Editorial: School officials in a quandary over reform bill

A state judge’s ruling striking down the state’s new tenure and teacher evaluation laws has placed public school administrators

in limbo.

Nineteenth Judicial District Court R. Michael Caldwell ruled that the law violated Louisiana’s Constitution because it included

multiple subjects in the bill that were pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and approved by state lawmakers last year.

Caldwell agreed with the plaintiffs,

which included public school teachers and a teachers’ union, that the

public education

reform bill, known as Act 1, was unconstitutional in its entirety.

The bill contained new laws regarding teacher evaluation

and tenure.

The governor said after the ruling that his administration plans to appeal Caldwell’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

That, though, could take months. Judge Tim Kelley, also a member of the 19th Judicial District bench, ruled on Nov. 30 that

another piece of the public education reform package approved last year allowing state education dollars to fund vouchers

to students in struggling public schools to attend private school was unconstitutional.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments in that case Tuesday. A ruling is expected within 30 days.

Caldwell’s decision, while welcomed by most teachers, leaves school officials in a quandary.

Among the issues:

• How should public school teachers be evaluated and which requirements for attaining tenure be applied?

Which standards should be used to evaluate teachers?

Should performance goals for school superintendents be maintained?

What pay schedule for teachers, both returning and new ones, should be applied?

‘‘It really puts school board policies that were recently revised due to the new laws in a total state of disarray,’’ said

Louisiana School Boards Association Executive Director Scott Richard.

Richard believes that unless the Supreme Court overturns Caldwell’s ruling, school systems will revert to the old tenure law

which provides that teachers attain tenure after three years if they meet certain standards.

There’s also the specter that if defeated by the court system, the governor could rewrite the legislation in time for this

year’s regular session so that it could pass muster.

That could generate an interesting

sideshow. While the governor’s education package passed overwhelmingly

last year, there’s

been enough concerns raised by teachers over the unfairness of the

evaluation system that it could face much stiffer resistance

from state lawmakers this year.

This could all become quite interesting before it’s all said and done.

• • •

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.