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Week 4 at the Legislature

WEEK 4

The legislative session is in full swing, and the committees are considering important legislation that will impact educators and their families all over the state. One of the most enlightening discussions came on Wednesday during the consideration of House Bill 363.

HB 363 (Bryant): Teacher voice in SLTs

This legislation merely seeks to cement existing BESE policy into law. Unfortunately, the policy often isn’t followed in schools. Under BESE policy, SLTs are supposed to be drafted by teachers at the beginning of each school year, based on the unique needs of their students. A teacher and their supervisor are required to meet and work collaboratively to develop the SLTs and agree on the best targets for each student. If a teacher’s class “changes significantly,” the teacher and their evaluator are supposed to update their SLTs.

Unfortunately, in many districts there is little-to-no discussion. Districts hand down directives to the schools about what test scores they must achieve. Then principals pass down those directives to their teachers, about what test scores their students must achieve. This doesn’t happen everywhere, but it does happen too often, and it deprives our students of the individualized attention they are supposed to get from their educators. HB 363 simply says that if SLTs aren’t “developed collaboratively” with the teacher, those SLT scores shall not be used in the teacher’s evaluation.

HB 363 is supported by both teachers' unions and the Louisiana Association of Principals – all the stakeholders involved in this process in the schools. However, it faced significant pushback from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Pelican Institute. Representatives from these organizations insisted that the principal should have ultimate authority over the teacher and they shouldn’t be forced to “work collaboratively.”

What became clear in the discussion is that special interest groups and some of their legislators simply do not respect the expertise and professionalism of Louisiana’s teachers. Teachers are not concerned about the hierarchical nature of SLTs because they want to weasel out of an evaluation. SLTs are supposed to be about each individual student's progress, and helping each student grow according to their individual needs. By excluding the teacher from the conversation, you are ensuring that the unique needs and abilities of their students are excluded as well. One-size fits all metrics do not benefit students or teachers.

In the end, HB 363 was deferred until next week so that Rep. Bryant can work with special interest groups and educational stakeholders to change some of the language.

Please take a moment to write to the House Education Committee and ask them to support HB 363 when it comes before their committee again.

CLICK HERE TO SEND THEM AN EMAIL.

Thank you to Rep. Jefferson, Rep. Phelps, and Rep. Hilferty who spoke up for teachers during the discussion on Wednesday. Rep. Hilferty was integral in ensuring that HB 363 did not get voted down by the committee on Wednesday.

 

Voucher Programs

Before the disturbing conversation about teachers' professionalism, the committee also considered four bills that would expand Louisiana’s failing voucher program under a new model known as an “education savings account” (ESA). There was a lot of debate, with detractors pointing out how the current voucher system is failing and students in voucher programs consistently underperform compared to those in public schools. These ESAs would allow more students to transfer from their public school into a voucher school, 92% of which are “D” or “F” schools (percentage based on the schools that received an assessment score from the state).

Nevertheless, each of the four voucher school bills passed through the committee. Only Rep. Brass, Rep. Phelps, Rep. Jackson, and Rep. Freeman opposed the measures.

Voted AGAINST Expanding Vouchers Voted FOR Expanding Vouchers
Vice Chairman Jefferson Chairman Harris
Rep. Brass Rep. Amedée
Rep. Freeman Rep. Frieberg
Rep. Phelps Rep. Hilferty
  Rep. Owen
  Rep. Schlegel
  Rep. St. Blanc
  Rep. Tarver

Next, these voucher school bills will proceed to the House floor. Click here to email your legislators asking them to oppose any bill that would expand Louisiana’s failing voucher program.

There were a few bright spots from the week for Louisiana’s school bus drivers:

The House Education Committee approved HB 349 by Rep. Bryant, which would increase the time that bus drivers have to appeal an interim disciplinary action from 10 days to 20 days.

The Senate Education Committee approved HB 57 by Sen. McMath which would increase compensation for school bus owner-operators for the first time since 1986.