Some things are difficult to understand.
Like, for instance, how voters returned State Rep. Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) to the legislature for another term. Not only was she re-elected, but it was by a landslide. The only plausible explanation was that Bobby Jindal was running against her.
She received 85 percent of the vote in her district, which includes parts of Lafayette and Vermilion Parishes.
Public school teachers and their families alone, voting as a bloc in those two parishes, should have prevented that kind of mandate.
You see, Landry is on a one-person crusade to become Public Enemy Number One among school teachers. She has repeatedly pilloried teachers from her position in the legislature and now she has been named as chairperson of the House Education Committee. (Coincidentally, Denham Springs GOP Rep. Rogers Pope, a retired school superintendent and former Superintendent of the Year for Louisiana, stepped down from the committee about the same time Landry was elevated to the chairmanship.)
Why am I so critical of Landry?
Well, first, let’s go back to March 2012 when she opened proceedings by the committee by introducing a new rule that had never existed in House committee hearings. https://louisianavoice.com/2012/03/14/how-do-you-teague-a-legislator-ask-jindal-to-teague-a-teacher-just-change-the-committee-rules-for-witnesses/
The committee was hearing testimony on HB 976 by committee Chairman Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge) that would impose sweeping changes, including providing student scholarships for Jindal’s Educational Excellence Program, allow for parent petitions for certain schools to be transferred to the Recovery School District (RSD) and charter school authorization criteria.
Before debate began on the bill, Landry said she had received calls from “concerned constituents” to the effect that some teachers from districts that did not close schools for the day had taken a sick day in order to attend a rally of teachers opposed to Jindal’s education reform.
She neglected to mention, of course, that teachers are given 10 sick days per year, so if they want to use a sick day to attend a committee hearing in Baton Rouge, that’s their business and no one else’s. Moreover, if a teacher exceeds her 10 days during a school year, she is docked a full day’s pay at the teachers’s salary rate while the substitute teacher is paid a substitute’s salary, which is less.
Undaunted and undeterred by those facts, Landry made a motion that in addition to the customary practice of witnesses providing their names, where they are from and whom they represent, they be required to state if they were appearing before the committee in a “professional capacity or if they were on annual or sick leave.”
Democrats on the committee were livid. Then-Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) said he had never in his tenure in the House seen such a rule imposed on witnesses.
“This house (the Capitol) belongs to the people,” said Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge) “and now we’re going to put them in a compromising position? This is an atrocity!”
Committee member Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans) said, “I have one question: if we approve this motion and if a witness declines to provide that information, will that witness be prohibited from testifying?”
Carter, momentarily taken aback, held a hastily whispered conference before turning back to the microphone to say, “We cannot refuse anyone the opportunity to testify.”
That appeared to make Landry’s motion a moot point but she persisted and the committee ended up approving her motion by a 10-8 vote that was reflective of the 11-6 Republican-Democrat (with one Independent) makeup of the committee.
Edwards lost no time in getting in a parting shot on the passage of the new rule.
Then-Gov. Bobby Jindal was the first to testify and upon completion of his testimony, Edwards observed that no one on the committee appeared overly concerned of whether or not the governor was on annual or sick leave.
Jindal, who had entered the committee room late and knew nothing of the debate and subsequent vote on Landry’s motion, bristled at Edwards, saying, “I’m here as governor.”
Now fast-forward to yesterday (Tuesday, May 3) and once again we have Landry going for teachers’ jugulars. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=980632
A substitute bill for House Bill 392 by Landry cleared the committee without objection and will now move to the full House for consideration but there are a couple of points that need to be made about the provisions of the bill that committee members may have failed to consider—or simply ignored.
Landry wants to pile on the 2012 law, Act 1, under which pay for teachers and other employees may be cut. She wants to impose salary cuts when teachers’ and other employees’ working hours are reduced. She said that Lafayette Parish had cases in which educators successfully sued the school board over pay cuts when they were moved from 12-month jobs to nine-month jobs. http://theadvocate.com/news/15675829-64/new-provision-for-teacher-pay-cuts-clears-house-panel
Historically, teachers have had the option of being paid a lower monthly salary extended over 12 months or higher a monthly salary on nine months. The annual salary was the same either way.
