LAE LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES– 2013
1. School Funding:
On March 8th, the LA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved the proposed spending formula for public schools. The proposed formula, referred to as the "MFP Resolution," will now head to the legislature for adoption. During the 2013 Regular Session, legislators will either accept or reject the resolution. If rejected, the resolution will be sent back to BESE. The LAE strongly objects to the approval of the MFP Resolution, which LAE's Director of Instructional Advocacy Wayne Free expressed at the March 8th meeting of the BESE board. Free pleaded with board members to delay approval due to the inevitable struggle local school districts stand to face in providing vital services to students. Free asked board members to allow a committee to thoroughly review the impact of the proposed provisions. The board ultimately voted 8-3 to approve the MFP Resolution. Lottie Beebe, Carolyn Hill, and Walter Lee voted against the resolution.
If the MFP is accepted by the legislature, this will be the fifth consecutive year its funds will be frozen. This inadequate funding level will continue to add increased costs to local school districts that are already struggling with numerous mandates demanded by the state and not funded by the MFP. Some of these unfunded mandates include huge increases in retirement contributions, burdensome in-service requirements, testing technology mandates, stipends for National Board Certification, and merit pay mandates based on the new value-added evaluation system. In its current form, the MFP Resolution also includes continued funding for non-public schools through a voucher scheme (Act 2), which was recently ruled unconstitutional in court, and includes a new "weighted" funding formula for special education, which could lead to their segregation and discrimination on the funding needs of students.
In addition to fighting to protect and increase public school funding through the MFP formula, the LAE plans to push for ways to broaden the tax base, close loopholes, and examine the widespread use of tax credits and exemptions that plague the state's level of revenue and the overall fairness of the tax system. In order for a wise and prudent investment in K-12 and higher public education to be sustainable, Louisiana policymakers must evaluate and reform the current tax structure.
2. Teacher Tenure:
During the 2012 Legislative Session, Representative Sam Jones proposed a reasonable change to the state's due process procedure through House Bill 879. The LAE actively supported this bill which would have streamlined the tenure review process and modified the teacher evaluation system. Unfortunately, Governor Jindal didn't allow HB 879 to have a fair hearing by the House. The LAE Lobby Team filed similar legislation this session; we hope that a more reasonable, rational compromise will prevail this time since in March of 2013, State District Judge R. Michael Caldwell threw out the new teacher tenure law that came out of the 2012 Legislative Session. After a second review of the title of the bill, Judge Caldwell announced that he reversed his December 2012 ruling which originally agreed with key parts of the law, admitting Act 1 did, in fact, violate the Louisiana Constitution. LAE leaders applaud Judge Caldwell for upholding the law, and we hope that this sets a precedent as we represent our tenure legislation this session.
There are numerous proposals on the table for the 2013 session that would change the benefit structure for active and future members of the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL). These proposals include increasing employee contribution rates, as well as the Final Average Compensation formula from three years to five years for all current and future TRSL members. Other proposals would totally eliminate return-to-work provisions for teachers. LAE will oppose any legislation that increases the contribution employees pay as their portion to TRSL or any legislation that reduces the benefit of current active members of the TRSL. In addition, there has also been legislation filed to suspend the new "Cash Balance Plan" enacted in the 2012 Legislative Session - a plan that was recently ruled unconstitutional in Baton Rouge District Court. TRSL benefits provide economic security for tens of thousands of retirees and support the economic output of Louisiana. Secured pensions from the TRSL defined-benefit plan help the state recruit quality teachers who educate future Louisiana workers; therefore, LAE will oppose any attempts to eliminate the current TRSL defined-benefit plan.