Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Louisiana Teacher Tenure Law Ruled Unconstitutional...Again

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

In a ruling confirming an earlier decision, Judge R. Michael Caldwell of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge once again struck down the law known as "Act 1", stating that it violated Louisiana "single object" clause, a part of state's constitution that bars legislating on several issues through one law. The decision is seen as a victory for the state's teachers unions and as another defeat for Governor Jindal and his attempt to overhaul many parts of Louisiana's education system.

Act 1, which was passed by the Legislature during the 2012 Regular Session, deals with many aspects of the education system, including:

  • school control
  • teacher tenure
  • pay for performance and evaluation
  • superintendent and school board duties
  • layoffs
  • contracts
  • teacher salaries
  • teacher hiring/firing
  • teacher tenure
This is the second time that Judge Caldwell has struck down the law. The first ruling came in March 2013, and the State Supreme Court asked Judge Caldwell to review his ruling at the same time that the Court struck down the funding mechanism for Governor Jindal's controversial expansion of the school vouchers program (also known as Act 2).

Today, Judge Caldwell clarified his March ruling and stuck with the original decision:  "I am still of the opinion that the Act violates the 'single object' requirement and is thus unconstitutional in its entirety."

Governor Jindal's office quickly responded to the ruling and defeat with the following statement:

'We believe (the law) is Constitutional and we are going to appeal to the Supreme Court,' said Jindal. 'These reforms are constitutional and will help improve Louisiana schools for children and families across the state. The law rewards effective teachers for their hard work and ensures that we have a great teacher in the classroom so that our children have the opportunity succeed.'
In an extension of his explanation, Judge Caldwell claimed that there wasn't enough of a unifying theme between the various parts of the law, and it thus violates the Single Object rule:
The new case law, Caldwell said, ensures the single object rule doesn't restrict the breadth of a bill 'as long as the parts of the bill are naturally related.' While he agreed the many parts of Act 1 did have 'some meager semblances of a uniting theme' -- which he identified as issues relating to "teacher effectiveness" -- Caldwell said he could not find that theme apparent in all of its parts or its title.
While this seems to be a victory for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which has been opposed to much of the governor's educational legislation, LFT President Steve Monaghan remained humble in his public statements on Wednesday, suggesting that LFT and teachers throughout the state are eager to work with lawmakers to revamp the legislation into something that is both legal and work for schools, teachers, and students around the state.

Stay tuned to and for further developments relating to the Act 1 ruling, including a press conference scheduled for this afternoon by State Superintendent of Education, John White. 

The 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge
Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

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