Bill would alter teacher appeals

Legislation to revamp how public school teachers appeal dismissal and other disciplinary action passed the House Education Committee on Wednesday.

The proposal, a substitute for House Bill 987, would allow a hearing officer to hear teacher appeals rather than a three-member panel, which teacher union officials said were tilted against teachers.

“Hopefully we have a product that is better,” said state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City and sponsor of the measure.

The agreement followed weeks of talks among officials of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators and Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana.

The current appeals process was spelled out in one of Jindal’s sweeping public school overhaul bills that won approval in 2012.

“This is compromise language,” said Jimmy Faircloth, an attorney and former Jindal aide who has represented the state in lawsuits that attacked some of the Jindal-backed bills.

Faircloth said his initial legislation underwent huge changes and that all the education stakeholders involved in the talks “have fingerprints on this.”