The 2022 Legislative Session began Monday, March 14th at noon. LFT is already monitoring hundreds of bills this session, and legislation will continue to be filed until April 5th. Things can change quickly with little notice, whether it’s the agenda of a committee meeting or an amendment to a bill. Please follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our updates and follow along at la.aft.org/legislation so that you can stay up to date with everything happening at the Capitol.
Here are a few of the most important bills we are tracking this year:
Teacher Rights (SB 24, HB 363, HB 510)
HB 510 (Mincey) would make it so that any further time spent in teacher trainings be compensated by the district. A district would be able to replace one training with another, but if an employee has to spend any additional time in trainings, that time shall be compensated.
SB 356 (Jackson) would provide for mental health awareness training and care for public school teachers and employees. For too long teacher’s mental health and wellbeing has been overlooked, and this legislation is an important step in towards finally offering our educators the care and compassion they deserve.
School Employee & Bus Driver Rights (HB 215, SB 75, HB 349, HB 819)
Protecting Public Education (SB 299, HB 451, HB 509, HB 617)
SB 299 (Barrow) would prohibit BESE and local school boards from authorizing a new charter or renewing an existing charter until the legislative auditor has conducted a performance audit and has determined that each school is in compliance with present law and performing as well as or better than other schools in the local public school system. Would apply to charters authorized or reauthorized after July 1, 2022.
HB 509 (Mincey) would require the LDOE to maintain a database on training that professional teachers are required by law to complete and to report that information to the legislative education committees. This would help ensure that teachers trained in alternative certification programs get all the necessary training that they need to be successful teachers.
Retiree Benefits (SB 6 & HB 29)
HB 29 (Nelson) would increase the percent of the surplus that the state must pay towards retirement system’s unfunded accrued liability, which is the debt that the state owes the retirement system, from 10% to 50%.
Pay Raise (HCR 23)
In May, the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) will meet to reexamine the state’s revenue analysis. It is widely anticipated, that the REC will recognize additional state revenue at that time. This means, that the legislature will have additional funding to use in the budget that they are working on this legislative session.
Both the Governor and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have stated that they want to use at least $50 million from that extra revenue to boost pay raises for teachers and support employees. That could increase the proposed raise from $1,500 to $2,000 for teachers and $750 to $1,000 for support staff. LFT has long advocated for an even larger increase and will push for at least $2,500 for teachers and $1,250 for support staff.
For the proposed pay raise to increase, the legislature would have to send the MFP back to BESE, so that they can amend it. Then, the new proposal would be incorporated into HCR 23, and it would need to pass through both the House and the Senate and be funded in the budget. Some legislators have already pushed back against efforts to increase educator pay, particularly for school support staff. We must continue to remind legislators how important it is to give teachers and support staff a pay raise this year. Our staffing shortages have reached a critical level and the legislature must take action to recruit and retain educators.
School Vouchers (SB 25, HB 33, HB 194, SB 203, HB 227, HB 838)
One of the biggest themes we’re seeing in proposed legislation this year is the resurgence of school voucher programs. These voucher programs, retooled into “Education Savings Accounts” (ESAs), divide up the resources dedicated to public education in order to fund unvetted, and sometimes for-profit, corporations.
Historically, Louisiana’s school voucher program has failed students. According to a joint investigation by WVUE-TV, NOLA.com, WWNO, Fox 8 and Reveal, two-thirds of all students in the voucher system attended schools where they performed at a “D” or “F” level and not a single school in the voucher program received an A or B.
This year, there are at least five bills that would expand school voucher programs using the “education savings account” model. These bills have slight differences in how expansive the new voucher program would be, with HB 838 being the most extreme.
HB 33 (DeVillier) & HB 838 (Garofalo) creates a new voucher program (ESA) to fund education expenses for students in K-12. These bill would be the most broadly applicable version of the new voucher model.
HB 227 (Wright) & HB 194 (Butler) creates a new voucher program (ESA) to fund education expenses for students with exceptionalities (i.e. mental disability, hearing loss or deafness loss, multiple disabilities, deaf-blindness, speech or language impairment, visual impairment (including blindness), emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, traumatic brain injury, autism, or developmental delay).
Ultimately, these bills aims to take public money, usually an amount equivalent to the per-pupil amount funded in the state MFP, and direct it to alternative “education” programs. The only difference between a traditional voucher and an ESA is that instead of the money going directly from the state to the alternative school, ESA money would go to the family and then to the alternative school or program, with even more wiggle room given to the family. This creates more opportunity for fraud and abuse than traditional voucher programs.
