The changes wrought by the passage of Act 1 during the 2012 Legislative Session have proven controversial, for the Lafayette Parish School Board and for school districts statewide, and will be the focus of a Jan. 14 public forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Lafayette.
According to a press release issued Thursday by the League and its partners for the event — Power of Public Education Lafayette (PPEL), Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders Committee (LaPESC) and Parents Empowered — the forum is an attempt to bring clarity to all the confusion associated with Act 1, and will feature a panel including Louisiana Superintendents Association President Dr. Patrice Pujol, Louisiana School Boards Association President Scott Richard, Louisiana Association of Educators President Debbie Meaux and UL Lafayette education law scholar Dr. Nathan Roberts.
Locally, issues arising from Act 1 dominated school system business in 2013, largely over the refusal by some Lafayette Parish School Board members to accept the legislation’s transfer of hiring and firing powers from school boards to superintendents. That was witnessed with the controversy surrounding Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper and his refusal to fire Thad Welch over his lack of a high school diploma, resulting in the board's reprimand of Cooper back in April. Another contentious issue to arise last year as a result of Act 1 centered on Cooper’s hiring of four principals on a 244-days-pay-year contract. Those principals were hired to take over and turnaround four of the district’s struggling schools, but the board responded by crying foul since the average school system principal works only 218 days a year.
According to Thursday’s press release, here’s what Lafayette’s League of Women Voters has to say about Act 1 and its reason for calling the January 14 forum (emphasis is ours):
In 2012, the Louisiana Legislature passed three laws that significantly changed how school districts across the state make personnel policies and decisions. According to Act 1, also referred to as the Talent Statute, personnel decisions should be based on teacher effectiveness and performance. Act 1 also designates local superintendents and principals as the final authority in personnel decisions, while at the same time holding them accountable for student performance, based on a standardized evaluation.
Finally, Act 1 allows for teachers to be compensated on their experience, certification area and effectiveness. According to the statute, districts may reward teachers who perform above and beyond expected standards, but are prohibited from decreasing any current teacher’s salary. The law has no impact on retirement benefits.
While the law is supposed to preserve tenure for current teachers, classroom educators who earn an “ineffective” rating under the standardized evaluation system would lose their tenure status beginning in 2014, according to the legislation.
The forum will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at the AOC Community Media Center, located inside the Rosa Parks Transportation Center at 101 Jefferson St.