Wednesday, July 20, 2011
By The Independent Staff
Holly Boffy, a retired Lafayette Parish public school teacher, is running for the southwest Louisiana seat on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Last week she ensured that she probably won’t be pulling too many votes from the ranks of her former colleagues by calling for an end to the tenure system for teachers in Louisiana public schools. The 2010 Louisiana teacher of the year recognized for her work at Paul Breaux Middle School — she currently works for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana — Boffy told members of the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge last week, according to The Advocate, that “We need to get rid of it as soon as we possibly can.” The position, which is in line with BESE member Chas Roemer’s failed bid earlier this year to abolish tenure, is likely to raise the hackles of state teacher unions, which have energetically defended the antiquated policy. Tenure effectively grants public school teachers lifetime immunity from termination after they’ve worked for only three years and meet certain standards. For most career educators, that’s the first three years of employment following graduation from college — surely an insufficient time frame in which to evaluate whether a teacher will be effective and engaged for the long term. Moreover, while Louisiana has a plenitude of great teachers, we have our share of dead weight as well — educators who should not be in the classroom. Tenure needs to be abolished, replaced by a merit-based system for evaluating teachers and determining whether they’re earning their pay or simply collecting a paycheck.
It has become dogma within the Republican Party that private enterprise always provides goods and services better and more efficiently than the public sector. But when faced with reality, even the GOP-controlled Louisiana Legislature balked at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to sell the state-run Office of Group Benefits to a private firm. The OGB handles health insurance plans for about a quarter million current and retired state employees and their dependents, and, more important, has a half billion-dollar surplus — inarguably a mark of a successfully run operation. An analysis conducted last spring by a New Orleans firm, which the Jindal administration tried to keep under wraps until the Legislature issued a subpoena for it, found that privatizing the plan would likely lead to higher premiums. But, cleaving to the dogma or simply spit-shining his conservative résumé for future campaigns, Jindal has doggedly pursued this unnecessary boondoggle, waiting until lawmakers returned home from the session to issue a request for bids by private firms to evaluate the efficacy of privatizing OGB. Over the weekend we learned that Morgan Keegan was the low bidder at $900,000. The administration insists this is merely a means of gauging whether privatization is fiscally prudent. Yeah, right. There is so much not to like in all this, not the least of which is the likelihood that Morgan Keegan will find exactly what Jindal wants them to. After all, public sector employees, by their very association with government, are bad right?