BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's state school board agreed Wednesday to shrink the number of mandates required of local districts, despite concerns the move would let schools eliminate counselors and librarians to cut costs.
Superintendent of Education John White proposed changes to 150 different sections of policies governing school systems. They included eliminating the statewide school calendar and changing physical education standards to allow credit for extracurricular activities like cheerleading and participation in marching band.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education backed the changes with no discussion, after making modest adjustments a day earlier in a committee meeting.
As approved, schools can sidestep requirements for how many counselors and librarians they must have, raising complaints that it will let schools do away with the jobs altogether.
White said the changes will let educators decide what they need at their schools and remove outdated regulations.
"It is time to return the education decisions to the educators, and that's what this policy is about," White said during Tuesday's committee hearing on the mandate changes.
Librarians and counselors worried it could leave their jobs at risk as cash-strapped school districts seek ways to limit spending, and they defended their roles to the board's instruction committee.
"I understand you're not trying to eliminate school counselors, but I feel that this would be opening the door to do so," said Cathy Smith, president of the Louisiana School Counselor Association.
As originally proposed by White, the requirements for schools to have counselors and librarians would have been removed altogether. The board rewrote the changes to maintain the requirement but also saying the provision doesn't apply to schools deemed capable of providing the same services through "alternative" means.
Board members Lottie Beebe, Jim Garvey and Carolyn Hill each objected to various parts of the school mandate rewrite.
Garvey said he was concerned about making so many changes and "saying it's OK because we have accountability and we're going to trust people to do the right thing." He said the state needed to have more oversight.
Incoming board President Charles "Chas" Roemer said the state can't have a rule that applies to every school environment and student. He said school districts needed flexibility.
"Any school that thinks they can do without counselors and librarians and P.E., they will not succeed and then we have accountability to deal with that," said board member Connie Bradford.
Also Wednesday, BESE gave White a favorable annual evaluation, after grading his first year on the job. The evaluation discussion was held for more than an hour in a closed-door session, and board members didn't release specifics about the review.
The board also gave final approval to modest changes to the state's method for evaluating public school teachers. Teachers will receive more information at the start of the year about their student growth targets, and principals will have the ability to make slight adjustments to scores for teachers who rank in the middle-range of performance.
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
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.