On Monday, District Court Judge Michael Caldwell declared Act 1 unconstitutional in its entirety, reversing his previous decision in December that upheld three out of four sections of the law. His ruling came as the result of a lawsuit filed by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT), who argued that Act 1 violated Article III, Section 15 of the state constitution prohibiting the legislature from passing bills with more than one aim or purpose.
Needless to say, the real motivation behind LFT’s sudden concern with matters of legislative procedure has nothing to do with civic altruism. Unwilling to accept the defeat they were handed when lawmakers overwhelmingly passed Act 1, LFT has decided to pursue their only remaining means of blocking a law that rolled back seniority privileges and tenure protections. By removing these traditional bargaining areas from the negotiation table, Act 1, in effect, poses an existential threat to the state’s teachers unions.
Although LFT President Steve Monaghan was all smiles following the decision, the union’s victory lap will be short-lived. Almost immediately, Governor Jindal responded with a promise to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, and State Superintendent John White defended the state’s right “to make common sense decisions about those who serve our children in the classroom.”
If anything, the Act 1 lawsuit demonstrates that, at the end of day, the state’s teachers unions are willing to put the privileges of their members above the best interests of our children. That may explain why LFT’s recent “Tort Offensive” (I got jokes!) has failed to sway public opinion to their side. Rather, the majority of our citizens seem to agree that the state has a responsibility to ensure that only effective educators work in our public schools.
So while education reformers across the state may be disheartened by this setback, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective and to remember that the only thing conclusively settled in court on Monday was that the Louisiana Department of Education seriously needs to consider hiring better attorneys.