Special Message from President Carter
I want to thank all of LFT members for their dedicated service to the students of Louisiana. I know that this year has been difficult and when I look around this state and see so many teachers and school employees finding success and joy in the midst of difficulty, I feel inspired. But we cannot overlook that the role of teachers is rapidly evolving, becoming in many ways more difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted education systems across Louisiana, the country, and around the world; changing what classrooms and learning looks like on a daily basis. All school personnel have had to navigate a constantly shifting landscape with the health of students, teachers, paraprofessionals, office professions, custodial staff, food service staff, bus drivers, and the community at large at stake.
Your courage, resiliency and tenacity during the last 18 months has been amazing. The way local affiliate leaders, staff, and rank and file members have risen to the challenge; the way we have pulled together to keep the school year going; the way we looked out for one another and our school families have been the most inspiring experience of my professional life.
Despite you persistence, there have been many moments in the past several months when the public narrative about our profession has failed to acknowledge our significant contributions, not only to the academic growth of Louisiana students, but to their social-emotional health and their physical safety. That failure to acknowledge our full value is especially true as we have advocated for the safest in person instructional protocols, which have been so critical throughout this global pandemic.
There is light at the end of the COVID tunnel. We now have multiple vaccines, newly recommended booster shots to combat the Delta and Omicron variants. In our advocacy, we fought to ensure that essential workers like teachers and school personnel received priority access to the vaccine. Now, well over 90% of the teachers and school employees in Louisiana have been vaccinated.
Louisiana education can and should be in recovery from the COVID pandemic. To build a stronger future, we must seek to fully fund public education, recruit new educators and encourage high school students to seek degrees in early childhood through post-secondary education with debt-forgiveness incentives. We should also be seeking to recruit teachers and school employees who reflect the diverse backgrounds of the students and communities they serve.
I believe that the past 18 months have shown our resilience. I believe that the trials we have endured thus far prove we can overcome tough obstacles: a global pandemic, five hurricanes, bad education policy and legislation, stress, teacher shortages, etc. We must continue to show up at union meetings, school board meetings, legislative committee meetings and BESE meetings. We must continue to fight for the respect we deserve and a voice at the table where decisions are made in order to win adequate equitable funding, better working conditions, pay raises, career ladder opportunities, and safety. We must continue to show that we care for each other, our students, public education and the success of our communities.
Thank you, again, for all that you do! I hope that you have a restful holiday break and you are able to enjoy some time with your loved ones. As we embark upon a new year, I am eager to continue the work of building a more sustainable and equitable educational system in Louisiana; one built around the needs of educators and their students. Our work may be never-ending, but when we stand together, we can win.
Happy holidays from all of us at the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees!
LFT Holiday Greeting Card
This year’s LFT Holiday Greeting Card was designed by Reginae Blanche, a student at Minnie Ruffin Elementary School in Monroe, Louisiana. We held a small ceremony to honor Reginae at her home school in Monroe, and she was recognized again at both the LFT Convention and the Monroe City School Board meeting on December 14th. Thank you to Reginae, her family, her teachers and school, and the entire team at Monroe Federation of Teachers for making this holiday card possible!
AFT Literacy Campaign
On December 14th AFT President Randi Weingarten announced AFT’s multi-year “Reading Opens the World” campaign to enhance reading instruction, foster community engagement, and distribute one million books to kids across the country in 2022. LFT is proud to be a part of this campaign and we will be working with select affiliate locals to distribute 1,500 books to students across the state this holiday season. Learn more here: https://www.aft.org/read
The 57th Annual LFT Convention took place at the end of November. It was the second convention to take place virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As President Carter said in his remarks, we hope to return to an in-person convention next year, where delegates will be able to fully immerse themselves in convention business and enjoy the company and camaraderie of their union brothers and sisters.
At year’s business convention, delegates considered resolutions related to educational policy, compensation, employee rights, and organizational strategy. The resolutions debated and passed by LFT local affiliate delegates will become the legislative agenda for the upcoming year.
Some of these include:
- Added due process in the teacher evaluation/observation tool
- Extending substitute pay to support staff
- Seek waivers to address the overwhelming requirements and burdensome policies contributing to teachers and school employees exiting their profession.
- Protecting and supporting the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana
- Ensure teachers have access to unencumbered and uninterrupted planning time
If you are interested in being a part of the LFT Convention next year, please talk to your Local representatives.
Task Force Issues Preliminary Report on Teacher Work-Force
On December 15th, the Teacher Recruitment, Recovery and Retention Task Force shared a preliminary report outlining their work to analyze and support teacher recruitment and retention. This first report is focused on multiple years of declining enrollments in teacher preparation programs around the state and across the nation, so it doesn’t fully address the exodus of teachers currently leaving the profession. Moreover, the report calls for no immediate relief for current teachers. Instead, it recommends a “listening tour” with no implementation of policy until 2023. For the last decade, teachers have been expressed clear concerns about the flawed education policy forced on Louisiana educators and students by the federal government. We now have the opportunity to give immediate relief by amending Louisiana’s ESSA application. Nationwide, the majority of state have already rejected the failed Obama-era polices, leaving Louisiana one of the last states still holding onto outdated and failed educational policy.
One recommendation discussed at the Louisiana Board of Regents (Regents) and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting is to allow retired teachers to return to the classroom without impacting their retirement. In the past, LFT has supported legislation intended to do just this, but we have to look at how impactful this slight change would be to the overall teacher shortage. Teachers who have retired, retired for a reason. Until we address the root cause that drove them out of the profession to begin with, we can’t expect a mass return.
Again and again teachers and education professionals have been disrespected and degraded, and the felt their profession undermined. The COVID-19 pandemic hammered home this feeling as teachers watched everyone from small businesses to large corporations; school districts, states and other public agencies get some sort of waiver or exception to help them get through and recover from the global crisis. Teachers, however, got no such reprieve. Teachers and their students are still subjected to the same strenuous and expensive testing schemes, which do not provide any insights that can be used to help those students learn and succeed.
A Look into Louisiana’s Learning Loss
A preliminary report was released in Politico, which analyzes how each state has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic. The data appears to show that Louisiana students are faring quite well in math and reading, with little-to-no learning loss over the last two years. While this is an exciting development for Louisiana’s students, the methodology reveals that the data used in this report is incomplete. There is no educational assessment which reflects the performance of all students or all states, so they turned to private companies that conduct limited testing in limited states and limited districts. As Politico states in their report, "the education data in the scorecard is the best available right now, but it’s imperfect, preliminary and partial, and readers should keep those limitations in mind. Recognizing this, we are not publishing specific testing scores for each state, but are instead assigning a score based on a grouping detailed lower in the methodology." Unfortunately, we still don’t know the full impact that the pandemic has had on Louisiana’s students or schools.
New Leadership Elected to BESE
In December, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elected new leadership to serve for the upcoming calendar year. The BESE president-elect is Metairie-based attorney Jim Garvey who won 7-4 at their December meeting. Garvey previously served as BESE President in 2015 and has consistently been a champion of "reform"-minded policies serving to undermine public education in Louisiana. The board also elected Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans, to another year as vice-president and Sandy Holloway, of Thibodaux, as secretary-treasurer. You can read more about the vote here.