Last Modified: Wednesday, July 04, 2012 11:50 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana's Supreme Court says a teacher union was too quick to challenge a 2010 law allowing state education officials to exempt public schools from some state regulations.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed suit against the law in Baton Rouge.
The union won its first round when state Judge Mike Caldwell ruled the law unconstitutional.
But the Supreme Court reversed Caldwell.
Monday's opinion said the lawsuit was premature. It said the law permits the state to grant waivers, but does not require it — and since no waivers have yet been granted, the union cannot say it has been harmed.
Gov. Bobby Jindal backed the law as a way to reduce red tape. Teacher unions feared the waivers could be used to sidestep teacher salary and job protections.
"LFT has failed to demonstrate any real hardship requiring pre-enforcement review of the statute," the majority opinion by Justice Greg Guidry said. "It is not certain that a waiver will be requested or granted under the statute, and LFT will not be harmed by declining review of the statute at this point in time."
A requirement was added during the 2010 debate that any waiver application must receive the backing of a majority of teachers in a secret ballot at the school before it can be filed.
Superintendents also must get the backing of their local school boards to get a waiver.
The law also spelled out that waivers couldn't apply to student safety, accountability standards, graduation requirements and teacher evaluation procedures.
Justice Bernette Johnson was the lone dissenter on the seven-member court, agreeing with Caldwell that the judge unconstitutionally gives legislative power to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
"There is no action BESE can take in implementing the Act that changes the issue of whether this delegation of authority, on its face, is unconstitutional," Johnson wrote. "In my mind, the fact that no waiver has yet been granted does not deprive the dispute of sufficient immediacy and reality, so as to bar a declaratory judgment on the basis of lack of a justiciable controversy."
Jindal, in a brief emailed statement said he was pleased with the ruling.
LFT president Steve Monaghan said in an emailed statement that the union was disappointed but said there would be more legal action "when, in the words of the majority decision, a justifiable controversy arises." He also said the union would seek repeal of the law at the next legislative session.