UPDATE: The Constitutionality of La. Teacher Eval Legislation Rests in the Title
Breaking news on Monday, March 4, 2013, from the Baton Rouge Advocate:
A law that makes it harder for teachers to earn and retain a form of job protection called tenure was declared unconstitutional Monday morning. State District Judge R. Michael Caldwell, who in December upheld key parts of the law, reversed himself after hearing arguments from both sides.
The ruling was a victory for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which filed the lawsuit and said that the 2012 measure would essentially end teacher tenure in Louisiana.
“It is a day to smile for us,” LFT President Steve Monaghan said after the hearing.
Jimmy Faircloth, attorney for the state, said he would appeal Caldwell’s ruling.
The measure, known as Act 1, won approval in the Legislature last year and was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
But the LFT filed a lawsuit in June, arguing that the measure illegally contained multiple subjects.
Caldwell, speaking from the bench, said in his earlier ruling he misinterpreted details of how the bill was described in the legislation, including the title of the measure.
“I was mistaken,” he said.
Caldwell said that, after a second review of the title of the bill, he concluded that it was unconstitutional by spelling out multiple subjects included in a single bill.
Under the law, teachers who are rated as “ineffective” would lose tenure and could face dismissal proceedings.
New teachers would have to be rated as “highly effective” for five out of six years to earn tenure.
Caldwell’s earlier ruling struck down other parts of the law, including provisions that gave the authority to hire and fire teachers to superintendents and principals rather than local school boards.
He also rejected another provision that required local school boards to establish their superintendents’ performance targets for districtwide student achievement.
The ruling is the second high-profile, Jindal-backed education overhaul bill that has been struck down by a state district judge.
The other one rejected a 2012 law that expanded Louisiana’s expanded voucher program, which allows some students who attend C, D and F public schools to qualify for state aid to attend private and parochial schools.
The state has also appealed that ruling.
A hearing is set for March 19 in the state Supreme Court.
The hearing on Monday stemmed from a request filed by both sides for a new trial on Act 1.
In December 2012, District Judge Michael Caldwell ruled that most of Louisiana’s newely-passed teacher evaluation legislation was constitutional because it fit under the legislation’s title of “Teachers: Provides relative to teacher tenure, pay-for-performance, and salaries.” The judge did declare certain parts of the legislation unconstitutional, including graduation rate targets; teacher evaluation outcome percentages; the neutering of local school boards in hiring and firing teachers and administrators, and the mandate that teacher hiring not be “first and foremost” based on seniority. (http://theadvocate.com/home/4706171-125/judge-upholds-most-of-teacher)
However, the same judge has agreed to rehear the case of consitutionality of the entire teacher evaluation bill on February 25th, 2013. The reason?
What the judge thought was the title of the legislation was not the title but actually a “one-liner” subtitle.
In short, the judge’s ruling hinged upon the interpretation of a title that was not the title.
The actual title is quite a bit longer and arguably includes numerous varied objects. LFT argues that the title does not have “one main object or purpose,” a constitutional requirement(http://la.aft.org/press/judge-agrees-hear-arguments-new-teacher-evaluation-trial). Here’s the actual title:
AN ACT to amend and reenact R.S. 17:54 (B)(1)(b)(i) and (iii), and 81(A) and (P)(1), 81.4, 229, 414.1, 441, 442, 443, 444(B)(1), to enact R.S.17:418 and 532(C), and to repeal R.S. 17:44, 45, 81(I), 154.2, 235.1(E), 346.1, 419,419.1, 420, 421, 421.1, 421.2, 421.3, 421.5, 422, 422.1, 422.2, 422.3, 422.4, 422.5, 431, 444(A) and (B)(2) and (3), 446, 461 through 464, and 1207, relative to elementary and secondary education; to provide with respect to teachers and other school employees; to provide with respect to local superintendents, their employment, and their duties and their responsibilities; to provide relative to local school boards and their functions and powers; to provide relative to school personnel decisions; to provide relative to school board reduction in force policies; to provide with respect to the salaries and compensation of teachers and other school employees; to provide relative to tenure for school employees and the removal of tenured and nontenured teachers; to provide for effectiveness; and to provide for related matters.
Not really “one object,” is it?
The amended suit further maintains that the finding of “one object” does not hold if a title containing many objects matches the content of the legislation with many objects. The suit notes that precedent has been set to declare legislation “null and void” on the basis of multiple objects stated in the title: “…If the title of an act expresses, and the body of the act embraces, two distinct objects, the entire act must be declared null, as the court may not choose between the two objects, holding one valid and one void.”
The actual memorandum in support of a motion for a new trial is here: http://la.aft.org/files/lft_v_la._act_1_plaintiff_memo_in_support_motion_new_trial_jan_22_2013.pdf
A finding in favor of the plaintiff would be a sledgehammer to so-called “reform” efforts.
Here’s hoping for Black and Decker.