Judge throws out Jindal's teacher tenure revamp


Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Baton Rouge judge on Monday threw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws, saying the legislation was unconstitutional because it contained too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws.

Judge Michael Caldwell previously had thrown out parts of the education law that limited the authority of local school boards. But he had upheld the provision that made it harder for teachers to reach the job protection status of tenure and that eliminated statewide teacher pay scales.

On Monday, Caldwell widened his previous decision, saying he had misread a part of the bill for his previous ruling that allowed any part of it to stand.

The Republican judge determined that the entire bill must be declared unconstitutional because the bill bundled too many objectives that should have been spread out among multiple measures.

Caldwell's decision sided with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which filed the original lawsuit challenging the legislation and asked the judge to reconsider his previous ruling that upheld parts of the bill.

"When the bill was filed, we knew it was unconstitutional. It's very affirming to have that expressed from the bench," said LFT President Steve Monaghan.

Jimmy Faircloth, lawyer for the Jindal administration and the state Department of Education, said he will appeal Caldwell's decision.

"While the ruling does not judge the substance of the law, we're disappointed that the court reversed its original ruling. We expect to prevail in the state Supreme Court," Jindal said in a statement.

Caldwell has discarded a series of sweeping education changes pushed by Jindal in the 2012 legislative session that:

-Lessened the power of local school boards over hiring and firing decisions.

-Required the state superintendent's review of local school superintendent contracts.

-Removed seniority-based protections for teachers during layoffs.

-Toughened the path for teachers to reach tenure status.

-Struck down a statewide salary schedule for teachers.

Caldwell agreed with union lawyer Larry Samuel that the bill violated a constitutional provision requiring legislation to have one object, which is designed to give lawmakers the ability to properly comb through proposals and weigh their impact.

"This makes a mockery of the one object provision," Samuel said.

Faircloth said all parts of the bill were related to teacher performance and could be included together under the constitution.

"These are all means to accomplish an end," he said.

Jindal has lost three court challenges on the major education and retirement achievements of his last legislative session.

Three Republican judges have ruled the administration and the governor's supporters in the Legislature didn't properly follow the constitution in passing laws.

In reacting to Judge Caldwell's decision Monday, Jindal returned to a similar theme he used all last year to describe his critics, accusing his opponents of trying to stall efforts to improve teacher quality and student performance.

"The coalition of the status quo is attempting to use every legal obstruction to block reforms that reward good teachers and give more choices to families," the Republican governor said.

Rep. John Bel Edwards, the House Democratic leader, repeatedly questioned the constitutionality of the bill during the legislative session, arguing it contained too many objectives.

"The picture's pretty clear that the rule of law is alive and well in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal is certainly not above the law," said Edwards, who intends to run for governor in 2015 when Jindal is term-limited.

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