I can promise, however, that with the Louisiana legislative session now less than a week away, emotions will surely boil over as the state's budget and other controversial matters are smack before us. Adding to the fire and heat are upcoming statewide elections and a governor's race.
Oh, I forgot. Another topic surely to be discussed is Governor Bobby Jindal's agenda. Perhaps not his legislative itineary, mind you. The once-controversial matters such as "tax swap" and "pension reforms" have been "white flagged" this year. Apparently, those are too ambitious for a governor on a quixotic quest for a four-year lease at the 1600 Pennsylvania digs, especially curious since his own state overwhelmingly disapproves of his job performance. The Governor will attempt to rehab his image by pushing workforce development and higher education to help prepare the state for the tens of billions of dollars worth of jobs reportedly coming our way.
Actually, with the word "agenda", I'm really referring to the Governor's national agenda. He was a hit last week as he converted the White House driveway into the country's new free-speech alley. Not only did he take on the President at the people's house, but he continued the message while in Chicago and during other political forays. This week, it's another speech at the CPAC in DC. Many are hoping he can address how the Arizona governor waved her own white flag, failing to defend "religious freedom", especially at a time when it really counted.
While, Baton Rouge affairs have always been a distraction for our presidential candidate--who doubles as a national syndicated columnist, TV News rock-star, highly-sought-out national speaker and fundraiser--not every hour of the day will find him in Iowa or New Hampshire. As state governors normally do, he's scheduled to open up the legislative session, which he will gladly do with his own version of the "sermon on the podium".
Now that he is the "religion candidate" after his recent honoring of pro-Phil Robertson's bashing of gays and blacks and with his even more recent scolding of over those who have a slightly different opinion about the role of linking Government with God at Ronald Reaganville, he will have a field-day taking on the "heretics" who want to take the bible out of our kids' science education. In short, no other than the GOP punching bag, Louisiana Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson will be making his day. As late as today, she is urging to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act or otherwise known as the creationism law, passed under this governor and our legislature.
This is the law that allows teachers to enhance our kids thinking, broaden their horizons, by encouraging them to figure out why the world was created in seven days instead of the fantasies of our scientists who somehow connect millions of years of cosmic dust into dinosaurs and then apes. These are the kids whose teachers' can preach their own vision of our lord on the public dime, depending of course, upon whose lord is being preached.
Yet, Peterson thinks that despite repeated failures to end the LSEA and to cut back on public funding of the gospel, somehow a new day has dawned upon the most conservative state in the nation.
Maybe the chairwoman has recently imported some Colorado Gold, for who knows what she's been smoking.
The truth is this--unless the same national business coalition were to threaten with "Arizona-like boycotts", such as removing future Super Bowls from New Orleans, Peterson's quest to repeal the law simply hasn't a prayer of passing.
Now, for the political and legislative roundup for today:
Louisiana Radio Network, a leader in statewide news coverage, will once again produce the Legislative Report, a daily wrap-up of action throughout the 2014 Louisiana legislative session that begins March 10.
The Legislative Report will airMonday-Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Baton Rouge on WBRP-FM Talk 107.3. It will also be available to all network affiliates around the state and on LRN's website,www.louisianaradionetwork.com, starting at approximately5:40 p.m. daily.
The report will focus on the biggest stories each day of the session. It comes in addition to LRN's extensive legislative coverage and other programming offered each weekday.
Founded in 1974, Louisiana Radio Network provides 63 radio stations throughout Louisiana and parts of Mississippi with news, sports and agri-news. LRN also publishes Tiger Rag, "The Bible of LSU Sports" since 1978, and presents the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction award.
ARE YOU KIDDING?
