Teachers to rally on steps

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Hundreds of public school teachers are expected at the State Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers renew arguments over the same education changes that sparked bitter debates last year.

The focus is the Louisiana House Education Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. and is set to consider three overhaul bills that are already state law but also the subject of a court challenge.

Backers contend the bills will serve as insurance if the Supreme Court strikes down a 2012 law that trimmed the authority of local school boards, removed seniority as the key factor in teacher layoff decisions and revamps salary schedules.

But members of the Louisiana Association of Educators, one of the state’s two largest teacher unions, plan to gather on the steps of the State Capitol at 7 a.m., visit lawmakers and make known their views against all three bills.

Other controversial bills on the agenda would:

  • House Bill 160: Delay Louisiana’s new teacher evaluations.
  • House Bill 267: Force changes in a new plan that will split Louisiana’s high school playoff system between public and private schools.

Louisiana Association of Educators President Joyce Haynes said Monday she is unsure how many teachers would attend Monday’s gathering. But the group, which unsuccessfully opposed similar bills last year, hopes to have more success blocking what Louisiana Association of Educators officials call an “anti-teacher, anti-public school agenda” pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“Gov. Jindal is playing politics on the backs of students and teachers in an attempt to pressure lawmakers to conform to his radical political agenda,” Haynes said.

The changes included in all three proposals — House bills 478, 596 and 644 — are embodied in a 2012 state law.

However, that measure was struck down March 4 by 19th Judicial District Court Judge R. Michael Caldwell, of Baton Rouge.

The judge said the legislation illegally included too many topics.

Attorneys for the state are appealing Caldwell’s ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

No ruling is expected before the Legislature adjourns on June 4. Backers say all three bills targeted by the Louisiana Association of Educators are aimed at improving public schools and to bolster student achievement by increasing the quality of public school teachers. LAE officials call the bills punitive, aimed at intimidating teachers and liable to give too much authority to superintendents.