Currently, ESAs exist in only six other states, but there have been countless examples of this funding being miss-used. In Arizona, “parents fraudulently spent $700,000 on banned items and services” such as cosmetics and clothes in 2018 alone. Reports show that some parents miss-use of these state funds funds included purchasing a big screen TV and an abortion. In Oklahoma, reports show that ESA checks have been intercepted in the mail and stolen. Ultimately, none of the existing ESA programs, nor any of the legislation proposed in Louisiana, has sufficient safeguards in place to prevent this type of abuse and fraud.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program has only hurt Louisiana’s students. Our state-wide ranking in education has plummeted from #32 to now, #48, and the majority of students currently attending a voucher school are underperforming when compared to students in public schools. These Education Savings Accounts would only expand a failed program, and open the door for fraud and abuse.
Attacks on Educators (HB 75, HB 356, HB 453, HB 747, HB 837)
Another major theme we’re seeing in proposed legislation this year is a series of bills that attack the professionalism and autonomy of Louisiana’s teachers. Schools are experiencing massive staffing shortages. Too many students don’t have a qualified teacher in their classroom on a daily basis. Now is the time when legislators should be doing everything in their power to lift up the teaching profession in order to recruit and retain our dedicated educators. Instead, we’re seeing bills that would pile on extra work or limit a teacher’s ability to teach.
Louisiana already had some of the most extensive transparency regarding parental involvement in curriculum, instructional materials and student learning. These bills, many of which are copied verbatim from legislation in other states, are out of touch with the realities of Louisiana.
Too many teachers already feel like they are used as scapegoats and blamed for things outside of their control. This type of legislation further vilifies teachers, and attempts to pit teachers against their own communities. In reality, a teachers and parents need to work together to meet the needs of students and legislators should be thinking of ways to support that critical collaboration, not create deeper divisions.
HB 75 & 453 (Harris) and HB 356 (Amedee) would require teachers and local school districts to post extensive information about all activities and instructional materials used in each class prior to the beginning of the school year. This includes all lectures, assemblies, syllabi, outlines, handouts, textbooks, or presentations. Not only would create a massive amount of unpaid, extra work for teachers, but it would also impede an educator’s ability to be adaptable and responsive to the unique needs of students in their class.
HB 747 (Garofalo) is a more extreme version of the bill that caused his removal as Chair of the Education Committee last year. Similar to HB 75, this legislation would create additional work for school administrators and has already created confusion among teachers. It attempts to further erode teacher autonomy in classrooms by restricting what educators can say about certain “divisive” topics. Unlike other states, Louisiana already has extensive opportunities for parents and community members to review textbooks and instructional materials before they ever get into a classroom. This legislation, which is copied directly from other states, is out of touch with the needs of Louisiana schools.
Legislators on both sides of the isle are trying to score political points and teachers and students are caught in the middle. These bills are a solution in search of a problem, when our schools already have enough problems, many of which were caused by short-sighted legislation brought by non-educators in the past.
Diminishing Public Education (HB 98, SB 145)
HB 98 (Magee) would make it easier to cover up failing voucher schools. Currently, a voucher school doesn’t get a performance score if there are so few students that the school score could reveal an individual student score. HB 98 would prohibit the assignment of a performance score to a school unless at least 25% of the students in tested grades are voucher recipients.
This is especially damaging when viewed in tandem with bills aimed at creating new voucher programs because many parents wouldn’t know whether or not the voucher school option is actually a better school that the traditional public school.
SB 145 (Talbot) would have corporate charter schools bypass local school districts and submit their application directly to BESE as a Type 2 charter school. This would eliminate any input from the local community wherein the charter school would operate.
Attacking Employee Rights (HB 156, HB 176, HB 663)
HB 156 (Freiberg) is similar to a bill she proposed last year. It would allow the LDOE to charge teachers an additional fee for a criminal background check and fingerprint check each time the teacher seeks certification or renewal. It would also require all teachers certified prior to June 1, 2023 to pay the fee for these screenings as well. Teachers have always had to submit to criminal screenings in order to earn and maintain their teaching certification, but it isn’t right for the LDOE to charge teachers for additional screenings.
HB 176 (Frieman) would limit your ability to choose your own doctor. Current law states that if you are injured at work, you have the right to be treated by a doctor of your choice. School systems can recommend physicians, but ultimately you can choose your own doctor. HB 176 would take away your autonomy to choose your own doctor and would give your school system the power to approve or deny the doctor you see when you’ve been injured at work.
HB 663 (Frieman) would automatically cancel your membership in a labor organization each year. This would apply to teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public servants. If you don’t manually renew your membership each year, your benefits will be canceled and you will no longer have access to representation. Current law allows you to automatically rollover your membership until you decide to cancel it.