This from an organization of DC progressives, as if this will hurt, rather than help, Republican Bill Cassidy, candidate for the U.S. Senate seat who is one of a number candidates running against Democrat Mary Landrieu:
"It’s official: Rep. Bill Cassidy stands with the most extreme wing of his party on the vast majority of issues, according “Tea Stained,” a groundbreaking new legislative scorecard compiled by Americans United for Change. Overall, Cassidy voted with the Tea Party 85 percent of the time in 2013.With Rep. Cassidy eyeing a statewide Senate run, Americans United added him to “Tea Stained,” feeling it was important to put his record in the House of Representatives in the proper perspective.
“Tea Stained” details the voting records of Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are running for reelection in statistically swing districts, are facing significant reelection challenges or are running for the United States Senate.
The scorecard measures Tea Party loyalty based on 48 recorded votes. The votes scored either appear in the scorecards of Tea Party-affiliated groups Americans for Prosperity or Freedomworks or both or represent the Tea Party’s core values – obsession with the Affordable Care Act – or the Tea Party’s major accomplishment for 2013 – shutting down the government.
Americans United undertook this project in the wake of the two-week, Tea Party orchestrated government shutdown that brought America to the brink of economic disaster.
“Americans have the right to a government that functions and the right to know what role their elected representatives have been playing in turning a great democracy into a gridlocked, dysfunctional mess,” Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, said. “Whether they embrace the Tea Party ideology or despise it or fall anywhere in between, they have a right to know where their elected representatives fall on the Tea Party spectrum – not where they say they fall, but how they actually vote. That is what the Tea Party Scorecard provides. What it proves, unfortunately for non-extremists who are represented by Republicans, is that there is no longer a meaningful distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in American politics today.”
Yea, Cassidy, take that.
KAREN PETERSON TACKLES LSEA REPEAL
Today, From the desk of Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson:
Since 2008, we've been fighting to restore science education in Louisiana. And the fight will continue. Creating a more nationally-competitive educational system in Louisiana is essential if we want to grow our economy and create good jobs.
Legislation like the LSEA puts Louisiana's children at a disadvantage when it comes to their potential opportunities in growing fields such as biotechnology, engineering, health sciences, and high-tech careers. Our children will be ill-prepared for the good-paying jobs created in these industries without a modern education system that is respects and celebrates real science.
Our economic success relies on a competitive, modern workforce. And that advanced workforce starts with a state-of-the-art educational system.
That's why, for the forth year in a row, I'm introducing a bill to Repeal the Louisiana "Science" Education Act. SB 26 is a simple piece of legislation: it returns Louisiana to the mainstream of scientific education and ensures our science classrooms remain focused on science.
This effort has been endorsed by over 70 Nobel Laureate scientists, by the largest science organizations in the country, and thousands of clergy members. You can learn more about the campaign to Repeal the LSEA, led by Zack Kopplin, here:
The repeal campaign is endorsed by 78 Nobel laureate scientists, nearly 40% of living Nobel laureate scientists, and numerous other prominent scientists. It has also been endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other major science and educator organizations in Louisiana and the United States. In addition, thousands of clergy members, who are part of the Clergy Letter Project, have joined the repeal campaign. Reverend Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, said, “(The repeal effort) represents the best thinking in American science, the best thinking in American religion, and it also reflects the United States Constitution.”
Over 70,000 people from Louisiana and around the country have signed a Change.org petition and other petitions in support of this repeal. The conservative Thomas Fordham Institute stated the Louisiana Science Education Act creates “anti-evolution pressures (that) continue to threaten state science standards.” In its evaluation of Louisiana’s education system,the Thomas Fordham Institute called the LSEA a “devastating flaw.”
The bill will be heard in the legislative session thatbegins March 10th. The Repeal bill will likely begin in the Senate Education Committee. You can contact committee members and encourage them to support SB 26, here.
This issue is simple. No matter how many times the Governor's allies in the Legislature oppose it, I will reintroduce this bill because it is the right thing to do for Louisiana's children. We deserve a world class science education system in Louisiana. Repealing the LSEA helps get us one step closer to that goal.
