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Teacher tenure law under renewed fire

Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 10:52 AM

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The president of a teachers' union says his group will again ask a district judge to toss out a state law that makes it harder for public school teachers to earn and retain tenure.

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, tells The Advocate the group's original lawsuit will be changed to include three new complaints aimed at derailing the measure.

Doing so, Monaghan said, will also trim chances for an avalanche of lawsuits in individual school districts.

"No one wants to see contentious lawsuits all over the state of Louisiana," he said.

The law, known as Act 1, was struck down March 4 by state District Judge R. Michael Caldwell in Baton Rouge.

Caldwell ruled that the measure was unconstitutional because it illegally included multiple subjects in a single bill.

But the state Supreme Court on May 31 vacated Caldwell's decision and returned the lawsuit to his court for more arguments.

The court essentially said that there was insufficient evidence to strike down the tenure law on the grounds that it included too many subjects.

When arguments will resume is unclear.

Talks on setting up a hearing schedule are set for late September.

Tenure is a form of job protection.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and other backers of the 2012 law contend that tougher tenure rules will improve teacher quality and student achievement.

Monaghan said the measure, which his group opposed, was rushed through the Legislature, poorly drafted and included little public input.

He said the amended the lawsuit will argue that:

• The law unfairly allows district superintendents to fire tenured teachers before any hearing is held, a violation of due process.

The post-termination hearing panel is weighted against teachers.

The same panel is merely advisory and "makes a mockery of an already poisoned process," the LFT said in a prepared statement.

"The other thing that is happening is people are making decisions to resign rather than go through a process like this," Monaghan said.

The same law under fire requires performance objectives for local superintendents, redefines the role of local school boards, bans the exclusive use of seniority in layoff decisions and allows local officials to revamp salary schedules.

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