Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jindal's vouchers deny real choice to parents

The hypocrisy of Gov. Bobby Jindal's scheme to push vouchers on the taxpayers of Louisiana was revealed when he admitted that he has no plan to hold private and religious schools to the same standard as public schools.

The governor has repeatedly asserted that his aim in spending public education dollars on private and religious school tuition is to give parents more and better choices for their children.

If that were a true statement, then Gov. Jindal would want schools that accept vouchers to allow a fair comparison with their public counterparts. Students in those schools would be tested, teachers would be evaluated, schools would receive School Performance Scores and letter grades.

But as Gannett reporter Mike Hasten writes here, Gov. Jindal will refuse to allow parents access to the information they need to make an informed choice.

That shocking revelation came after Indiana Superintendent of Education Tony Bennett told a crowd in Baton Rouge that his state's voucher system requires all schools to submit to the state's accountability program and test every student.

Asked if our governor intends to follow suit in Louisiana, "Jindal said he believes 'parents are the best accountability program' and if they are not satisfied with the education their children receive, they can pull them from private schools."

Louisiana's Catholic schools, the primary recipients of voucher funds, have opposed any effort to require state accountability in return for accepting taxpayer dollars.

In recent days, the governor has harshly condemned critics who point out that his scheme does not give parents the information they need to make an informed choice. His overheated rhetoric is intended to hide this giant flaw in his education agenda.

Letter writer gets it right

Looks like the word is getting out on Gov. Jindal's sham "education reform" scheme. It all sounded good when the governor was a candidate last fall, and made only vague references to a bold reform agenda.

Now that details are emerging, it doesn't look so good. Voters might be starting to question the essence of a plan that relies so heavily on publicly funded vouchers for private and religious schools, radically expanding charter schools without sufficient accountability, and attacking teachers.

This letter to the editor of The Advocate hits a nerve:

The purpose of reforming education is to lower education inequity by
providing every student the same, high quality, and affordable education. Gov.
Bobby Jindal has
worked to do the exact opposite by freezing per-student aid to public schools
for three years. Now his “education reform” plan will pretty much further hurt
the public school system by offering vouchers for private schools.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who's the job creator?

Tell Gov. Jindal that he's wrong about teachers and our schools!

Please click here to sign the petition

This year, Governor Bobby Jindal released his plans for an education agenda that will:

  • Destroy the teacher salary schedule

  • Endanger tenure and due process rights

  • Radically expand vouchers for private and religious schools

  • Impose even more state control over local school districts
The governor’s overreaching, dangerous agenda threatens our students, our schools and our profession.

We must have the courage to oppose the governor’s radical agenda, and the wisdom and leadership to provide common-sense alternatives to his destructive schemes.

It’s time for action! Take the first step and sign the LFT petition asking Governor Jindal to tone down the rhetoric. Ask him to work with us and build public schools that empower educators, provide the resources that our children deserve, and provide unlimited opportunities for the future.

Please click here to sign the petition

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weasel words leading the voucher charge

In most surveys, majorities of citizens don't like the idea of public funds being used to pay for tuition at private and religious schools.

Most people understand that vouchers strip funds from public education. They know that those schools are able to pick and choose their students, and that most public schools must accept all who appear at the door.

They know that private and religious schools are not accountable to the public, do not release test scores, and are not carefully monitored by state agencies.

So how does a governor who wants the state to pay for private or religious schooling for hundreds of thousands of children go about changing the public attitude about vouchers?

The first step is to change the name. It's no longer a voucher. Now it's an "opportunity scholarship."

Associated Press reporter Kevin McGill talks about the "weasel words" that cynical politicians use to distort the meaning of things in this column.

Friday, January 20, 2012

See Steve Monaghan on LPB's "The State We're In"

Louisiana Public Broadcasting Reporter Sue Lincoln has interviewed LFT President Steve Monaghan for two episodes of her program, “Louisiana – The State We’re In.”
Part one, “Jindal Tackles Teacher Tenure,” will air tonight at 7:00 P.M. on Louisiana Public Broadcasting stations.

If you don’t have access to an LPB station, the show will be available online at the www.lpb.org Web site by Saturday morning, under the “News” category.

The second episode, which will cover charter schools and vouchers, will air next Friday at 7:00 P.M., and will appear online the next morning.

Listen to LFT President Steve Monaghan and new State Supt. John White

Radio host Jim Engster had both Steve Monaghan and new State Superintendent of Education John White on his show yesterday. You can listen to a podcast of the show by visiting this Web site:
and clicking on “The Jim Engster Show 01-19-12, Jerry Stovall, John White, Steve Monaghan

Jindal's plan: Controversial, unjust and insulting

Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan has strong words for Governor Bobby Jindal's newly released education agenda.

In a special edition of Your LFT Connection, Monaghan writes:

On January 17, the governor unveiled his plan in a speech to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Unfortunately, the governor chose his words very poorly as he framed his controversial agenda.

We had hoped that the governor would identify areas where consensus among stakeholders could emerge in the best interests of children and all citizens. There are more than 30 policy initiatives outlined in the governor’s press material, a barrage of ideas that will have to be carefully sorted when lawmakers come into session on March 12.

To find out more about the LFT's reaction to Gov. Jindal's education agenda, please click here.

Newspaper: Jindal provoking "mother of all legislative battles"

The Lafayette Advertiser correctly identified the fight that Gov. Jindal has picked with his 30-some-odd point education "reform" agenda.

How will lawmakers react when they discover that the governor would like to pay for nearly 400,000 Louisiana students to attend private and religious schools?