And, last, from the desk of John White, Superintendent of Education: Education
As part of its plan to provide increased, intensive support to districts, schools, and educators during a two-year transition period to learn new academic expectations, the Louisiana Department of Education announced today that it would provide administrators and teachers access to low-cost or free published curriculum, curriculum guidebooks, in-depth reviews of many published curricula, and professional development specific to certain curricula.
In 2010, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) adopted higher standards for English Language Arts and math. These standards are being fully implemented during the 2013-2014 school year and will be fully measured on new assessments in the 2014-2015 school year. School letter grades and other accountability measures have been modified to allow for two additional transition years during this period.
In Louisiana, local school systems and schools determine which curricula to use in classrooms. The Department provides curricula and related resources and trainings as options from which districts may choose. In 2013, the Department encouraged the use of the LSU-developed Eureka Math curriculum and provided hundreds of training seats for educators across the state. In addition, the Department provided educators statewide with the Classroom Support Toolboxwhich included sample year-long curriculum plans, instructional videos, guidance on setting goals for student achievement, and assessment guides to clarify how state tests align to the new expectations. Today's announcement expands on this by providing more resources including approved curricula recommendations, curriculum guidebooks to help teachers with how to best use text and assessments together, publisher textbooks and text sets, and significant amounts of professional development.
"By increasing and intensifying our support during this transition, we want to make sure our teachers have the guidance they need to learn the new expectations and best instruct students to achieve those expectations," said State Superintendent of Education John White. "We want our educators to know that the resources provided to them are aligned and meet the needs of their students and communities."
The package announced today includes:
$1· Published Curriculum Recommendations: The Department and Louisiana educators reviewed curricula submitted by publishers to make choosing curricula easier and faster for educators, identifying curricula as Tier 1, 2, or 3 depending on their level of alignment with new academic expectations. Louisiana educators trained on the Common Core State Standards reviewed and vetted all submitted materials. The results of that vetting are summarized and made available for public review ascurricular resources through the Classroom Support Toolbox on the Department's website. As materials continue to be submitted the Department will continue vetting curricular programs and highlighting those that are Tier 1. The Eureka Math curriculum, a Tier 1 curriculum for grades K-12, is aligned to new expectations and written by leading educators and math experts at the Cain Center for STEM Literacy at Louisiana State University. Eureka Math is available online for free or can be purchased in printed versions. For English, the Core Knowledge Skills Strand for grades K-2 and 3 is fully aligned to new academic expectations for literacy foundations. Core Knowledge is available in a free download or can be printed at low-cost. Additionally, the Department has found a series of Tier 2 English Language Arts programs, some for free download, and others for purchase that are more traditional curriculum programs. All Tier 2 programs can be reviewed here. As more programs meet the Tier 2 rating, the Department will continue to post them throughout the spring.
$1· Unit Plans and Guidebooks: The Department is increasing support to educators, providing Instructional Guidebooks for every grade K-12. In English, these guidebooks include a full year of unit plans for each grade level with more units than necessary to give districts choice in which texts to use, many of which are already included in most school anthologies. Teachers can also receive guidance in accessing texts on the internet by clicking here. In the English Guidebook, each unit plan will include a full set of novels and other readings, multiple end of unit assessments (each includes sample that mirror state end of year assessments), and a sequence of daily lessons for over 50 percent of the lessons. The Math Guidebook includes rigorous instructional tasks to supplement any curricula. Many of these tasks mirror the types of items students will see on their end of year state assessments and thus can be used at any time during the year to help students practice meeting the expectations of the new standards.
$1· Professional Development: To support educators and the use of these resources, the Department will provide significant in-person and virtual training. The Department will train over 4,000 educators from every district in the state who will be prepared to redeliver the content to educators in their home districts. The training will consist of over fifteen days of in person training, providing hundreds of training seats each day. Additionally, the virtual training provided will occur multiple times every month of the entire school year, preparing teachers weekly to implement high quality curricula. A full Professional Development calendar will be released later this spring.
