Pay Raise Finalized in the Budget Bill
On Thursday evening, the Senate finalized amendments to HB 1, the State Budget. This new version of the budget included the additional $357 million that had been recognized by the REC earlier this month. Despite an agreement with Senate leadership, the Senate Finance Committee did not put any of this additional funding towards teacher and school employee raises. Pressure from leadership continued on the Senate floor and despite thousands of calls and emails from Louisiana teachers and school employees, they kept the raise at the same level: $800 for teachers/certified employees and $400 for support personnel.
We are incredibly disappointed in members of the legislature that reneged on their commitments to match the raise seen in 2019 ($1000/$500), but this raise is double what was originally proposed by the Governor in February. LFT remains committed to fighting for raises that will help Louisiana match or exceed the Southern Regional Average for teacher and school employee pay.
While it is anticipated that this will be the final amount of the raise, we do still need to ensure that SCR 2, which carries the MFP, passes through the legislature. Without successful passage of this legislation, teachers and school employees may not see any raise this year. SCR 2 is schedule for consideration by the House Education Committee on Wednesday, and then it will come up for a vote of the entire House.
Uninterrupted Planning Time for All Teachers
On Tuesday, May 25th, Senate Bill 128 by Senator Jackson was approved by the full Senate. This legislation would guarantee all public-school teachers 45-minutes of unencumbered planning time each day.
While some districts do offer their teachers a planning period, it’s often interrupted with meetings or being pulled into another class. This year, more than most, teachers have lost out on valuable planning time. Not only is this necessary for lesson planning, printing materials and planning for the day, it is often the only time that teachers have to use the bathroom, drink water or eat during the entire school day.
Originally, this legislation did also call for a mandatory duty-free lunch, in addition to the planning period, but because of concerns surrounding cost and scheduling it was amended to exclude the lunch period. There is a separate study resolution that seeks to look at the feasibility of creating duty free lunch for all teachers and staff in future legislative sessions.
SB 128 clearly states that the school day cannot be extended to accommodate this planning time, and students shall not see a decrease in instructional time. This legislation is scheduled for consideration by the House Education Committee on Wednesday, and if successful, will come up for a vote of the entire House after that.
Changes to the House Education Committee
The House Education Committee has been riddled with controversy after Chairman Garofalo received national attention for his comments about “the good of slavery” when defending his legislation, House Bill 564. After ongoing tension with Speaker Schexnayder, the Black Caucus, and the members of his committee, on Wednesday evening Representative Garofalo was formally removed as Chairman of the House Education Committee. Vice-Chair, Representative Wright will temporarily chair the committee through the end of the session.
What to watch:
Because the Senate session ran so long on Thursday evening, committee meetings were rescheduled for next week. The Senate Education Committee is expected to consider the following issues on Tuesday afternoon:
Discipline & Classroom Management
House Bill 411 by Representative Hughes seeks to revamp school discipline procedures. While we can all support sensible, transparent and progressive discipline practices, we need to ensure that students have a safe space to learn and educators have the respect and support they need to be effective.
Thankfully, Representative Hughes did amend the bill to address many of our concerns, and we are grateful that he has taken the concerns of educators into consideration. However, we do still have one major concern regarding this legislation: As in prior sessions, there is a provision of a bill that would take away the parent-conference requirement for students who have been removed from a class three times. This means that students can continue to be put back in the same classroom without any involvement from their parent or guardians. LFT has consistently opposed this change over the years.
Teacher cannot be expected to do everything at once. In order to effectively educate our students, they need the ability to maintain an orderly classroom and sometimes that means removing a persistently disruptive student until they are able to work with parents and admin to develop a plan of action to address that student's unique needs.
Collective Power & Worker Rights
House Bill 256 by Representative Tarver would allow predatory organizations to recruit members and extract dues from school personnel, even when there is a union with collective bargaining & exclusivity. This means that the alternate and potentially exploitative organizations could make promises to “represent” and “advocate” for members but wouldn’t actually be able to make good on those promises – leaving unsuspecting teachers and support staff left in the lurch.
This legislation is designed to undermine the collective voice of Louisiana’s teachers and school employees by fracturing and dividing our representational power. It would undercut the collective voice of teachers and school employees and override local control. Ultimately leaving teachers with less ability to advocate for themselves both in their own school districts and throughout the Louisiana legislature.
Raises for School Bus Owner Operators
House Bill 364 by Rep. White seeks to increase the per mile compensation for rate for school bus owner-operators. Bus owner-operators have not seen an increase in their operational pay formula in over three decades and are often forced to come out of their own pocket to keep busses safe and operational for our students.