Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he will support legislation that would reduce the value of student test results in teacher evaluations and make it easier for teachers to earn a form of job protection called tenure.
Those and other proposals will be debated when the Louisiana Legislature begins its 2018 regular legislative session on Monday at noon.
Edwards, in a statement, said the portion of his legislative agenda released Thursday will focus on children and senior citizens, including a measure aimed at ending financial exploitation of those aged 60 and over.
One of his measures, House Bill 651, would reduce the percentage of a teacher's evaluation based on the growth of student achievement from 35 percent to 15 percent. The rest of the review is based on classroom observations by principals and others, 50 percent, and whether teachers meet student learning targets, 15 percent.
The proposal is sponsored by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe and a veteran educator.
Hoffmann was an early sponsor of teacher evaluation measures and has long said that, when problems are found, he will sponsor bills to address them.
Controversy continues to bubble around the state's soon-to-be-revived annual evaluations for public school teachers.
However, the measure is sure to spark controversy.
Opponents are expected to argue that another reduction in the role of test results for teacher reviews – it was initially 50 percent – would water down changes aimed at ensuring meaningful teacher reviews.
In the past almost all teachers routinely won satisfactory job reviews, which critics said showed the job checks had little meaning.
Using test results to rate teachers applies to about 15,000 of Louisiana's roughly 50,000 teachers.
The rest are based in part on whether teachers met goals agreed to by eucators and principals at the start of the school year.
Student test results will again play a role in the reviews this year after a four-year moratorium called because of the state's move to tougher academic standards.
The current teacher review rules stems from a compromise among groups that often disagree on public school issues: Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Schools Boards Association, Council for a Better Louisiana and Edwards.
Edwards tried unsuccessfully last year to let school district officials use student test results as they saw fit when evaluating teachers.
Louisiana's 2010 overhaul of annual teacher evaluations was touted as a way to provide a meaningful snapshot of teacher effectiveness and impr…
The governor will also back another Hoffmann bill that would ease requirements for new teachers to earn tenure.
Under current rules, teachers have to earn the top rating for five out of six years.
Under the proposed change, they could do so by achieving a lower standard for five out of six years.
The current rules were part of former Gov. Bobby Jindal's sweeping overhaul of public schools, which won legislative approval in 2012.
Backers said it was too easy to earn tenure. Critics said the overhaul set the bar so high that it all but ended chances for most teachers to ever land the job protection.
Tougher tenure rules led to the exit of about 1,700 educators, or around 3 percent of the workforce, according to a report last year by Tulane University.
Edwards support for the two bills was something of a surprise after similar legislative efforts were squashed in 2016 and 2017.
"I am a proud partner with legislators who are pairing action with values in order to tackle the real challenges before us when it comes to improving K-12 education in Louisiana," he said.
The governor will also back a proposed task force – House Bill 676 by Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie – aimed at improving early childhood education, especially from zero to age 4.
Other Edwards-backed measures would ban students from being shamed because they cannot pay or owe money for school lunches, SB245; launch a study to see if foster care can be extended through age 21; and toughen penalties for the crime of sexual battery against those with infirmities. The current maximum is 10 years.
The proposal, House Bill 389, by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Gary Carter, would raise that to 20 years.
The anti-exploitation measures are Senate Bill 355, sponsored by state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, and House Bill 505 by Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport.
It would require a director, officer, attorney or accountant at a bank or other financial institution to notify the firm if they suspect financial exploitation of a person over the age of 60.