Teacher union attorney says tenure laws ‘gutted’

The Louisiana Legislature weakened teacher tenure protections this year by unconstitutionally passing a new law that contains multiple and unrelated purposes, an attorney for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers told state District Judge R. Michael Caldwell on Monday.

“The tenure laws have been basically gutted,” said Larry Samuel, an attorney for the LFT. “This should have been a standalone bill.”

An attorney for the state of Louisiana, however, argued that state law permits multiple purposes in proposed laws as long as they are reasonably related to each other.

“Every single provision in this act (law) is related,” insisted Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney representing the state.

Caldwell announced at the end of the hearing that he will deliver his decision in open court at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The teacher union filed suit in June in an effort to overturn Act 1 of 2012, which makes it more difficult for public school teachers to obtain and retain job security through tenure.

LFT officials argue in court filings that Act 1 is unconstitutional because it includes eight purposes, of which seven are unrelated to teacher tenure.

Those unrelated purposes, according to the LFT, are school board contracts with superintendents; delegation of school board power to superintendents and principals to make employment decisions based on such factors as student and teacher performance; reductions in force; appointment of visiting teachers; duties of principals; salaries of teachers and other school employees; and promotions.

“If an act is constitutional, that’s because it has a single object,” Samuel told Caldwell. “This (Act 1) was a way to railroad it (tenure changes) through.”

Samuel asked Caldwell to declare all of Act 1 unconstitutional.

Faircloth, however, said if Caldwell considers only a portion of Act 1 unconstitutional, then the remainder of the law should remain on the books.

In pre-hearing filings, Faircloth and other attorneys for the state noted the title of Act 1 reads: “Teachers: Provides relative to teacher tenure, pay-for-performance, and evaluations.”

The attorneys for the state added: “A bill is considered to have one object if the parts of the bill are reasonably related and have a natural connection to the general subject of the legislation.”

The state’s attorneys added: “It is clear that the title of Act 1 contains only one object, which is teachers.”

“This statute must be interpreted as constitutional,” Faircloth told the judge Monday.

Steve Monaghan, president of the LFT, said after the hearing that the new tenure law was rushed through the Legislature this year.

“A steamroller is a steamroller is a steamroller,” Monaghan said. “That’s what happened.”

Added Monaghan: “We’re pleased we had a fair hearing today. We will not criticize the judge, regardless of what his decision is.”

On Nov. 30, the Legislature’s new voucher law, which provides state tax dollars to send students from low-performing public schools to private schools, was declared unconstitutional by state District Judge Timothy Kelley. State officials said after Kelley’s ruling that the decision will be appealed.