In the Lafayette case, two teachers who were displaced by the closure of their charter school for high-risk students sued and won back pay when their schedules were reduced from 244 days to 182 days. One of the teachers saw her salary cut from $80,104 to $60,214 while the second was cut from $74,423 to $56,207. Both cuts of about 25 percent coincided with the fewer number of days. http://theadvocate.com/news/11060641-123/appeals-court-sides-with-teachers
On the surface, the bill makes perfect sense. As is the case most of the time, however, one needs to look beyond the obvious for answers.
And when you do, you will find that no teacher ever simply works 182 days. That is a myth and one that needs to be debunked once and for all.
Landry is an attorney specializing in family law. As such, she likely earns considerably more than the average teacher. But that’s okay; the teacher made a career choice, so that isn’t my sticking point. But like a teacher, she sees all manner of humanity parade through her office and while her hourly fee is the same for all, there are times I’m pretty sure that some clients should be charged significantly more per hour because of the difficulty in addressing their multitude of problems. An amicable divorce, for example, is a much easier case for Landry than one in which the parents fight over every child and every piece of property right down to the pet gerbil.
It’s the same for teachers. The child whose parents are attentive to his or her school work and who see to it that all homework assignments are completed correctly is a pleasure to teach.
The child who comes to school in clean cloths, on a full stomach, and well-rested after a good night’s sleep is not the problem.
The child whose lives in a two-parent household where the parents are not constantly fighting and screaming is generally a well-adjusted student who poses no problems in the classroom.
The child who is respectful to the teacher and who applies himself or herself in class work isn’t the one who causes disciplinary problems.
But that child whose parents are on crack or meth and who comes to school unprepared, unkempt, in filthy clothing, hungry, sleepy and angry at the world is a challenge to the teacher whose job it is to try and help that child keep up with the rest of the class—which, of course, only serves to slow the progress of the entire class.
If Rep. Landry would take the time to volunteer in an elementary or middle school classroom for one week, she would come away from the experience with an attitude adjustment. I guarantee it.
- When she has to break up a schoolyard fight between middle school students who are just as likely to attack her physically, she will experience a world she has never known;
- When she has to clean the behind of a first-grader in the restroom who is already wearing filthy underwear, she will get a taste of what elementary school teachers do—for 182 days a year;
- When she has to attempt to explain the multiplication tables to a child who curses her, she will gain a new respect for teachers;
- When she sees the hunger in the eyes of a malnourished child whose crack- and meth-addicted parents show up at parent-teacher conferences blaming the teacher for their own shortcomings, she will think about the difference—that abyss—between her fee and the salary paid a teacher;
- When she has to stay up until midnight grading papers, she will wonder why the hell teachers aren’t paid more;
- When she has to return to the classroom at the end of the school year to clean up her classroom, throw out old papers, prepare new lesson plans, prepare for the new school year and adjust to the constantly changing dictates of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, tasks that generally extend through most of the summer “vacation,” she will wonder why anyone would ever opt for teaching—without ever once considering that it is a calling, not a job, for those who have an unselfish desire to help children as they grow into adulthood;
- When she must make that fateful decision, as did that teacher at Sandy Hook, to stand between an armed mentally deranged lunatic and a child so she can take the bullet that will end her life but spare the child in doing so, she will know what it’s like to enter the most honorable profession known to humanity.
When she does all that, maybe, just maybe, Rep. Nancy Landry will gain a new respect and appreciation for the sacrifice, dedication, hard work, and thankless job of educating our children.
Until then, she is just another politician with a kneejerk solution to perceived problems.
But as for me, I can honestly say that I struggled mightily in school and had it not been for at least a half-dozen of my high school teachers who took a direct interest in my well-being, nurtured my potential (what there was of it), and encouraged me to work a little harder, I truthfully do not know where I’d be today. I will carry my gratitude to those teachers to my grave.