Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Louisiana is R2T finalist in second round

Louisiana is one of 18 states chosen as finalists in the second round of federal Race to the Top funding, reported in this press release from the Department of Education.

The press release says the state could get as much as $175 million from the competitive grant. But as this Christian Science Monitor article points out, the total amount requested by finalists is about $6.2 billion, while the total amount available in R2T funds is $3.4 billion.

Advocate editorial hits Stelly repeal

The Advocate gets it exactly right in this editorial. When the legislature overturned the tax reforms in the Stelly plan, the stage was set for the fiscal crisis facing Louisiana today.

Problem is, that's pretty much water under the bridge. The Stelly reforms have been so thoroughly poisoned by political opportunists that bringing up the subject is close to pointless.

But there is a gold mine of information in the Budget Project report that can move the debate beyond Stelly. More than 440 tax expenditures - those are tax revenues that are spent on various rebates and tax incentives - cost the state some $7 billion a year.

No doubt, many of those breaks are valuable and necessary. But repealing just a fraction of them would solve our budget woes.

When shills for big business claim that Louisiana has the highest business taxes in the nation, they are right. But thanks to the myriad exemptions, most businesses don't pay those taxes.

Next year's legislative session will be fiscal. Now is the time to open the discussion on Louisiana's hidden budget, and to question the list of tax breaks offered up by the state.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The man can't help himself

Given an opportunity to tout his legislative successes and point to a decline in "unacceptable" schools, State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek chose instead to attack teacher organizations and local school boards in this article by Advocate reporter Will Sentell.

It could have been a "puff piece," a calm reflection on his first 40 months in office. But it seems that the superintendent just can't help kicking over ant piles.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

LFT files suit to halt "Red Tape" act

As promised, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers has filed suit to halt implementation of Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature education bill, the so-called "Red Tape Reduction and Local Waiver Empowerment Program."

The Federation's case is simple: the governor and legislature do not have the right to hand off the legislature's lawmaking authority to policy boards. We believe the constitution is quite clear on the issue.

For their part, Gov. Jindal's henchmen and the Bossier City Representative who's carrying his water are reduced to name-calling, as this article by Gannett reporter Mike Hasten reveals.

Their attempts to paint the lawsuit as "a sad block reform" just don't wash. LFT has consistently supported reforms that are research-based and proven to be effective. We have a problem with bogus reforms that mask attacks on public education and the teaching profession.

We just don't see the Jindal plans to charterize, privatize and voucherize our schools as legitimate reforms.

But that's not even the point in this case. It's the legal issue. As LFT President Steve Monaghan put is, "This is a slippery slope that strongly threatens everyone's appreciation of what law is. Because we support the legislative process and the value of law, we have no choice but to challenge the constitutionality of this act."

Here is a link to the LFT Web site's report on the lawsuit, which has links to the lawsuit itself.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pastorek: "I did it"

Was State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek falling on his sword to protect Governor Bobby Jindal, or was he really the one behind the veto of funds to pay stipends promised to nationally certified educators?

Does it matter? We know that neither of them apparently believe in the value of national certification, or in keeping the word of the state or, for that matter, in the value of the people who dedicate their lives to our our schools and our children.

Anyway, here is the Associated Press story in which Pastorek says he is the culprit, and not the governor, who wanted to axe the stipends.