21 May 2013

Committe action, May 21: HB 625, SB 33

HB 625 by Rep. Randal Gaines would undo the loosening of tenure protections previously passed in terms of disciplinary procedures for teachers. It claimed many procedural issues from previous reform that needed resolution, and was causing confusion.

Rep. Nancy Landry from the House Education Committee pointed out that this seemed pretty much like the system that had been replaced, and that had caused an unrealistically-low removal rate of ineffective teachers. Gaines said the previous effort was too hasty and a familiar system was best to correct for the asserted shortcomings. Landry said this turned the focus away from achievement and these changes in the bill broke the link between outcomes and continued employment. She said there may be procedural problems worth fixing, but that this bill went far beyond that.

Rep. Chris Broadwater asked who would pay for these added procedures, which seemed to him this would increase costs on schools. However, it was possible that arbitrators would pass costs onto other parties.

Supporters’ comments more often spoke to what they saw as the shortcomings of the entire previous reform and also claimed this did not return to the old system. They asserted that the procedures for termination under the reformed system were problematic and not impartial and thus needed fixing, and these were separate issues.

Opponents said this was a return to the old law where the reinserted procedures plus the additional arbitration would make the process so burdensome as to reduce the previously few attempts to remove ineffective teachers. It would remove any real definition of “incompetence” or “willful neglect of duty” that would be used to implement discipline and does not define “satisfactory” that after three years performance at this undefined level would earn teachers the ability to access these procedures.

Testifiers for informational purposes said they perceived within districts after a year of this increased focus on children’s learning and the reason why almost no disciplinary hearings have come forward under the new law was because low performers voluntarily were leaving the system. Also, it was noted that whenever any major change was made, tweaking for some time was natural and expected and reverting back was an overreaction.

Closing, Gaines said he didn’t think this was a step backwards and that last year’s reforms were not a step forward, because they blamed teachers too much. He then moved to defer voluntarily.

SB 33 by Sen. Troy Brown would mandate that the Department of Insurance to survey the hiring of minorities into the profession. It would create an exception to public records laws about the information gathered.

This brought a cautionary note from a representative of the Louisiana Press Association testifying for informational purposes to the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. He suggested an amendment that would allow for reporting of aggregate information, not from individual companies.

After Chairman Tim Burns asked for this issue to be looked into, the bill was reported favorably without objection.

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