As the Louisiana House hears two of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s most controversial education reform measures today — teacher tenure overhaul and a statewide private school voucher program — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is asking the administration and the Legislature to slow down the process.
Landrieu, the New Orleans Democrat who has come out in support of most of the governor’s reform package, has been a vocal critic of vouchers since the onslaught of Jindal’s push. More recently, however, she’s become more vocal in her criticism of Jindal for his political maneuvering of the education bills and ramming them through the chambers without adequate debate.
In a letter she sent to state lawmakers, Landrieu says she’s “alarmed ... by the speed at which this package is moving through the legislative process.
“I am by no means naïve, and know full well the Administration’s political advantage of pushing legislation through with as little debate as possible,” Landrieu writes in the letter. “But this legislation will profoundly change public education by redirecting millions of dollars from the general fund to private entities without full accountability to taxpayers. It deserves full discussion as well as opportunity to make commonsense improvements.
“Education reform groups from around the state – including non-partisan, good-government groups – have coalesced around the concern that the Governor’s package, in its current form, offers accountability without consequences. I would urge you to consider any proposals to strengthen accountability – be it for traditional public, non-public schools, or public charter schools,” she continues.
The letter to lawmaker poses 12 questions Landrieu says she has been repeatedly hearing during Louisiana’s education reform discussions:
On Vouchers: When taxpayers fund public schools, they expect a certain level of accountability. If taxpayers fund non-public schools with publicly-funded vouchers, don’t they deserve the same level of accountability?
On Charter Schools: States like Minnesota and Ohio that opened up the floodgates to nonprofit charter authorizers have seen a precipitous decline in charter quality. Given these lessons learned, why would we alter a Louisiana law that works by allowing up to 40 new authorizing entities?
On Teacher Tenure Reform: If Louisiana is going to make and implement significant changes to teacher evaluation, pay, and tenure, shouldn’t we be sure to include teachers’ voices in this important debate?
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.