Louisiana was once again passed over in the U.S. Department of Educations's "Race To The Top" competition. The state was one of 19 finalists in the second round of the competition. The 10 winners announced this morning are the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.
R2T awards states that best present plans for school innovation based on criteria set by the federal government. For the second and final round, the winning states will share $3.4 billion in funding to implement their plans. Delaware and Tennessee were the only winners in the first round of the competition. Louisiana had high hopes for the program, with state Superintendent Paul Pastorek advocating for system reforms he felt would better the state's chances. Lafayette was one of 28 total school districts participating in the state's application for R2T.
The availability of the funding nonetheless unleashed a wave of reforms nationwide — including in Louisiana, which instituted new teacher accountability and school board reform measures — as states raced to make their applications more attractive.
Despite the snub from Uncle Sam, Pastorek today insists in a press release that Louisiana’s momentum toward education reform will not be abated:
While we had hoped for a different outcome, make no mistake about it, Louisiana is already in the midst of implementing this plan at every level and from every angle, and we have no intention of pulling back. We will have to identify alternative sources of resources. But there is broad acknowledgement across the country, and even across the world, that Louisiana is a trailblazer in implementing effective education reform strategies. And there is wide scale recognition across Louisiana’s education community, particularly in those districts and schools that signed on to our application, that this plan is integral to improving our schools. In fact, our reform plan is the result of the deep-rooted commitment of educators in our state to adopt and implement meaningful and necessary reforms. And given their dedication to their students, we’ll not see them back off these objectives either.
One possible knock on Louisiana’s application was Lafayette Parish’s insistence on an opt-out clause in its R2T application, which Pastorek’s office warned would diminish the quality of the state’s bid since one of Louisiana’s biggest school systems wasn’t embracing the process. Pastorek has enjoyed a chilly relationship with many school systems statewide, and has been the subject of much ire from the Louisiana School Boards Association as well as some teacher unions.
Nonetheless, today’s announcement by the federal government prompted a rare dose of accord among the state education department and three major educator groups.
From the same press release:
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers remains committed to including educator voice and involvement in any initiatives that affect our profession. Despite this development, we will continue to partner with the state and local school districts in achieving our goal of a quality education for all children. — LFT President Steve Monaghan
Louisiana principals are committed to our state’s education reform plan. Our support was not contingent on winning. Certainly, with today’s announcement, our work may be more difficult, but we believe the time is now. We will execute this plan and realize dramatic improvements in student outcomes. — Andrea Martin, executive director, Louisiana Association of Principals
I’ve been moved by the commitment of educators to this bold plan for improving support to the classroom and students. This is our state’s education reform plan, and it will be our strategy for improving academic performance. I am proud to still be part of this process. — Kathy Campbell, executive director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana
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SEP 15 Russel Honore, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and commander of the Green Army, pens this op-ed in the Picayune about the EPA's clean power plan. We worry and plan and protect for hurricanes, but allow power plants to "treat our air like an open sewer," he writes.
SEP 15 Blogger Tom Aswell gives us the details on a recent Legislative Auditor's report on Louisiana's obligations to Tom Benson, some of which he says "appear to border on financial irresponsibility." He's also detailing an audit of the seemingly endless problems with hurricane recovery contractors.
SEP 15 Blogger Bob Mann is writing about the death of Victor White III, who died in New Iberia, handcuffed and in the back seat of a police car, from a gunshot wound to the chest. He wonders if perhaps the residents of that town should riot, as the residents of Ferguson did, in order to get national (and federal) attention for the case.
SEP 15 Here's another post from a pundit who thinks the Democrats made an error in endorsing Edwin Edwards. Columnist James Gill argues that the party's endorsement is a "mystery," adding that Edwards' record doesn't justify it. Huh? Since Edwards would never vote for any bill or proposal outside the Democratic wheelhouse, how is that?
SEP 15 Blogger CB Forgotston has the latest on the lawsuit filed by a Baton Rouge legislator over the so-called Edmonson Amendment. State Treasurer John Kennedy, who as a member of the pension board was named as a defendant, has filed an answer in which he agrees with the legislator's claim that the Amendment is unconstitutional.
SEP 15 Here's the NOLA Defender blog's coverage of the Gulf Energy Forum, hosted last week in the city by The Atlantic magazine. Although the mag's people tried to ensure the discussion explored all types of energy, it focused on oil and gas, the post reports. Since the forum was held in Louisiana and underwritten by the American Petroleum Institute - how is that a surprise?
SEP 15 Bobby Jindal spent the weekend in Florida, helping candidates there by criticizing a Democrat who, he says, doesn't believe in anything but himself. (Hmmm.) It's interesting that he's seen as a help in other states, right? Given that the polls here show his support is a kiss of death?
SEP 15 The New Orleans Police Department has been accused of profiling suspected illegal immigrants and holding them for immigration officials, this post on The Lens tells us. Although federal officials only do "targeted enforcement," NOPD is accused of basically looking for Latinos and using a "stop and frisk" process, the story says.
SEP 12 Blogger Tom Aswell continues to dig into the "theater of the absurd" that is the Jindal Administration's running of the Office of Group Benefits. After laying off employees because there wasn't anything for them to do, the administration then had to hire a private firm just to answer the phones. (Turns out it costs millions to get someone to answer the phones. Who knew?)
SEP 12 Here is a lovely obituary, complete with arrangements, for Alison Neustrom, who died Wednesday at the age of 42. Neustrom, who was the research director of PAR, had dedicated her short life to helping people who, for whatever reason, were "struggling on the margins of life," the obituary states. In addition to her husband and her large, loving family of relatives and friends, she leaves behind a 2-year-old daughter.
SEP 12 This post on The Lens examines Bobby Jindal's flippity-flopping on the issue of Common Core. C.W. Cannon offers a bit of history and a clear primer on the issues, but in the end it's nothing more than Jindal's attempt to fund his next career move, Cannon writes, which will probably be as "a beta-male Sarah Palin on the bayou."
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