Last Modified: Wednesday, March 06, 2013 6:13 PM
Monday’s ruling by a state judge that last year’s law revamping tenure for Louisiana public school teachers fails the constitutionality test is another blow for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
Judge R. Michael Caldwell of the 19th Judicial District Court said the law violated the state Constitution because it included multiple subjects in a single bill. Caldwell said the tenure reform and evaluation package, known as Act 1, was unconstitutional in ‘‘its entirety.’’
Caldwell’s ruling brought expected reaction. Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said ‘‘it was a day to smile.’’ The governor blamed teacher unions like the LFT and other ‘‘forces of the status quo.’’
If you are scoring this at home, public school teachers won this opening round on a technicality. But it’s certainly not over with Jindal promising to appeal Caldwell’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Teachers began chafing at the new tenure law prior to its final passage. They argued that a provision that new teachers had to earn the evaluation of ‘‘highly effective’’ five out of six years to gain tenure virtually abolished that status.
The law also provided that teachers who are rated as ‘‘ineffective’’ could face dismissal hearings. Another rule linked half of a teacher’s annual review to the growth of their students’ performance on standardized tests. The other half was based on classroom observations by principals and others.
This tenure reform has always been problematic, not on its merits because Louisiana’s prior tenure law was terribly weak, making it difficult, if nearly impossible, to dismiss poor teachers. But the evaluation aspect of the tenure law swung the pendulum too far the other way.
State Superintendent of Education John White predicted that only 10 percent of public school teachers evaluated under the value-added model rating system would earn the ‘‘highly effective’’ ranking. Earlier this year, White bowed to criticism of the VAM system and recommended that teachers rated in the 80th percentile statewide be accorded the highly effective ranking.
We believe that any rating system that pre-supposes results, and in this case rankings, is unjust.
So while this battle plays out in the court system, there’s an opportunity for Jindal, White and state lawmakers to revisit the tenure law and polish it.
The vast majority of teachers in the state are good, solid educators. They don’t fear evaluations. What rankles them are unfair evaluations.
Absent a favorable Supreme Court ruling, the Jindal administration will have to return to the drawing board. This time, hopefully, teachers’ concerns will be considered, state lawmakers and members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will do their job, ask tough questions about the proposal and amend those portions they deem unfair.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.