Is Louisiana's System for Teacher Evaluations Accurate?
There are many components that go into being a truly effective teacher. In Louisiana, policy dictates that two observations and an assessment score should narrowly judge the entirety of a teacher's work; every component and nuance of teaching for multiple students. Once a score is issued, there is almost no opportunity for teachers to redress any inaccuracies or inconsistencies in their evaluation.
This month, the Governor announced his Executive Budget. Each year the Governor releases his proposed budget, based on the revenue recognized by the state Revenue Estimating Conference, and it is largely considered to be the starting point for the state budget process.
In this year’s budget, the Governor proposed a $1,500 raise for teachers and $750 for school employees. He also said that if the REC recognizes additional revenue at their meeting in May, $49 million should go towards funding an additional $500 pay increase for teachers.
This raise would be the largest state-wide pay raise that Louisiana teachers have received in over a decade, and there are already members of the legislature questioning whether or not such an amount is feasible. But the truth is, this isn’t enough. Our schools have gone through cataclysmic changes in the last couple years. Educators feel like they’re working more than ever. Teacher retirement has gone up 25% from 2020-2021 and enrollment in teaching programs is at an all-time low. In order to get out of this hole we’re in, Louisiana needs to do more than just a few hundred dollars better than what was done last year, we need policy makers to recognize the extraordinary sacrifice of our teachers and school employees and rise to this extraordinary moment in history.
Louisiana is nearly $5,000 below the Southern Regional Average, and given teacher raises that are being proposed in other states, that number is only going up. Teachers deserve at least a $2,500 increase this year and next year, along with guaranteed cola increases in perpetuity, so that we don’t fall back into this hole again.
BACK TO SCHOOL
It’s hard to believe that summer is already ending. Many districts had expanded summer school options for students who struggled through the pandemic-year. This left many educators with even less time to recuperate from an especially exhausting year. But as always, the prospect of a new school year brings excitement and opportunity.
LFT staff are preparing to greet new and returning educators at orientations and back to school events all over the state. If you are already a member of the Federation, make sure to check in with your Local representatives at these events so that you can get all the most up-to-date information about your membership and back-to-school goodies. If you aren’t already a member of the Federation, you’re missing out. Make sure to look for us at your orientation to learn more about all that membership has to offer!
The legislative session ended on Thursday, June 10th at 6 P.M. after almost nine weeks of fast-paced and often contentious debate. LFT has tracked hundreds of bills throughout the session and sent our members and affiliate leaders regular updates with the most important information.
Now that the session has ended and the dust has settled, here are the main bills that impact teachers, school employees and students. Like at the end of every session, there is cause for both celebration and dread. We end this session knowing there is more that must be done to help teachers, school employees and students, and through our collective power we will continue to work towards those goals. Here’s what you need to know:
LFT has proposed multiple bills this session that seek to protect teachers from having SLTs used in their evaluations this year. These SLTs were not designed for such an unprecedented and incredibly difficult year where schools closed without notice and students bounced between in-person and virtual instruction. Unlike in other states, teachers showed up again and again for our students and developed novel, innovative ways to help students throughout the pandemic. That's why thousands of teachers sent letters to the Senate Education Committee this session asking them to ensure that measures of student growth -- which were not designed for virtual learning or pandemic teaching -- could not be used to adversely affect teacher evaluations.
Threat to Collective Power Passes Senate Education Committee
There are six school districts in Louisiana where the district and the employees have entered into a collective bargaining agreement. House Bill 256 by Rep. Tarver seeks to undermine that relationship and allow potentially exploitative organizations to extract payroll deductions from employees. These organizations could make promises to "represent" and "advocate" for members but wouldn't actually be able to make good on those promises – leaving unsuspecting teachers and support staff left in the lurch.
Uninterrupted Planning Time PASSES House Education Committee
On Wednesday, June 2nd, Senate Bill 128 by Senator Jackson passed the House Education Committee. This bill would mandate that all teachers receive 45-minutes of uninterrupted planning time each day. Planning time could only be used for planning, specific training, or evaluations, and schools couldn't pull teachers to cover classes or attend additional meetings during this time. If passed, this wouldn't go into effect until July 1st, 2022, to give districts time to make the necessary changes to ensure that teachers get their guaranteed planning time. SB 128 is expected to come before the full House for a vote next week.
On Thursday evening, the Senate finalized amendments to HB 1, the State Budget. This new version of the budget included the additional $357 million that had been recognized by the REC earlier this month. Despite an agreement with Senate leadership, the Senate Finance Committee did not put any of this additional funding towards teacher and school employee raises. Pressure from leadership continued on the Senate floor and despite thousands of calls and emails from Louisiana teachers and school employees, they kept the raise at the same level: $800 for teachers/certified employees and $400 for support personnel.
Uninterrupted Planning Time for All Teachers
On Tuesday, May 25th, Senate Bill 128 by Senator Jackson was approved by the full Senate. This legislation would guarantee all public-school teachers 45-minutes of unencumbered planning time each day.
While some districts do offer their teachers a planning period, it’s often interrupted with meetings or being pulled into another class. This year, more than most, teachers have lost out on valuable planning time. Not only is this necessary for lesson planning, printing materials and planning for the day, it is often the only time that teachers have to use the bathroom, drink water or eat during the entire