There are others who have offered their opinions on the issue both from within the legislative process and from afar.
Here are just some of the comments and partial statements made by Louisiana political activisits and leaders:
Senator Mary Landrieu
"The Governor is advancing one of the most far-reaching education reform packages of the last two decades. Many individuals and respected organizations favor the thrust of what these proposals seek to accomplish. However, ample public debate is wise and necessary. Oftentimes, policy measures that are muscled through without reflection and discussion are dismantled later.
“If the goal here is true, systemic and long-lasting reform, not only does the Legislature need to buy in, but so do citizens in every parish and every region of our state. A good reform package will survive a thorough review, because it will survive on its merits."
Senator Karen Carter
This week, the Education Committee will begin debate on a series of measures designed to rearrange our pubic education system around a new set of fundamental concepts. The package, which is the hallmark of the Governor's proposed legislative agenda, focuses on diverting resources from our public education system and towards a new world of privatized and unaccountable entities.
The Governor is fond of saying that education policy should be about "the children, not the adults." But in the same sentence, he states that he's putting the interests of parents first. Which is it? He's right the first time: We must put the best interests of children first. When the Governor proposes further expansion of vouchers for children attending failing schools, but fails himself to propose accompanying measures of accountability and assessment of the private and parochial schools to which he plans to divert public resources towards, nothing is really accomplished for children. Many private schools are excellent institutions and provide excellent educational opportunities for children. However, without standardized accountability, how can we confirm our public dollars are being well-spent to promote educational excellence?
Furthermore, what happens to the public system as funds are diverted toward private operators? Siphoning off funds from our public schools does not help us fix them. There is a better way.
Instead, we should zero-in on three key elements to give our children the best chance to succeed: Early Childhood Education, School Leadership, Smart and Informed Accountability
First, I have long-supported and advocated for a focus on Early Childhood Education. Studies continue to show that Early Childhood Education is among the wisest investments we can make in our children. When the Governor rejected $60m in Federal funding for Early Childhood Education last fall, I wrote this letter to protest the decision because I know how valuable and effective these programs can be for our children. To truly improve and perfect our educational system, we should be investing in strategically effective programing for our children's future. A well-coordinated Early Childhood Education plan across state agencies can help break the cycle of poverty and prepare the next generation for success. We must first definte Early Childhood Education as birth – age five.Child achievement assessments must include essential health and social development as well as educational development.The use and expansion of the already effective Quality Start assessment system will expedite the process and be more clearly understood and supported.It's also essential that all public funded early childhood programs should be part of Quality Start and development policies modified to make child care more accessible to mothers and their children.
Changes to school administration cannot make significant differences in outcomes if we do not improve the quality of School Leadership throughout the system. It is clear that strong, passionate and engaged school leaders can make drastic differences in performance regardless of the organizational structure. With this in mind, we must move to recruit, train and encourage the best school leaders for all of schools. It's especially critical that we find quality leaders in our local communities and support those individuals as they gain experience.
Lastly, and importantly, is Smart and Informed Accountability. Perfecting our public schools start with an honest and trustworthy assessment of the situation. It continues with tracking progress year over year, and rewarding improvement. To that end, I have filed SB 584 to address performance accountability and school grading. Simply calling a school a "failing" school does not truly capture the state of education in that facility. It is important that, instead of damning schools with "failing" ratings year after year, we track and reward improvement to understand trends and the dynamic of implemented changes. There are so many factors determining student performance that cannot be fixed over night, including familial and social factors not affected by improved in-classroom instruction. We need to focus on how schools are improving, relative to the situation and school population they possess year over year. My bill works toward this goal by making school performance ratings more inclusive, informative by basing the ratings on four important factors: (1) Meeting student proficiency benchmarks and standards established by BESE for each core subject area. (2) Completion rate. (3) Dropout rate. (4) Growth or decline in student academic achievement.
As we begin the debate on education, I hope you will stay engaged! Follow my website (www.karencarterpeterson.com) and twitter (@TeamKCP) to get the latest updates. Let the legislature hear your voice! Do not let others decide the future of education, or our state, without making your views heard. The more engaged and involved you are, the better the outcomes will be for all of us.
Louisiana Federation of Teachers
Due to the outpouring of public concern surrounding Governor Jindal’s extreme education agenda, several school systems have announced their intentions to close Wednesday so that educators can attend House and Senate Education Committee hearings. These shutdowns are not the result of any calls to action by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) or the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE). This is direct result of calls by the governor to dismantle Louisiana’s public schools.
“Both organizations asked for member representatives from our respective groups to attend these important hearings,” said LFT President Steve Monaghan. “We never called for the closing of entire school systems.”
“You would think that the governor would want to give school employees a voice in this process, after all the constitution affords us that right,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes. “Louisiana educators would rather be in the classrooms with their students than attending hearings at the Capitol, but when the intent is to attack these hard working professionals by calling for punitive changes in state requirements for teacher certification, salaries, seniority and due process rights, teachers will stand up to defend their students and their careers.”
Some have attempted shift the blame onto teachers for this week’s school closings, but teachers do not control school district policy. The decision to close schools was made not by union leaders, but by school boards and administrators, many of whom will join teachers at the Capitol this week.
“The real focus here should be finding out why school boards, superintendents and parents plan on joining teachers in opposition to the governor,” said Monaghan.
An even more important question to ponder is what’s the real cause of the actions being taken by educators, parents, school board members and administrators? The answer is the fuse that was lit by the governor when he produced such a complex education agenda without any involvement of the education stakeholders or school boards. The legislation brought forth in House Bill 974 and Senate Bill 603, calls for punitive changes in state requirements surrounding teacher certification, salaries, seniority and tenure – educators stand to lose all due process rights if they receive just one ineffective rating.
