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Targeting Teachers Unions

Sue Lincoln

In the aftermath of union-filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of education reform measures, a bill to prohibit participation in state retirement by future employees of the teachers’ unions was narrowly defeated on the House floor Monday.

“They’re not public employees. They do not work for the state of Louisiana,” Representative Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), the bill’s author, explained.

“They have no business increasing the UAL or being in a state retirement system.”

Seabaugh maintained that since the state budget requires taxpayer money to go toward paying down the unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of state retirement systems, then excluding union leaders is wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

“It has cost the state some money,” Seabaugh told the House.

Representative Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport) pressed for specifics, asking, “And how much has the state lost?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” Seabaugh replied.

Other lawmakers disputed Seabaugh’s entire premise, noting that presidents of the teachers unions are public school teachers that have been elected by their membership to serve a specific term.

“Those individuals who are on leave for those jobs that you talk about are still teachers,” Representative Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge), told Seabaugh, adding, “This seems like a witch hunt.”

Seabaugh stuck with his reasoning, however.

“They’re not drawing a state of Louisiana paycheck. They’re drawing a union paycheck,” he said.

Representative Kenny Cox (D-Natchitoches) asked, “What will this do to the teachers union? Is this gonna kill it?”

“I have absolutely no idea why someone would want to work for a union now,” was Seabaugh’s reply.

Representative Sam Jones (D-Franklin) called it like he saw it, telling the House membership, “Let’s face it. This bill is a ‘screw the teachers one more time’ bill.”

The bill, which would have affected five or fewer people, was voted down, 44-50. But another bill targeting teachers unions is still awaiting its first hearing in the House Labor committee. HB 172 by Representative Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge) would prohibit state employee payroll deductions for union dues.