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Week 5 in the Legislature

WEEK FIVE

PAY RAISES

This week, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held a Special Meeting to consider the MFP recommendation from the legislature, among other business. As you may remember, previously the legislature sent the MFP back to BESE to ask that they include more funding for teacher and school employee pay raises. At the meeting this week, BESE voted to amend their MFP proposal to match the recommendation from the Louisiana Legislature. BESE's MFP proposal now includes an $800 raise for certified personnel and $400 for classified employees, which matches the recommendation from the House and what currently exists in the state budget bill.

While still not large enough to make up for all that our educators have been through, this raise is significantly more than what was previously submitted by the Governor's office. Thank you to Senator Fields, Speaker Clay Schexnayder, President Cortez, Senator Bodi White, and Representative Zeringue for working to secure this additional education funding.

On Tuesday the Revenue Estimating Conference will meet to re-consider revenue projections for this year, and it is expected that there will be a surplus. LFT will continue to work to ensure that any additional revenue is used to fund teacher and school employee raises.

The state raise secured in the MFP is separate from a pay increase or stipend offered by a local district. If your school district is planning to offer employees a stipend, this raise would be on top of that additional money.

PLANNING TIME

Senate Bill 128 by Senator Katrina Jackson was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week. 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.

GETTING SLTs OUT OF 2020-21 EVALUATIONS

Last year, LFT was successful in passing legislation that would ensure VAM could not be used in teacher evaluations for this year. Now, we’re working with multiple legislators to enact a resolution that would extend that protection to include SLTs. Unfortunately, the previous legislative instruments that had been designed to accomplish this goal are no longer viable (SB 35 & SB 117). Thankfully, there are some legislators dedicated to protecting the rights of teachers who have risked their health to show up for our children during this incredibly difficult year. We expect to see the Resolutions on this issue offered next week in both the House and the Senate.

MANDATORY KINDERGARTEN APPROVED BY SENATE

On Wednesday, May 12th the Senate approved Senate Bill 10 by Senator Fields. This legislation would make kindergarten mandatory for all students (in-school or home school) and would fully fund the additional enrollment in the funding formula for Louisiana Public Schools. Now this legislation will proceed to the House. Considering LDOE’s proposed K-12 state standards and assessments, it is vital to make sure our children are prepared and have a chance to be successful in their formative years.


What to Watch:

In the next few weeks, we are carefully watching the following bills as they make their way through the legislature:

House Bill 256 by Rep. 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.

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. This bill has passed through the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate Education Committee.

Join us in asking the Senate to oppose HB 256: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/hb256?source=direct_link&

House Bill 211 by Rep. Wright is a “school choice” bill that would allow BESE to overrule local school districts enrollment decisions and pursue additional funding for non-public schools. Moreover, it would base decisions on the faulty school letter-grade system, which is widely known to misrepresent school capabilities. This bill has passed through the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate Education Committee.

Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Price would increase the minimum benefit for retirees to $1,450 per month. Unfortunately, this won’t increase everyone’s monthly benefit, but it will provide an increase for those who have fallen below the poverty line. Sen. Price has expressed his intent to continue to work to increase benefits for retirees in the future. This legislation has passed through the Senate Committees and is expected to be approved by the full Senate next week.

House Concurrent Resolution 7 by Rep. M. Johnson requests that Congress review and eliminate or reduce the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) Social Security benefit reductions. Unfortunately, the Louisiana legislature can only request that the Federal Government take up this issue – they do not have the power to eliminate the WEP or GPO. HCR 7 has passed through the House and will be considered by the Senate Finance Committee next week, but it is important to note that similar resolutions have passed through the Louisiana legislature in past sessions. LFT will continue to work with our national partners to push Congress to address this issue, which unfairly limits teachers’ retirement benefits.