Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is Jindal's BESE dominance enough?

How much did Gov. Bobby Jindal and his allies spend to stack the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education with members simpatico with his idea of eduction reform? We won't know for sure until the next round of election finance reports is released, but it will be a big number, well into the millions.

What they will get for their investment is the subject of this column by Associated Press reporter Melinda Deslatte.

The gist of it is this: Despite the governor's near-total control of BESE, a "sweeping overhaul" of public education is not necessarily a "done deal."

The governor's faction will have their way in matters of policy, including his choice for superintendent of education, Deslatte concedes: "Jindal's got three appointees to the board, and most of the eight elected members espouse his support of vouchers, charter school expansion, school takeovers and teacher evaluations tied at least partly to student test scores."

But while policy is under the jurisdiction of BESE, law is another matter, and that is in the purview of the legislature.

"The new and re-elected BESE members can't just sweep in at the start of the January term and make all those changes on which they campaigned," writes Deslatte. "They can elect a superintendent who agrees with them. Then, they'll have to lobby lawmakers and keep their fingers crossed."

"I expect there to be a robust debate, but in the end, I expect in the House and in the Senate to get these proposals through," Deslatte quotes the governor as saying. Jindal has not revealed just what those proposals will be.

Deslatte notes that most members of the legislature were not elected on platforms of education reform that mirror Jindal's. They will be hearing from others who want to improve education, but may not believe the governor's path is the right one.

Deslatte concludes that the governor will "still have to get majority support in both chambers and overcome the opposition of the unions, school board leaders and other traditional public school supporters to win final passage of his bills."

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