In the leadup to the midterm elections, pundits predicted a red wave, even a tsunami, based on polls, historical precedent, and steep gas and grocery prices. But I had my doubts. I spent the weeks before the elections talking to voters and traveling on the AFT Votes bus, rolling through a dozen states with more than 50 stops. In a year when kitchen table issues, democracy and our freedoms were on the ballot, many people told me that the elections came down to a choice between, on the one side, election deniers and extremists stoking fear, and on the other, problem-solvers working to help the country move forward. Many races were close, but Americans turned the tide from a red wave to a swell of support for progress and problem-solvers. Read the full column here.
On Thursday, November 10th the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held a special meeting to finally vote on the long-debated changes to the high school accountability model. The proposed changes were adamantly opposed by superintendents, principals, teachers, school board members and other educational stakeholders, but supported by non-education special interest groups like the Pelican Institute, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.
On October 10, 2022, two representatives from the Louisiana Department of Education testified before the Louisiana Senate Education Committee. They were questioned about the issues teachers and districts faced with the rollout of the new electronic Special Education Reporting (eSER) system.
Thomas Lambert, Assistant Superintendent Office of Assessments, Accountability, & Analytics and Meredith Jordan, Executive Director of Diverse Learners largely focused on issues of human error and "the deep learning curve." They said the issue was teachers who couldn't figure out the new system, even though it was "more intuitive and looks like a modern web solution."
Tuesday’s committee meetings began with a public hearing to receive public recommendations regarding the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), which is the funding formula for Louisiana public schools. As expected, advocates from the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, the Louisiana School Boards Association, and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools testified in favor of increasing funding in level one of the MFP – which is the part of the formula that gives school districts the greatest flexibility in how they can use the additional funding.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) has continued to advocate for additional funding to be directed into level four of the MFP, which is the portion of the formula that funds teacher and school employee salaries. The only way to ensure that teachers and school employees receive a raise next year is for additional funding to go into level four.
On Tuesday, October 11th, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will hear public recommendations regarding the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) for next year (2023-2024). As we do each year, LFT will advocate for the largest raise possible for teachers and school employees.
After receiving emails from hundreds of LFT members, LDOE announced that they would give teachers until December 16th to get all their information into the glitchy eSER system. Teachers are still required to get in all their IEPs by October 1st, the only difference is that now you're allowed to submit them on paper, as long as you re-enter the information into the electronic system by December 16th.
Louisiana's new electronic Special Education Reporting System (eSER) isn't working. It's the new platform that the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) implemented to track Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for special education students. The rollout of this new electronic database has been riddled with bugs and defects that make it difficult, if not impossible for the special education teachers forced to use it.
As the landscape of student debt shifts, and more and more opportunities allow borrowers to have their debt relieved, the AFT is using every avenue to ensure that the word is out. In affiliate meetings, telephone town halls, media coverage and social media, the union is spreading the news, and at a student debt clinic at AFT headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 31, AFT President Randi Weingarten vowed to reach as many people as possible with information that could save them tens—and sometimes hundreds—of thousands of dollars.
“It was like waking up and learning you won the lottery.” That’s just one of the comments flooding the AFT offices from members who are elated to be free of student debt at last. After relentless advocacy, including an AFT lawsuit against former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that was so broken is finally doing what it is supposed to do: delivering relief from student debt for thousands of borrowers. So far, $6.2 billion in student debt has been forgiven for 100,000 public service workers like teachers, nurses and professors.
This month, the Governor announced his Executive Budget. Each year the Governor releases his proposed budget, based on the revenue recognized by the state Revenue Estimating Conference, and it is largely considered to be the starting point for the state budget process.
In this year’s budget, the Governor proposed a $1,500 raise for teachers and $750 for school employees. He also said that if the REC recognizes additional revenue at their meeting in May, $49 million should go towards funding an additional $500 pay increase for teachers.
This raise would be the largest state-wide pay raise that Louisiana teachers have received in over a decade, and there are already members of the legislature questioning whether or not such an amount is feasible. But the truth is, this isn’t enough. Our schools have gone through cataclysmic changes in the last couple years. Educators feel like they’re working more than ever. Teacher retirement has gone up 25% from 2020-2021 and enrollment in teaching programs is at an all-time low. In order to get out of this hole we’re in, Louisiana needs to do more than just a few hundred dollars better than what was done last year, we need policy makers to recognize the extraordinary sacrifice of our teachers and school employees and rise to this extraordinary moment in history.
Louisiana is nearly $5,000 below the Southern Regional Average, and given teacher raises that are being proposed in other states, that number is only going up. Teachers deserve at least a $2,500 increase this year and next year, along with guaranteed cola increases in perpetuity, so that we don’t fall back into this hole again.