BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Baton Rouge district court judge said he'll announce his decision Tuesday on whether Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws was passed in violation of the state constitution.
"I have gone back and forth on this case," Judge Michael Caldwell told attorneys Monday after hearing arguments. "And I still have not decided where I am on it."
The bill pushed by Jindal and passed by lawmakers earlier this year made changes to the powers of school boards, teacher hiring and firing rules, teacher pay scales, the duties of principals and the job protection status known as teacher tenure.
A statewide teachers union, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, filed a lawsuit claiming that too many objectives and statutory changes were crammed into one bill, to rush the legislation to final passage without adequate debate.
LFT lawyer Larry Samuel said the bill violated a constitutional provision designed to give lawmakers the ability to properly comb through proposals and weigh their impact. He said the bill, which became Act 1, amended nine statutes, enacted two new statutes and repealed two dozen provisions in law.
"These are such major ticket items they should have been stand-alone items," Samuel said. "This was a way calculated to railroad it through."
Attorney Jimmy Faircloth, representing the Jindal administration and the state, said all parts of the bill were related to teacher employment, including job protections, pay-for-performance plans and evaluation methods.
"The single object rule has not been offended in this instance," Faircloth said.
The reworking of teacher employment laws was part of Jindal's signature education overhaul for his second term.
In marathon committee hearings and floor debate, the Republican governor and his allies fast-tracked legislation that created a statewide voucher program, expanded online course offerings for public school students and made it easier to create charter schools.
Teacher unions and local school boards claimed the education package was an attack on traditional public schools, while Jindal said it would improve education in a system where too many schools were failing students.
Financing for the voucher program and online course offerings has been deemed unconstitutional by another district court judge, a ruling that is being appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Act 1 makes it harder for teachers to reach tenure and scraps the statewide salary schedules for teachers. Decisions about pay raises were shifted to individual principals and school leaders. Seniority can no longer be a primary factor in layoffs.
The bill also lessened local school board authority, strengthening the hand of superintendents and principals in issues of hiring and firing and giving the state education superintendent more review of local school board contracts with their own district leaders.
Samuel said the inclusion of all those items into one piece of legislation was as inappropriate as a lawmaker trying to make changes to statutes involving home improvement fraud, battery of a policy officer and theft of copper and putting it under the title of "public safety" to claim they are all connected.
Faircloth said that during debate on the bill no lawmaker proposed stripping individual items out of the measure because of complaints it was improper to include too many statutory changes.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.