Salaries for teachers and others could be cut if their new job duties mean fewer hours under a bill approved Tuesday by the House Education Committee.

The proposal, a substitute for House Bill 392, cleared the panel without objection and next faces action in the full House.

House Education Committee Chairwoman Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, sponsor of the change, said state law allows yearly salary cuts in some cases but not when school employees’ working hours are trimmed.

“It only makes sense that they would be paid less if they are working fewer days or hours,” Landry told the committee. “It is just fair.”

A sweeping change in public school operations that won approval in 2012 — Act 1 — spelled out a variety of instances where pay for teachers and other school employees can be cut, including demotions.

“We left out a circumstance,” Landry said.

The legislation says in cases where jobs are eliminated or reorganized and employees work fewer hours the salary can be reduced.

Landry said Lafayette had cases where educators were moved from 12-month jobs to nine-month jobs, then successfully sued when their pay was cut to match their new duties.

“This bill is designed to resolve that issue and prevent any future litigation,” she said.

Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said his group backs Landry’s bill.

“There are some very legitimate concerns in other districts,” Richard said. “It is not just specific to Lafayette.”

Shane Riddle, legislative and political director for the Louisiana Association of Educators, opposed the bill.

Riddle said the issue can be handled without a new state law.

“We do think this kind of situation could be handled through contracts,” he said.

Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, a member of the committee, backed the bill.

“It just seems like a very simple case,” Simon said. “I am still trying to figure out where the rub is.”

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