NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana public school students can start registering for free online classes taught by 42 organizations, including universities, according to the state education department.
The state is going ahead with the "Course Choice" program despite a judge's ruling last year that paying for it through the state's public school financing formula violates the Louisiana Constitution. That ruling is under appeal.
Besides LSU and other colleges, private firms as diverse as Acadian Ambulance and Sylvan Learning Center are among those offering courses online or in other nontraditional settings.
Courses are free to students in lower-performing public schools. Students in schools with a state ranking of A or B also can take the courses at no cost — if they are not offered where they attend.
"This gives parents the power to tailor the education that they want for their child as their child pursues a life beyond high school in the 21st century workforce," State Education Superintendent John White said Monday in a telephone news conference.
He wouldn't speculate on how many students will take part in the new program. He said he isn't concerned that some providers might pull out if too few student sign up, saying the courses being offered are, in many cases, well established. "It's just a different way of organizing it and marketing it," White said.
White said the department will wait for a Supreme Court decision on funding the program through the Minimum Foundation Program, which distributes state money to public school districts, before deciding how best to proceed.
"We think that it's best to wait for the parameters of that decision to be decided before moving on a specific course of action," he said.
Course Choice was passed by the Legislature as part of a multi-faceted public education overhaul package pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, which also included a statewide private school tuition voucher program for lower-income students in poorly performing public schools, and a toughening of teacher tenure requirements.
Most of the package, however, has been declared unconstitutional in district court rulings that are on their way to the state Supreme Court. The rulings have not dealt with the substance of the education efforts, but with technicalities, declaring the education initiatives unconstitutional because of improper funding methods or because they were passed as part of a bill bundling too many objectives in a single piece of legislation.
JUNE 16 This story in the Advocate tells us that the state Department of Education is taking a look at the Course Choice program. They're doing that because the legislature (probably responding to reporting by Tom Aswell, who does not work for the Advocate) ordered them to make sure that these private companies aren't signing six-year-olds up for high school Latin classes without their parents' knowledge or consent.
JUNE 17 Columnist James Gill writes about the recent complaint of death row inmates at Angola: it's hot as you-know-what in their cells, with the heat index topping 120 for months. Since we're not executing people anymore (Gill opines) then we should probably officially end the practice of putting people on death row. The prisoners, by the way, are not asking for cool breezes: they only ask for clean water and a temp that doesn't top 88.
JUNE 17 Here's blogger Ian McGibboney's take on the Baton Rouge plan to give bus tickets to homeless people who have a home with family who live far away. Taken from one point of view, it could be a good solution for some people. But McGibboney raises some good points here, including this one: Why not improve opportunities for everybody in Baton Rouge so these people can find the jobs they came to BR for?
JUNE 17 Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry talks here about the Zimmerman trial, but the real topic is the concept of a black man being more dangerous, somehow, than a white man in a fight. It is an interesting discussion, and one that may enlighten people who think that racism doesn't exist because nobody's keeping black folks from eating at the Woolworth lunch counter.
JUNE 17 Here's an interesting column from Baton Rouge Business Report's publisher, Rolfe McCollister, about anger against the government. It's brewing because of recent revelations about the IRS and the GSA, he says. It's readable, not just for the subject, but because of McCollister's collection of sources: Huffington Post, National Review and Wikipedia. That's a combo you don't see every day.
JUNE 17 In this American Press post, Jim Beam talks about the high school diploma track that lets kids who aren't interested in university get what they want and need out of high school. The diplomas get kids ready for technical school, Beam explains, and then he goes on to give some of the numbers. Some of these numbers might really surprise people who think technical school is second best. And, Beam adds, a college diploma does not guarantee anybody a job.
JUNE 17 The Washington Post reports here that OSHA is going to investigate the explosion that occurred last week in Donaldsonville, shortly after the other fatal accident in Geismar. As soon as the site is safe, State Police will be pulling out of the Donaldsonville plant to make way for OSHA investigators, the story reports. (Hey, here's an idea: why don't they go a couple miles down the road and figure out what happened when that massive sinkhole started sucking up land.)
JUNE 17 Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board of Supervisors in this post, taking a look at the many ways board members have served Gov. Jindal and not their university or their students. The board members are esteemed members of their fields, but can't seem to do anything but say "yes" to Jindal, regardless of the cost to LSU, Mann opines.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.