Educational legislation resolution rejected

[BATON ROUGE] – House Bills 974 regarding teacher tenure and House Bill 976 regarding the Student Scholarship for Education Excellence Program are pending house final passage at Louisiana Legislative Session today in the midst of LEAP testing.

Louisiana state senators voted against the urge and request for public hearings on certain education legislation to be held on certain days and times on March 20.

Senate Resolution 15, proposed by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, requested that certain educational bills, such as House Bill 976 and Senate Bill 597, House Bill 974 and Senate Bill 603, House Bill 933 and Senate Bill 581, and House Bill 969, be heard at times convenient to the public to attend, but Sen. Mike Walsworth objected the amended resolution. Walsworth did not make comments to Peterson regarding his concerns for objecting the resolution. When the senators voted, the resolution failed with a 4-3 vote.

According to Senate Resolution 15, the educational bills pertain to the Student Scholarship for Education Excellence Program, teacher tenure, early childhood education and tax rebate to taxpayers who donate to certain school tuition organizations.  The bills will not only affect K-12 school children, teachers and parents, but also school administrations and systems.

“It is important that we try as best as possible and convenient as possible to hold hearings where there is an increase in opportunities for participation,” said Peterson.  The resolution was in response to the controversy that occurred March 12-16, when teachers and faculty were absent from school due to the desire to attend the hearings and voice their opinions.

Judy Matthews, a teacher at Marksville Elementary School said, “It’s a shame this didn’t go through because teachers that care about their students are not going to leave their classrooms to go voice their opinions on such a serious topic that affects their whole livelihood, because at the end of the day…the students are what is important.”

Sen. Jody Amedee, Senate and Governmental Affairs chairman, told Peterson, “I’ll be glad to go to any meetings, like I have told you before, and try if it is more convenient.”

Opposition to Senate Resolution 15 was not taken lightly.  “I’m doing this by the request of thousands of teachers who felt they were not given an ample opportunity to participate and they want a voice, and it’s unfortunate that this resolution failed being that it merely urges and requests and doesn’t direct anyone to do something,” said Peterson.  “It’s a real testament of who we are and what we stand for as a member of a legislative process to not want at least to have a discussion on record stating that we are open to democracy and we want to encourage participation and civic engagement.”

Peterson said, “Everyone will have to answer for themselves, and I felt comfortable in offering this resolution, knowing that I was doing what was right on behalf of Louisiana citizens that deserves a place at the table.”

Walsworth and Peterson were not available for comment on March 20 after the hearing.

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