Monday, June 22, 2009

Picayune: Pastorek "dressed down" by lawmaker

As was reported in the LFT's Weekly Legislative Digest (click here and scroll down), State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek had a bad day in the legislature on Thursday.

The Senate Education Committee's decision to endorse a bill protecting one Rapides Parish alternative school from state takeover was a reproof to both Pastorek and Gov. Bobby Jindal,who sent his education advisor to testify against the bill. The governor also sent lawmakers a note saying he would veto the bill if it passes.

As reported here by The Times-Picayune's Bill Barrow, the Pastorek's defeat came on the heels of a "blistering critique" by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge).

What has insiders puzzled is the simple fact that this train wreck didn't have to happen.

At issue is the Ewell S. Aiken Optional School, which gives over age and non-traditional students a chance to earn a high school diploma. While the school's test scores have risen over the years, it meets the current state criteria for the takeover of an academically unacceptable school.

Rep. Herbert Dixon, author of the bill in question, and the Rapides Parish School Board say it is unreasonable to apply state accountability rules to alternative schools.

The state in fact agrees, and the Department of Education is working on a different set of standards for alternative schools.

What Rep. Dixon and the Rapides Parish School Board wanted was a letter from Pastorek, agreeing that if the Aiken school complies with the new guidelines, the school will be returned to parish control.

The state superintendent refused, setting events in motion that led to his spanking in the Senate committee room last week.

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