Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Red Tape" sponsor won't support changes

The chief sponsor of the so-called Red Tape Reduction and Local Waiver Empowerment Act won't support changes that may encourage school boards to actually apply for the waivers of law and policy, according to this article by Advocate reporter Will Sentell.

The act, which was Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature education legislation in the 2010 legislative session, has been touted by Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek as a way for school systems to circumvent "burdensome rules and laws" that "stifle student gain."

Those burdensome rules include teacher tenure, class size, instructional time and curriculum.

Thus far, not a single school board has requested a waiver as permitted by the act. One reason may be a requirement, added at the last minute by legislators as a way to blunt criticism of the act, that teachers in affected schools be allowed to vote on whether the board should seek a waiver.

Some friends of the Jindal administration have suggested an amendment to the act removing the requirement that teachers vote on proposed waivers. In the Advocate article, Rep. Smith says she is not interested in amending the law, however.

A former school superintendent in Bossier Parish herself, Rep. Smith told the Advocate, “If I am a superintendent and believe strongly in something and can’t get the support of the teachers, I guess I am going to have to examine what I am asking."

Another problem for the Red Tape act is its dubious constitutionality. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers has challenged the act in 19th Judicial District Court on the grounds that lawmakers cannot give the state education board the authority to waive laws passed by the legislature.

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