HB 510: Ending the Onslaught of Trainings
Each year, the legislature adds additional work and trainings that our teachers are expected to take on, often without compensation. HB 510 by Rep. Mincey would end the pattern of ever-expanding trainings for educators. If the legislature wants to add a new required training for teachers, they have to provide compensation OR remove an existing training (one which requires at least the same amount of time as the new requirement). HB 510 still has to make it through the rest of the legislature, but this is an important step!
If and when important issues come up, the legislature will still be able to require additional trainings for teachers, but with this legislation it wouldn’t be solely up to the district to “make it work.” The legislature would have to figure out how to fund the training (including compensation for the teachers) or they’ll decide which outdated training is no longer necessary.
House Bill 510 was approved by the House Education Committee on Wednesday. Next, it will go to the House Floor, before proceeding to the Senate. Thank you, Representative Buddy Mincey, for recognizing the ever-expanding responsibilities our teachers are dealing with and helping to ease their burden moving forward.
HB 363: Teacher Voice in SLTs
On Tuesday, April 12th, the House Education Committee approved HB 363 by Rep. Bryant with amendments. This bill would make it so a supervisor (usually the school principal or assistant principal) would have to sit down with each teacher and discuss their SLTs. If they don't have this meeting, then SLTs can't be used in that teacher's evaluation.
Unfortunately, the language that mandated that teachers and administrators develop the SLTs "collaboratively" was removed because representatives from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and the Pelican Institute objected to that requirement. In some districts there isn't even a conversation about SLTs, so this is a step in the right direction. No longer could districts or principals just hand down SLTs without considering the needs of individual students or the input of teachers. Even with these amendments, this bill has a long road to go before it can become law. Next, it will proceed to the House floor for a vote from the full House of Representatives and then to the Senate.
HB 98: Amended
On Wednesday, April 13th, the full House approved House Bill 98 by Representative Tanner Magee. Originally, LFT had serious concerns about this bill because it would have reduced accountability and transparency for voucher schools, but this concern has been resolved. Thanks to amendments from Rep. Mincey on the House floor, this legislation will now only pertain to districts recovering from a natural disaster, and it will expire. Now, the legislation serves the narrow purpose of helping in districts that are recovering from Hurricane Ida. Thank you to Rep. Mincey and Rep. Magee for coming together to make this important change.
HB 986: Privatizing Food Services in Schools
House Bill 986 by Representative Edmonds seeks to open the door to privatize school nutrition programs in Louisiana’s public schools. Despite Edmond’s testimony before the House Education Committee that his bill pertained to “snacks and the evening meal,” the legislation would in fact open the door to private, for-profit vendors to take over the management of school food programs. These private corporations would be able to reduce salary and benefits for employees, as compared to the food service workers employed by the school district. Their staff may not be required to fulfill the same background checks as public-school employees, and they would have a financial incentive to cut corners wherever possible, in order to increase their profit margins.
While local school districts would not be required to privatize their food services, these vendors will promise to cut costs and save the district money. In reality, these corporations seek to profit off of the public funding, which has been specifically designated to feeding Louisiana’s children.
The owner of Focus Foods testified alongside Rep. Edmonds in support of HB 986. They are one of the for-profit companies that seeks to manage food services for public schools. Online, there are troubling reviews of Focus Foods with customers claiming that the food they received was moldy and inedible. Ultimately, we do not know which companies would seek to take over food services in our schools, what would happen to the cafeteria workers in those districts, what kind of food they would serve our children, or how much they may be able to profit.
SB 145: Eliminates Local Input in the Creation of Corporate Charter Schools
Senate Bill 145 by Senator Talbot was passed by the Senate Education Committee without objection on Thursday. Under this bill, a “charter school with a corporate partner” wouldn’t need to submit a proposal to their local school board. Instead, their proposal could go straight to BESE, eliminating the input of school boards and their constituents in the local community.
Under current law, if a corporate charter school applies to the local school board and their proposal is denied, they can appeal the decision to BESE. Charter schools already have the ability to go to the state board, but only after getting input from the local community. As Senator Jackson pointed out in the discussion on the bill, there are only three of these corporate charter schools in the state, which haven’t existed for long, so there is very limited data about their performance. Opening up this process so widely, without any data on the performance of these types of schools is premature at best.
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry asked Sen. Talbot to bring this legislation, which was supported by other law firms and business community organizations, but opposed by public school advocates.
SB 151: Preserving Local Control of ITEP
Senate Bill 151 by Sen. Pope is a proposed constitutional amendment that would preserve local governments’ control over their own Industrial Tax Exemptions. In 2016, Governor Edwards gave local taxing bodies the authority to decide whether to grant exemptions on property taxes in their parishes. Prior to this executive order, these decisions about whether or not to grant corporations exemptions from local property taxes were made by an unelected board in Baton Rouge. Without this proposed constitutional amendment, another governor could undo Edward’s action and revert the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) to its previous form, eliminating local control over local tax exemptions.
LABI has claimed that local control has had a chilling effect on industrial investment, but in truth, capital investments have increased. According to data from Louisiana Economic Development (LED), there has been a 47% increase in the value of capital investments approved for ITEP exemptions, driven by an increase in number and investment dollars in start-up projects.
When an unelected body in Baton Rouge can determine whether or not a corporation has to pay taxes to your local school board or your local sheriff’s office, they don’t have to live with the ramifications of that decision, because they don’t live in that local community. This power should remain in the hands of local taxing authorities and the communities who elect them.
SB 151 is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate on Monday, April 18th. Click here to ask your Senator to support this important legislation!
HB 819: Extending Maternal Health Leave to All Employees
House Bill 819 by Rep. Cox would give extended maternal and infant health leave, that is currently available to teachers, to all school system employees. This bill is scheduled to come before the House Education Committee on Tuesday, April 19th.