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The March Newsletter

— MARCH —

 

LFT WINTER CONFERENCE

The annual LFT Winter Conference took place virtually this year, on March 13th — exactly one year after all schools in Louisiana were closed due to COVID-19. One panel discussion featured local leaders, teachers, and school personnel “looking back to look forward.” We reflected on the turmoil of this last year and how to evolve moving forward.
 
This year’s conference focused in on the upcoming legislative session. We were grateful to be joined by members of the legislature as well as groups familiar with the legislative priorities of LFT members. Thank you to our guest speakers: Richard Baker, Jr., Associate Director of the LSU School of Education, Senator Cleo Fields, Representative Joe Stagni, and David J. Holcombe of the Louisiana Department of Health.
 
 

VACCINES

K-12 school employees were granted access to the COVID-19 vaccine on February 22nd. Since then, school districts across the state have worked with LFT leadership and local health agencies to expand access for all school employees who wish to receive the vaccine.
 
On Monday, March 22nd, vaccine eligibility was extended to all frontline employees including Higher Education faculty. As of Monday, everyone over the age of 16 will be able to sign up to receive the vaccine.
 
If you have not yet gotten your shot, you can sign up for an appointment with any of these health care providers.
 

ELECTIONS

March 20th was election day in Louisiana! Both of LFT’s endorsed candidates succeeded in the primary and will continue on to the general election on April 24th:
 
Voters in BESE District 4 will have the opportunity to vote for Dr. Cassie Williams to succeed Tony Davis on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She is an experienced K-12 public school teacher and currently trains pre-service teachers at LSU-Shreveport. This district includes Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, DeSoto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Vernon, Webster, and Winn.
 
Learn more about Dr. Cassie Williams: https://williams4bese.com
 
In U.S. Congressional District 2, Senator Troy Carter has advanced to the general election, earning more votes than any other candidate. Sen. Carter has always supported public education and has fought alongside LFT to empower teachers and school employees at every turn.
 
Learn more about Senator Troy Carter: https://troycarter4congress.com
 
Additionally, on April 24th, voters in Tangipahoa will have the opportunity to vote for a ½ cent sales tax (on all goods except prescriptions and groceries) that would go towards a 7% pay increase for all school district employees.
 

SENATE BILL 35

Last year, LFT worked to pass Act 53, which ensures that VAM scores can't be used to penalize teachers or students during this unusual school year.
 
This year, LFT has worked alongside Senator Troy Carter to develop and pass Senate Bill 35, which would extend this common-sense protection to all tests, including SLTs, for the 2020-2021 school year.
 
The Louisiana Department of Education has insisted on the importance of continued testing to evaluate student learning loss throughout the pandemic, but it is vital that we ensure those ‘high stakes’ tests can’t be used to penalize students or teachers who have made incredible sacrifices throughout this pandemic.
 

PAY RAISES

On March 10th the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) passed their proposal for the minimum foundation program (MFP) – the funding formula for Louisiana’s K-12 schools.
 
During the meeting, the Board decided to heed the recommendation from the MFP task force: passing a proposal that calls for an $80 million dollar increase in the MFP. The task force had decided on a 1.375% increase (or $40 million) put into Level 1 of the MFP for general classroom funding and another 1.375% increase, put into level 3, for raises. That comes out to $400 increase for teachers and $200 for school employees, spread out over the entire year - a meager raise. LFT was one of only two organizations in the state to oppose this proposal, and has consistently pushed for a larger pay increase.
 
In an unprecedented turn of events, the letter that BESE sent to the legislature, which outlines their MFP proposal, made a slight, but important, deviation from the task forces' recommendation. Instead of putting $40 million into level three where it would necessarily go towards raises and and the supplementary retirement benefits, BESE directed that funding to level 4, which is the portion of the MFP that goes towards supplementary allocations for specific programs such as career training experiences, dual enrollment and enrichment courses, assistance with high cost special education services, and recruitment and employment of international associate teachers.
 
LFT has consistently called on the BESE and the legislature to match the pay increase seen in 2019: $1,000 increase for teachers and $500 for support personnel, at a minimum. This plan requires a $101 million increase to level 3 of the MFP, which is the portion of the school funding formula that provides for employee salaries.  
 
As the MFP proceeds to the legislature for approval, LFT will continue to work towards a larger raise for teachers and school employees during this legislative session.