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Editorial: School officials in a quandary over reform bill

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 6:01 PM

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.

Posted By: Holly Boffy On: 3/21/2013

Title: Act 54 from 2010

Act 54 from 2010 is the legislation that determined how public school educators are to be evaluated.

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