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Published in Print: September 7, 2005, as Pay, Jobs for Displaced Teachers Are Priorities for AFT Officials

Pay, Jobs for Displaced Teachers Are Priorities For AFT Officials

On Trip Home, Former New Orleans Union Leader Watches Destruction of his District

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Nat LaCour, the secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, was in his native New Orleans for his uncle’s funeral when word came that a hurricane was bearing down on the city.

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Mr. LaCour and his wife immediately drove the 80 miles to Baton Rouge, where they were to fly home to Washington. But their flight was canceled because of the weather, so Mr. LaCour figured he’d ride out the storm and then go into New Orleans to check his property.

Now, all he knows of his house is what friends told him they saw on television—that water had nearly reached the roof of the two-story home in an upscale, east New Orleans neighborhood.

In the storm’s aftermath, Mr. LaCour has been working with other officials of the AFT, which represents teachers in New Orleans and in Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, to help address teachers’ concerns.

“The teachers won’t be working,” he said Sept. 1 by phone from a Holiday Inn in Baton Rouge. “There is a question of whether they’ll get paid. But the real problem is that students won’t be there and parents will be relocating.”

The union is encouraging teachers who fled New Orleans to take jobs elsewhere, just as students are being encouraged to enroll in new schools, Mr. LaCour said. State and local education officials will have to determine whether and how students who are enrolled in new districts will be able to transfer credits to their home districts.

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Most teachers in New Orleans are paid by electronic deposits into their bank accounts, Mr. LaCour said, so if officials can figure out how to run the payroll—and teachers can find accessible bank offices—they should be able to get their money.

The American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO are cooperating to attempt to open centers in Baton Rouge and Houston where displaced New Orleans teachers can get information on insurance issues and employment opportunities, he said.

Mr. LaCour, who served for many years as the president of the union that eventually became United Teachers New Orleans, could not help but think of the damage to the city’s schools.

“The mayor said it may be a month to drain the water out,” he said. “The ground floor is where the records are kept. There are going to be ruined textbooks and materials. There are a lot of problems that need to be addressed.”

Vol. 25, Issue 02, Page 21

Web Resources
  • Read about the AFT's efforts to help Katrina victims.
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