Jindal’s education overhaul awaits only his signature
The House of Representatives Thursday approved minor Senate changes to two bills designed to overhaul public education in the state, the last hurdle to clear before Gov. Bobby Jindal signs them into law. A major victory for Jindal, who vowed immediately after his re-election to make school reform his top priority, the bills make it tougher for teachers to get tenure and create a statewide voucher program for public school children to attend private schools. The latter measure is likely to drastically expand the state’s charter school system.
Over the objections of teachers’ unions and thousands of teachers who have been converging on the Legislature in recent days, the House voted 60-43 on the tenure bill and 60-42 on the voucher bill.
In its just-released “A Final Perspective on Education Reform,” below is what the Council for a Better Louisiana had to say after the House vote, which took place around noon Thursday:
In a way, you have to feel sorry for the average citizen trying to understand just what the passage of the two major tenets of the governor’s education reform package really means. Supporters hailed it as a new day for public schools in Louisiana. Opponents countered with black “judgment day” t-shirts and suggested the destruction of public education is at hand.
CABL clearly puts itself in the first category. We see the passage of these reforms as a huge opportunity to significantly transform public education in Louisiana, but we also realize that opportunities must be seized to be successful, and that requires leadership.
First, to those mourning the imminent death of public education, that’s simply not true. Whether certain groups want to admit it or not, public education in Louisiana has been broken for a long time. These reforms don’t respond by killing it. Instead they help hasten the change that is needed if it’s to survive in a way worth keeping.
Let’s be honest, hundreds of thousand of kids are not going to wake up tomorrow and leave public schools to enroll in private schools. Teachers aren’t going to be joining the unemployment rolls in droves because of possible loss of tenure. And charter schools are not going to take over the universe. But that’s what the promoters of “judgment day” would have you believe.
On the other hand, the reforms aren’t a panacea, either. The passage of this legislation in-and-of-itself won’t save our public schools. What the reforms do, however, is give school leaders new tools to do things differently and put the right teacher in every classroom. But they’re just tools, and if superintendents and principals don’t embrace the new authority and flexibility they’re being given, and if school boards don’t focus on improving student achievement at every level, then the reforms by themselves are still not enough.
Are the reforms perfect? Of course not. Reform measures are seldom perfect and they’re always a work in progress. That shouldn’t scare us. What should scare us is doing anything that resembles maintaining the status quo. The opponents of reform would have people believe that we shouldn’t do anything until we “get it right.” Translation: we shouldn’t do anything.
Yes, these reforms are big. In fact, in an environment where the word reform is bandied around a lot, they’re probably bigger than most people realize. But that’s good. Louisiana needs big reform in public education. Despite the rhetoric, it’s not doomsday. But following the lead of the doomsayers might very well have been.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
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.