May 3rd, 4th and 5th were probably the most frustrating, disappointing and exciting days that I’ve spent in the legislature. Tuesday, May 3rd, the House Education Committee heard a bill submitted by committee chairperson, Nancy Landry. This bill would allow a school district to reduce a teacher’s salary under certain circumstances. Landry submitted the bill at the request of Lafayette Parish School Board member, Justin Centanni. Lafayette parish, at one time, had an alternative charter school for older students that ran on a 12 month calendar. LPSB provided the teachers and increased their pay accordingly for the extra months worked. When the charter school closed, the teachers returned to the parish, and their pay was reduced. A couple of the teachers sued; and won.
I did not submit a card for, or against, this bill, but I want to go on the record that I agree with it. My teaching contract, which isn’t an actual contract, says that I get $xxxx for 182 days of work. If a teacher moves from a 9 month job to a 12 month job, they should understand there is a difference in pay, and the pay will be reduced if they are returned to a 9 month job. The committee supported this bill and passed it.
Now, move forward to the next day. The same committee heard a bill submitted by Rep. Dustin Miller which would require a school district to pay a teacher when they are made to work additional hours or days outside of the normal schedule. The committee voted against this bill and killed it in committee. The very same committee that said that a teacher shouldn’t continue to be paid the extra salary when their days are reduced, also said that the district shouldn’t have to pay a teacher for extra days. Think about what just happened. You have to be either for both of these bills, or against both of these bills. You can’t be for one and not the other, or vice versa. What this committee communicated with these actions is that the security, the morale and the dignity of a professional educator is unimportant.
Thursday, May 5th, was the exciting day. We moved over to the Senate Education committee where SB342 by Sen. Gerald Boudreaux was heard. This bill addressed much needed changes to teacher evaluations. This was also the opportunity for me to present the 1200+ signatures that we gathered urging the committee to make these changes. The most significant outcome of this bill is that while the quantitative portion of an evaluation will remain at 50%, the VAM portion of it is reduced to 35%. The other 15% is to be decided upon by BESE; however, it should not be the results of another test, and should be any number of available measures of student growth. We will need to stay on top of this.
It is also important to note that the final bill was a result of several weeks of negotiations, and while everyone at the table agreed to it (including the reform groups), they do not “give” anything without “getting” something in return. We may never know what it was. Regardless, this change in evaluations is a definite step in the right direction toward restoring dignity to the teaching profession and towards saving the public education system. Watch my testimony, and the testimony of two other Calcasieu educators, in the video, below.