Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sneak attack revives assault on sick leave

Last week the House Education Committee voted down a bill that would have decimated extended sick leave, and that should have been the end of it.

So nobody saw it coming when the Senate Education Committee quietly switched the intent of one bill to include language even more offensive than the bill defeated on the House side.

At less than two pages long, SB 494 by Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) was a minor bill intended “to assist local public school systems in developing methods for selecting certain teachers.”

But when it was heard by the committee, SB 494 had miraculously and secretly grown from two to 12 pages “relative to teacher selection and the granting of extended sick leave and sabbatical leave for teachers and other school employees.”

As heard by the committee, the bill included all of the language in the sick leave bill killed by the House Education Committee earlier, with one exception: a “shall” was changed to a “may.”

If Sen. Appel’s bill becomes law, it will stipulate that school systems may grant teachers and school employees 45 says of extended sick leave (instead of the 90 now mandated by law) at 50 percent of their salary (instead of the 65% now mandated by law).

There will no longer be any requirement that extended sick leave be provided at all.

The amended version of the bill was not completely secret. Officials of the Jefferson Parish School Board, including the superintendent, were at the meeting to testify in support. Somehow they had information that was kept secret from the rest of the education community.

The bill will be heard on the Senate floor. If it passes there, it must be approved by the House Education Committee. Members of that panel will be reminded that they turned down an almost identical bill just a week ago.

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