,000 students.

“Probably 10,000 teachers had some involvement in creating this system,” she said.

Reynolds and other critics contend the new rules are flawed and need more time to work out problems.

Teacher unions, superintendents and school board members back the legislation.

The issue has sparked a split of sorts among backers of public school overhaul efforts.

Some groups, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, contend any delay could derail the new reviews.

Others hope to revamp and pass the Reynolds’ bill, in part because of concerns that a flawed evaluation system will lead to lawsuits and other problems.

Reynolds noted his bill won approval in the House Education Committee without opposition and cleared the House 102-0 on May 6.

He said the delay is needed in part for the morale of public school teachers, some of whom have criticized the new evaluations and predicted they will cause top-flight educators to lose their jobs.

“If you have people working against you in the trenches, it is 10 times harder to get things done,” Reynolds said.

HB160 was set for a hearing in Appel’s committee Wednesday.

But much of the panel’s three-hour hearing was consumed by arguments on a separate proposal to repeal Louisiana’s move to tougher course requirements. Despite the lengthy session on that resolution, Appel said he also finished work on about six House-passed bills.

Appel said Reynolds left the hearing about 30 minutes before the end.

“If he had stayed, he would have been heard,” he said.

Appel said all the remaining House bills, including Reynolds’ measure, will be heard Thursday, which is a week before adjournment.