Two key pieces of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package won late-night and early-morning approvals by the House Education Committee following a 16-hour hearing that drew thousands of teachers from across the state to protest Jindal’s reform measures.

In a 12-6 vote, the committee voted 12-6 and almost completely along party lines in support of Jindal’s statewide expansion of private school vouchers for students who attend public schools currently graded as “C,” “D,” or “F,” as well as his plan to allow for more charter schools, The Times-Picayune reports.

The 18-member committee later voted 13-5 in favor of House Bill 974, which eliminates teacher tenure for teachers who do not rank among the top percentile under a new evaluation system that’s still being finalized and eliminates seniority from their salary structures:
For his part, the governor told lawmakers that his agenda would fundamentally remake primary and secondary education in Louisiana for the better. “In America, we don’t believe that everyone has the right to equal outcomes,” Jindal said. “We do believe that everyone has the right to equal opportunity.”

The proceedings began amid a circus-like atmosphere, with more than 1,000 teachers on the Capitol steps while Jindal testified before an administration-friendly committee. The session ended in a quiet Capitol, with the committee room dominated mostly by the lobbyists for business groups, nonpartisan advocacy concerns and the “school-choice” movement exchanging weary congratulations with Jindal lieutenants and his legislative allies. As the room cleared, Jindal’s chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack mused to no one in particular, “Democracy at work.”

But the comments from Waguespack completely contradict those of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who sent out a press release Tuesday publicly criticizing the fast pace of the legislation Jindal is pushing.

"A good reform package will survive a thorough review, because it will survive on its merits," she says in the release.

Despite her support for much of Jindal’s reform legislation (she’s against a statewide expansion of private school vouchers), Landrieu tells The Advocate in a phone interview Tuesday that Jindal’s plan of action “is not the way to be a leader of reform.”

“This is a democracy; this is not a dictatorship,” she tells The Advocate.

The Senate Education Committee began taking up Jindal’s reform measures at 9 a.m. today. The hearing was still in progress when this blog was published late Thursday morning.

Read more here and here.

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