As The Advertiser puts it,

Exactly how many slots in private schools would have to be opened to
accommodate so many eligible students? If new private schools are rushed toward
opening to meet the new demand, who ensures that they're of adequate quality?
How do school systems provide transportation? Or should they? Should disabled
students be eligible for more valuable vouchers because their needs cost more to
meet? If not, will they get left behind? What if choice results in a
re-segregation of publicly financed education in violation of consent decrees
developed painstakingly over decades?

Is a Value Added teacher evaluation good for Louisiana?

Politicians believe the Value Added Model is right for Louisiana teachers. LFT isn't so sure.

Beginning in 2012-13, Louisiana teachers will be evaluated using a new instrument that incorporates what is known as a Value Added Model. The VAM makes judgments about a teacher’s performance based on student growth as measured by standardized tests.

From the beginning, LFT opposed passage of the bill that created the Value Added Model for teacher evaluation. But the bill had strong support from leaders as diverse as President Obama, Governor Jindal, Senators Landrieu and Vitter, the State Superintendent of Education, the BESE Board and the House and Senate Education Committees.

Aware of the strength of VAM’s support, LFT worked with lawmakers to improve the bill as much as possible, even as we continued to oppose its passage.

Some leaders in Baton Rouge want you to believe their new evaluation scheme is fail-safe. To find out why we disagree, and to learn much more about the Value Added model, please visit this Web page.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tone of Jindal’s speech uneven, in part offensive, teachers say

(Baton Rouge – January 17, 2012) In a lengthy speech before members of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Governor Bobby Jindal unveiled what he has characterized as his bold plan for public education. The governor outlined a broad agenda divided into categories including teachers, parents, school officials and early childhood education.
As expected, the long list of ideas included a significant number of controversial initiatives.

However, it was the governor’s word choice that proved most surprising and that many educators may find offensive.

“It is unfortunate that the governor chose to frame his agenda in a way that demeans teachers,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said after reading the governors’ prepared comments.

“On one hand the governor acknowledged teachers as the backbone of education and urged that teachers be celebrated and appreciated. However, just moments later he inaccurately and unfairly asserted to this audience of influential business leaders that teachers “are given lifetime job protection…and short of selling drugs in the workplace or beating up” their students, teachers couldn’t be fired.

To read the rest of this story, please click here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Teachers vote to unionize charter school

The Board of Directors at Khepera Charter School and the year-old bargaining unit representing its teachers ratified their first contract Monday. The contract establishes a salary scale and regularizes procedures for labor-management communications and teacher evaluation.

Khepera is a K-8 African-centered academy in West Mount Airy that opened in 2004.
The teachers voted last June to be represented by the Alliance of Charter Schools and Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania.

To read more, please click here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BESE appoints John White as superintendent

(Baton Rouge- January 11, 2012) As expected, John White was appointed State Superintendent of Education today by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Nine members voted to support Gov. Jindal’s hand-picked candidate, while District 3 Member Lottie Beebe voted “no” and District 8 Member Carolyn Hill abstained. Reportedly, both were under heavy political pressure to support the governor’s choice.

The motion to hire White was made by District 6 BESE member Chas Roemer, who also asked that the board waive the requirements that a candidate would normally be expected to meet for the position.

Beebe objected, saying “Credentials and experience do matter. The governor's nominee lacks a great deal of both in my opinion."Beebe introduced a substitute motion, calling for a nationwide search for a qualified candidate to be superintendent. She was unable to muster a second for her motion, however.

To read more, please click here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Your LFT Connection - January 2012

Dear Colleague,

Just before Christmas, Governor Jindal invited the Federation, legislative leaders and other stakeholders to have a conversation about education. During this more than two hour long meeting, the governor listened politely to all comments and repeated his promise to continue meeting and keep listening as he prepares his “bold plan” for education.

The governor did not did reveal specific initiatives or any details; he said he will unveil his plan sometime later in January.

However, the governor’s public statements during and following the December meeting give us a sense of what he may mean by a “bold plan for education.” He has consistently stressed the following overarching themes:

To read more of Your LFT Connection, please click here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Advocate, LFT agree on "Haynesville Bust"

In a recent editorial, The Advocate in Baton Rouge pointed out that the state is losing hundreds of millions of dollars because a loophole in our tax law gives petroleum producers a tax break on the boom in natural gas drilling.

The newspaper called it"the great Haynesville bust" because most of the action is in North Louisiana's Haynesville play, where landowners have become millionaires and oil companies are reaping vast profits.

Left our of the bonanza is the State of Louisiana: "In the 1990s," said the editorial, "when horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing were new methods, the state passed at the behest of the powerful oil industry a 100 percent tax exemption for the cost of drilling wells."

In this letter to the editor, LFT President Steve Monaghan wrote of the practical impact of the loophole. "While education, health care, the transportation infrastructure and other vital public services starve," Monaghan wrote, "vast fortunes are being made by the energy corporations."

It was not unexpected, said Monaghan:

Nearly two years ago, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the
Louisiana Budget Project were partners in creating the Better Choices for a
Better Louisiana coalition. The coalition’s main goal was a balanced approach to
our budget crisis and to ensure that Louisiana had the resources required to
provide the services our people need and deserve.
Early on, Better Choices was critical of the state tax loophole granted for horizontal drilling. As new discoveries in the Tuscaloosa Trend come into play, Louisiana stands to lose even more millions.

The LFT President ended his letter by urging Gov. Jindal and the legislature "to examine and reconsider the tax breaks for horizontal drilling and each of the more than 400 tax breaks on the books."

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.