A+PEL Members Play Key Role in Spring Session of Louisiana Legislature
Teachers Group Says It Advocates for Kids, Instead of Themselves
EDITOR’S NOTE: Based in Baton Rouge, the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL) is a group of 8,000 non-union teachers and administrators, whose roots go back to 1976. They say they take a professional approach and advocates on behalf of students instead of themselves. They are one of the most influence groups on education policy in the state.
by Kelli Bottger, Director, Governmental Relations, A+PEL
BATON ROUGE — A+PEL members played a key role in the recently-completed 2013 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature.
As A+PEL’s director of governmental affairs, I want to thank the many Louisiana educators who responded to our calls, communicated with their legislators, and enabled us to claim victory on bills that would have hurt our education system.
The legislative setting was complicated by Louisiana court decisions that struck down parts of the education reform package that passed during the 2012 legislative session. Later in the session, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a ruling that seemed to neutralize some of those earlier decisions.
As a result of the first round of court decisions, supporters of education reform attempted to reenact some of the reforms, while those who opposed reform tried to repeal them. The uncertainties of the pending court cases make it difficult to know what is and is not the law, even as we go to press.
Certainly, the 2013 legislative session was full of twists and turns. Most bills on both sides of education reform were killed in the Senate or House Education Committees. All bills aimed at dismantling the education reform package were killed
in various stages of the session.
Even HB 160 by Rep. Gene Reynolds, which would have delayed the implementation of Compass for one year, met its demise in the Senate Education Committee.
HB 160 passed through the House Education Committee and the House Floor without opposition. But once the bill reached the Senate Education Committee, it was involuntarily deferred on a 4-3 vote. The author of the bill tried to amend the language of HB 160 onto HB 129 by Rep. Vincent Pierre. But all attempts to bring HB 129 to the floor failed.
Other legislation of interest included SCR 68 by Sen. A.G. Crowe. The hearing on this resolution drew large crowds of proponents and opponents giving testimony on whether or not Louisiana should continue embracing the Common Core State Standards and administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
Another bill that went down in flames was HB 466 by Rep. Kenneth Havard, which would have stopped ACT scores from being used when calculating high school letter grades. This bill would also have given the Senate and House Education Committees the ability to make changes to the school letter grade system, adding another layer of bureaucracy. No one on the Senate Education Committee made a motion to report the bill favorably or unfavorably. So it remained on the calendar and died.
In addition, the Senate Education Committee rejected SCR 23 by Sen. Conrad Appel to approve the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula recommended by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). The formula was heard twice in the Senate Education Committee. At the first hearing, the committee sent the MFP back to BESE for technical changes. BESE then sent over the corrected formula, but it too was rejected by
the Senate Education Committee.
No changes were made to the retirement system that would affect teachers. SB 7 by Sen. Barrow Peacock would have extended the final compensation average to five years, rather than three years. However, the bill never made it out of the committee.
HB 57 by Rep. Kevin Pearson would have increased the employee contribution from the current 8 percent rate to a 10 percent rate over four years. This bill also died during the legislative process.
Some education bills did make it through the legislative process and to the Governor’s desk. Those bills include SB 205 and HB 116. SB 205 by Sen. Eric LaFleur created the Immersion School Choice Act. This bill would help to establish foreign language immersion programs in public school districts. HB 116 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann would shift the responsibility for selecting textbooks from the state to the local level.
SB 199 by Sen. Bodi White passed to create the new Southeast Baton Rouge Community School System. However, SB 73, a constitutional amendment authorizing the new district, failed. While the statute will be on the books, it cannot be implemented unless a constitutional amendment is approved.
On the final day of the 2013 Legislative Session, HB 1 was approved with a pay increase for teachers. Teachers throughout the state of Louisiana will receive a pay increase averaging about $500 a year.
Please remember that your involvement with A+PEL during legislative sessions is key to making improvements in our education system.