On the eve of a key hearing, leaders of five public school groups said Tuesday that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his allies plan to ram a trio of education bills through a House committee without any input from local school boards, superintendents and others.
“We want a seat at the table to make things better,” said Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.
“We don’t want to be adversarial,” Richard added.
Others who made similar pleas are leaders of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Louisiana Association of School Executives.
The Louisiana House Education Committee, with lots of teachers on hand, is set to meet at 9 a.m., and later in the day, to consider a series of public school overhaul bills similar to the provisions in a 2012 law that is under legal fire.
Backers contend the bills are needed in case the state Supreme Court strikes down last year’s statute.
Opponents said last year’s law is flawed and that it would be a mistake to pass a new series of measures without hearing from educators.
“We feel that we need to have some input,” said Michael Faulk, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and superintendent of the Central public school system.
Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said the rapid enactment of school bills last year resulted in a “miserable 12 months,” including lawsuits by his group and others challenging the two Jindal-backed education bills that won final approval.
“Let’s sit down and collaborate,” Monaghan said.
Asked to respond, Jindal said in a prepared statement that lawmakers filed the bills in case a court ruling “necessitated a fix.
“We’re confident in our case and that the court will rule that the bills passed last year were constitutionally passed,” the statement says.
Leaders of the groups declined to predict whether the three bills will win committee approval on Wednesday.
“It’s our hope that legislators will hear us this time,” Louisiana Association of Educators President Joyce Haynes said.
One of the proposals, House Bill 596, would trim the authority of local school boards and give new powers to superintendents and principals.
Another measure, House Bill 644, would allow local school districts to revamp salary schedules, in part to offer pay incentives for teachers in hard-to-fill classrooms.
In addition, House Bill 478 would ban the use of seniority as a key factor in any teacher layoff decisions.
Those and other provisions are part of a law enacted last year that was ruled unconstitutional by 19th Judicial District Court Judge R. Michael Caldwell.
That ruling is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The same committee meeting includes debates on three other bills that would trim the impact of last year’s laws, including one that would delay Louisiana’s new teacher evaluations.