"I have been a mathematics educator in Louisiana for 40 years - and it makes me tremendously proud to see Louisiana taking a leadership role in promoting such a carefully crafted, intensely vetted curriculum and demonstrating its willingness to support that curriculum by providing quality professional development for teachers," said Nell McAnelly, Co-Director of the LSU Gordon A. Cain Center for STEM Literacy. "The Department's support of Eureka Math represents an exciting opportunity for the children in our state to master rigorous content and achieve academic success."
The Department is also guiding districts and families through such measures as:
$1· Increasing the availability of technological resources for schools and students.
$1· Highlighting a sample Question of the Day for the 2014-2015 assessments to help educators and families preview the tests.
$1· Providing sample tests replicating the technology students will use to take the assessment, affording educators and families the opportunity to experience the test in the same way students will in 2015.
"The resources being released will provide teachers in my school district the information needed to fully prepare students for the standards and assessments," said Patricia Thibodeaux, Assistant Principal at LeBlanc Elementary School in Vermilion Parish. "It was truly an honor to work with a group of dedicated individuals in this meritorious process. Louisiana will lead the change and students are sure to thrive."
"I am looking forward to using the released math instructional tasks because it will increase rigor in the classroom as they demonstrate conceptual understanding of different skills," said Em LeBlanc, 3rd grade teacher at The Dufrocq School in East Baton Rouge Parish. "I plan to use them as a guide for my instruction and incorporate as many as I can into my lessons and units to ensure student achievement."
"Teachers in Lafayette Parish using the Eureka Math curriculum have reported their students are becoming critical thinkers and more efficient problem solvers through a better conceptual understanding. In the past, a large number of topics were taught quickly by teaching procedures and rote memory techniques because of time restraints. With the Eureka Math curriculum these same major topics are challenging teachers to teach conceptually, helping students to build a toolbox of strategies that they add to as they grow as mathematicians," said Penny Gennuso, Math/Science Academic Specialist for Lafayette Parish schools.
"I am looking forward to getting the master list of K-12 ELA texts included in the ELA unit plans. I know many Louisiana schools will have a lot of these texts already on their campuses, and it will be both comforting and validating to see how we can use what we may already have to better align our instruction with the Common Core State Standards," said Christina Johnson, English Language Arts School Support Specialist in Jefferson Parish.
To view reviews of curriculum resources, please click here.
To view the 2014-2015 English and Math Guidebooks, please click here.
Two stories in the weekend papers - by journalists who have covered the state budget longer than anyone - shine an important light on the various tricks the governor and Legislature have used to keep things in balance, and the possible consequences for the next governor. From the AP's Melinda Deslatte: "The maneuvers leave any governor to follow Jindal, who is term-limited in early 2016, with fewer dollars socked away in savings accounts, less money from annual interest earnings to pay for ongoing expenses and lingering disputes tied to the fund sweeps. The Republican governor has steered tobacco settlement dollars away from health and education trust funds and into the annual operating budget; zeroed out a list of funds that had dedicated fees and other balances planned for specific projects or purposes; and drained an elderly trust fund that once contained more than $830 million. His administration has even gotten into a fight with a group of legally blind vendors for tapping into the vendors' trust fund to pay for the state's legal dispute over a contract for food services operations at Fort Polk."
The previous day, The Advocate's Michelle Millhollon weighed in with a detailed story about the budget gimmicks that included a helpful history lesson on how previous governors coped with budget challenges. "In six years, Jindal has managed to cut the state workforce and to shift state government functions to private companies.It's in the sustainability of his state spending plans that he draws criticism. Some legislators say they are tired of gimmicks such as selling a state building to ensure Medicaid recipients can go to the doctor. The solution is harder than it seems. Cut spending? Sure, but no one can decide where to cut. Increase taxes? Not on Jindal's watch."
Of course, there is a solution to these chronic structural deficits that has proved a non-starter in Louisiana: new revenues. As the Pelican State struggles through another year with budget gimmicks and fund-raids, states such as Michigan and California that raised taxes as part of their budget-balancing strategies are now enjoying healthy surpluses.