The legislation exempts private, parochial and charter schools from the same accountability measures that other schools receiving public dollars must follow, and calls for the elimination of the teacher salary schedule. It also calls for creating a dismissal process for teachers based on the flawed method of teacher evaluation brought forth in ACT 54.
“If the governor’s agenda is successful it will radically redefine public education to the point of extinction,” said Haynes.
Why is the governor demanding such an early vote on a series of long and complex bills? And why are the House and Senate Education Committees determined to ram these through the legislature without an open and transparent debate? It is the Louisiana Legislature’s responsibility to schedule a fair hearing process that allows constituent input on bills that affect them. Legislators should have made the appropriate move to schedule these hearings when teachers are available to attend – like in the evenings or on the weekends - instead of forcing them to attend during a school day.
“We are asking legislators to postpone the passage of these extreme bills,” said Monaghan.
“Educators must be given the opportunity to meet with the governor and state superintendent of education in order to collaborate on ideas for the future of education in Louisiana,” added Haynes.
Both teachers groups are prepared to testify at the Louisiana State Capitol on Wednesday morning to express their opposition to House Bills 976, 974 and 933.
US Senator David Vitter
If you want to know what's wrong with Louisiana public education, just look at what's going on in many Louisiana public schools today. Or rather, what's NOT going on--namely, learning.
In East Baton Rouge, Vermillion, St. Martin, and other systems, the children are being told to stay home--no school, no learning. Why? So that their teachers can be granted a "professional development day" to lobby the legislature AGAINST education reform.
A letter to all Vermillion parish teachers made their marching orders crystal clear: "We want them [the legislators] to know that we do not agree with the [education reform] plan . . ."
As a Louisiana citizen and parent, I'm really outraged. I guess the folks behind this are making their priorities clear--forget the kids; we just care about our tenure protection and benefits.
This is exactly what's wrong with the system. These folks steal a day of learning from the kids to lobby on the taxpayers' dime. And what happens? They're rewarded with a 'professional development day' to do it.
As taxpayers and parents, we need to push back and put the focus back on educating Louisiana's future generations.
Some schools are closed today & tomorrow because teachers are going to lobby against Bobby Jindal's education reform. Way to think of the students first. They should all be fired. "Waiting For Superman" is a must see documentary about teachers unions. No wonder why our kids are getting dumber by the year, and falling behind China, India & others.
Coastal master Plan
District 1 State Senator A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell), State Representatives Gregory Cromer (R-Slidell) and J. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), and St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister commend and thank Chairman Garret Graves and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for taking a second look at the importance of the Lake Pontchartrain Barrier project and revising the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.
Sen. Crowe says that while the original draft of the Master Plan only scratched the surface of the benefits of the project, it now includes the dedication of funds to further study the project and to determine the most effective way to carry it out 'while mitigating any environmental or storm surge issues.'
"Once completed, the Lake Pontchartrain Barrier is a project that is sure to protect the citizens of the entire New Orleans area and its surrounding parishes. With the encouragement of determined local officials, community leaders and citizens, CPRA has brought the project one step closer to reality and one step closer to reducing storm surge risk for thousands of homes and businesses," said Sen. Crowe. "We commend CPRA Chairman Garrett Graves and the entire authority's efforts in making this vital revision to the Master Plan."
CPRA will take a dual approach at protecting the North Shore by further evaluating the Lake Pontchartrain Barrier project in concert with the State of Mississippi and funding other structural and nonstructural projects, such as the Slidell Ring Levee.
Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast can be found at http://www.coastalmasterplan.louisiana.gov/.
For the second straight year, Louisiana state government’s transparency and accountability website and online state spending database (LaTrac) tied for fourth best in the nation according to a report released today by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), based on its “ranking of states’ progress toward ‘Transparency 2.0’ – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.”
According to the report: “Government spending transparency websites that meet the standard of ‘Transparency 2.0’ give citizens and government officials the ability to monitor many aspects of state spending – saving money, preventing corruption, and encouraging the achievement of a wide variety of public policy goals.”
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said, “With more states joining the transparency initiative, I’m proud that our continual improvements have helped make sure Louisiana maintains its status as a national leader in providing taxpayers the type of comprehensive and easily accessible information that holds government accountable.”
In Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, researchers at U.S. PIRG graded all 50 states on how well they provide online access to information about government spending. States were given “A” to “F” grades based on the characteristics of the online transparency systems they have created to provide information on contracts, subsidies and spending at quasi-public agencies.
Louisiana was one of only seven states to score a grade in the “A” range, which, according to the report, “have established user-friendly transparency portals that contain comprehensive information on government expenditures [so that] citizens and watchdog groups can use the sites to monitor government spending quickly and easily.”
Louisiana was also included among states receiving special recognition for unique features of their transparency websites:
Some states have gone above and beyond standard Transparency 2.0 features. They have developed new tools and posted new sets of information on government expenditures, giving residents the unprecedented ability to monitor and influence how their government allocates resources.
Performance trackers: Louisiana’s Performance Accountability System has taken the lead on providing detailed performance evaluations of government agencies by listing specific agencies’ yearly objectives (e.g., “increase the annual number of visitors served by the state park system to at least 2,500,000 by the end of fiscal year 2012-2013”), along with their actual performance.
The creation of LaTrac was first set in motion by Governor Bobby Jindal, through an executive order (BJ 2008-2) issued on his first full day in office in January 2008, and authorized by legislation (Act 20) during the 2008 special legislative session on ethics reform. LaTrac, which can be accessed at www.latrac.la.gov, launched in November of 2008 and since then has undergone several upgrades, with new features added.