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Advocate editorial is partially right

In a recent editorial, The Advocate noted that the Supreme Court’s reversal of a lower court ruling that Act 1 of 2012 violated the constitutional prohibition on bundling multiple objects into a single bill is troubling.

The editorial said that the decision sets a bad precedent for future legislation, but also said that the substance of Act 1 was “more positive.”

In a response to the editorial, LFT President Steve Monaghan agreed that the multiple object precedent is bad for the state, but disagreed about the substance of the act.

Here is President Monaghan’s response to the editorial:

Dear Editor:

We appreciate The Advocate’s thoughtful “Process and issues” editorial concerning Act 1 (2012).

We disagree with the conclusion that the “reforms” imposed by Act 1 of 2012 are positive improvements to public education. The sad fact is far too many good teachers have left our classrooms because Act 1 and the ever-changing rules and procedures that it has spawned.

However, observations regarding the poisoned process that turned a multi-purposed bill into law are spot on. Your recall of the bill being “rammed through the legislature” is true. Your objective memory of the “crowds of educators” who came for the debate but were locked out of the capitol is history. The marathon committee meeting that had launched the bill on a March morning and concluded well past midnight was unprecedented in modern legislative history. And, yes, many of those teachers who had waited in capitol overflow rooms for hours upon hours for an opportunity to testify but were allowed just 120 seconds to comment, now do carry bitter memories of the “process.”

The Advocate correctly asserts that the elements of the governor’s initiative deserved much more thorough debate. Regardless of one’s politics or position on each of the many objects addressed in Act 1, the LFT believes that Louisiana’s children, schools, teachers, and communities would be in a much better place had those debates occurred.

Because that debate was stifled, Act 1 remains a work in progress and the product of a tainted process. However, in 2014 the administration wisely invited all parties to the table to bring modest, positive improvements to the teacher due process procedures. Those discussions were civil, mutually respectful, and productive. The 2014 legislature also created a new sub-committee of the Accountability Commission “to make recommendations regarding the overall effectiveness of the evaluation plan” and that important work is on-going. Those discussions have been productive, and appear to be solution driven.

The LFT shares The Advocate’s concern that the LA Supreme Court set a troubling precedent when it overturned respected District Court Judge Michael Caldwell’s ruling that Act 1 unconstitutionally violated the single object clause of the LA Constitution. The LFT disagrees, though, with The Advocate’s conclusion that the Supreme Court’s decision was a loss for the LFT and a win for the Governor.

There are no winners here; there are only simple lessons. One lesson that we hope that has been learned anew is that for a government to really be of the people, by the people, and for the people, the people must be included in the legislative process.

Sincerely yours,

Steve Monaghan, President
Louisiana Federation of Teachers