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?
Read the full list of questions here