Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hypocrisy in high places

The State Department of Education raises issues of hypocrisy in this story by Advocate reporter Will Sentell, in which vows are made to ensure that every pre-kindergarten school that takes public tuition money will be held to rigorous standards.

“Every program that takes public dollars will be held to a common standard,” Superintendent of Education White told the reporter.

Thanks to the superintendent’s deep concern for the well-being of our state’s smallest learners, schools that provide pre-K instruction will all be assigned letter grades similar to the labels pasted onto public elementary and secondary schools.

Standards and letter grades are important, Supt. White indicated, as parents make choices about their children’s education.

“There are a lot of different choices out there, but children and their families do not have equal access and quality varies widely,” White told the reporter.

But what’s good for the little-bitties apparently does not work for their K-12 siblings, according to Supt. White and his colleagues on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being diverted away from public schools to pay tuition in private and religious schools and for “course providers” that come nowhere close to the standards demanded of public schools.

Last week, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers forced BESE to hold a hearing to accept suggestions for improvements to the totally inadequate standards promulgated for voucher schools last July.

The accountability standards touted by Supt. White do not impose letter grades on voucher schools, do not require them to hold a common curriculum, do not require their teachers to have even the most basic certification, and do not adequately oversee their stewardship of public funds.

Even those vague standards can be waived by Supt. White – and there are no guidelines governing his ability to waiver.

Supt. White did not even bother to attend the hearing. BESE’s executive director limited most of those who appeared to a two minute presentation. Supt. White’s allies at the hearing cavalierly dismissed concerns about the accountability of voucher schools.

LFT President Steve Monaghan said the hearing “sent a very clear signal: the mission of the department of education is to champion vouchers and privatization by any means necessary, and any rules that get in the way of that agenda will not be tolerated.”

Absolute common standards for all pre-K programs that take state dollars. Not so much for the private and religious schools that Supt. White and Gov. Bobby Jindal seem to have come to favor over public education. That is hypocrisy in the highest places.

1 comment:

Lee Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT said...

White is in essence simply "negotiating" with Pre-K providers. He said in his presentation to Governor Jindal's Bright Start Advisory Council (the group REALLY in control of Pre-K via Jindal) that there will be waivers to licensing for those who participate in "outcome based rating" - in other words testing and letter grades.

My understanding is that a federal grant was applied for and r received in 2010 under the auspices of the Louisiana Early Childhood Advisory Council directed by Dr. Geoffrey Nagle which outlines the pre-K plan. The plan touts "diverse delivery" (publicly funded private providers) in "community settings" (publicly funded private providers). The creators claim it is a benefit to public school systems because it will eliminate their cost for classrooms. The plan is to offer tax credits to qualified staff (merit pay tied to test scores complements of taxpayers) and some kind of tax credits for providers(my guess is vouchers). While White appears to be cautiously instituting this plan for the good of the public, I suspect his timeline is designed to:1) introduce a draft of standards (testing regime for grading system) on the Bright Start website in November, 2) present to. BESE in December 3) introduce legislation (vouchers, tax credits, letter grades etc) in spring session and 4) hope the data system t o report it will be up and running and funded as per legislation.

Nothing new under the sun.