Thursday, January 5, 2012

Post-holiday catch up edition

Important things happened while teachers and school employees were on holiday for Christmas and New Year's. Here are a few items that you may have missed during the celebrations.

Education reform defined: Gannett reporter Mike Hasten wrote this column, in which he asked an important question about the meaning of "education reform."

Here's the takeaway from the column:

But one man's view of reform is another's view of harming public schools and another's view of harming
If reform is just creating more charter schools and getting rid of
teacher tenure, it's not going to have the backing of those that have to
implement it — public school systems across the state.
It's got to be much
more than that.

Governor meets with teachers (but offers no clues): Governor Bobby Jindal finally had his first meeting with teacher unions during the holidays. The governor listened politely, but did not say what will be in his education agenda, which he plans to announce later in January.

Also in the room were an assortment of politicians and, most notably, a handful of parents whose children attend religious schools in New Orleans, with tuition paid by state vouchers.

That led LFT President Steve Monaghan to wonder if the governor plans to include expanded vouchers in his plan.

“The major concern is that, in a tight financial construct, which we know we are going to be in, the dollars that will be siphoned away from those schools left behind will be significant,” Monaghan told Advocate reporter Will Sentell for this article.

Voucher concerns confirmed: Worries that vouchers for private and religious schools will play a major part in the governor's agenda were confirmed by Times-Picayune reporter Andrew Vanacore in this article.

Citing unnamed administration sources, Vanacore wrote, "Gov. Bobby Jindal and his allies on education reform are considering an unprecedented, statewide expansion of private school vouchers..."

Tenure also on the line: Also high on the governor's agenda for "education reform" is the protection offered to public school teachers by the state's tenure law.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Penny Dastuge told Advocate reporter Will Sentell that tenure "is the subject that comes up in every conversation" for this story.

As Sentell put it, "Dastugue, a Jindal appointee, said legislation could address anything from how long teachers with unsatisfactory ratings should have before they face formal job reviews, to new tenure policies for future teachers.

Coalition leader hits "reforms": With a consensus growing that the Jindal administration plans to make vouchers and expanded charters big pieces of his education agenda, St. Tammany Parish school Board President Jack Loup is pushing back.

Loup, who recently accepted LFT's Friend of Education Award, told WWL-TV in New Orleans that the governor's emphasis on charter schools is misplaced.

Noting that charter schools can be much more choosy about their students than traditional public schools, Loup said, "Our Constitution says, we take all, we teach all. OK, well we're doing that in the public school system. We're not doing that in the charter schools."

Supremes to hear school waiver case: The case of Gov. Jindal's signature legislation from 2010, the phony-baloney Red Tape Reducation and Local Empowerment Act - will be heard by the Louisiana Supreme Court on January 23.

Advocate reporter Joe Gyan, Jr. writes here that the state will ask the high court to reverse a ruling by District Court Judge Mike Caldwell that the Red Tape Act violates the constitution.

The act gave Board of Elementary and Secondary Education the authority to waive state education laws if requested by local school districts. LFT successfully argued in district court that the act is unconstitutional because the legislature does not have the right to hand off its legislative responsibilities to other bodies.

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