Thursday, April 28, 2011

Listen to Steve Monaghan demolish Chas Roemer's tenure plan

LFT President Steve Monaghan was the guest on Spud McConnell's WWL-AM talk show this afternoon. Listen as Steve demolishes Chas Roemer's arguments against teacher tenure.

Watch this at WWL

Chas Roemer launches attack on teacher tenure

First things first. Tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment, nor is it designed to protect what BESE member Chas Roemer likes to call "poorly performing teachers."

Tenure is an acknowledgment that a teacher has met all of the requirements of the profession and is entitled to due process if challenged.

It is not easy to earn tenure. Tenure is not granted automatically.

In order to be tenured, a teacher must first earn a college degree, then pass a rigorous examination, and then spend three years on supervised probation with regular evaluations. During those three years, the teacher can be released for virtually any reason.

A teacher can only earn tenure in an area of expertise, and tenure is not transferable to another school system.

Obviously, if an unqualified person becomes tenured, that means there has been a serious administrative breakdown somewhere along the line.

Even so, there are ways to determine whether tenure was inappropriately issued. A tenured teacher must continue to earn satisfactory evaluations. A tenured teacher can be fired, but has a right to a hearing to determine whether or not the firing is justifiable.

Now that you know that, check out this story by Advocate reporter Will Sentell, in which BESE District 6 member Chas Roemer urges legislators to abolish the state's tenure law.

Roemer's plan, allowing school principals sole discretion to fire teachers for any reason, is a perfect recipe for favoritism and scandal.

And his logic is seriously flawed. Roemer says that we could theoretically get rid of 2,500 "poorly performing" teachers and use their salaries to give big raises to the top 25% of teachers.

But firing those 2,500 teachers would leave 40,000 students without classroom leadership. Where does Roemer think those kids would go?

Tenure is essential in order for teachers to do their jobs without fear of favoritism or reprisal. Talk of abolishing it is foolish and dangerous for teachers and the profession of education.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jindal gets it wrong on revenues

Give Gov. Jindal's speech writers credit - they came up with great sounding phrases for his address to the legislature on Monday. The promise of his rhetoric is surpassed by the emptiness of his ideas, however.

Often derided for his staccato speech delivery, Jindal's style was a good fit for the machine-gun diatribe produced for the opening session: “Tax increases kill jobs,” he said. “Tax increases kill opportunities. Tax increases hurt economic development. Tax increases hurt our ability to attract new businesses into Louisiana.”

The problem is that it's just not true. If cutting taxes and slashing services was the right strategy for success, we would have high employment, low poverty, a healthy population and a robust, growing, well educated state.

We know better. In fact, since the massive tax cuts approved by the legislatrue in 2007 and 2008, our unemployment rate has gone from 4% to 8.1%. Our population is not growing, as evidenced by our loss of a congressional seat.

As Louisiana Budget Project Director Eddie Ashworth said in this paper, "The state has lost over 16,000 manufacturing jobs. Louisianans continue to be among the least healthy (ranking 49th) and poorest educated (ranking 49th) in the country."

The truth is that Louisiana needs a balanced approach to the budget, one that includes new revenues along with reasonable budget cuts. We need to take a look at the $7.1 billion in tax exemptions offered by the state, and make sure that all of them either serve a purpose for the people of the state, or else are repealed so that funds are available to create the quiality of life our citizens deserve.

Education coalition speaks truth to power

LFT President Steve Monaghan addresses the news media on Monday. Also shown are St. Tammany Federation of Teachers and School Employees President Elsie Burkhalter and St. John the Baptist School Board Member Russ Wise.

Members of a public education coalition took issue with the Jindal administration's education policies at a press conference on Monday.

Following the governor's opening address to the Louisiana Legislature, members of the the Coalition for Public Education said that Jindal and State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek are taking public education in the wrong direction, basing decisions on political ideology instead of good educational practices.

LFT President Steve Monaghan was one of the speakers at the press conference, reported in this article by Gannett's Mike Hasten.

"After listening to the governor (in his address opening the legislative session) that the future is so bright, I had to put on my shades," Monaghan said. "There's a different Louisiana out there. Class sizes are going up and salaries have been frozen.

"We're not going to cut our way to prosperity," he said. "Less has never been more. To Mr. Jindal, we have $7.1 billion in taxes not being collected now" because of tax exemptions granted to business. "They would provide for the public good. It's time to take the shades off and look at things as they are."

Members of the coalition include the LFT, the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana School Boards Association, the Louisiana Association of School Executives, the Louisiana Association of Principals, the Louisiana Association of Chief Technology Officers, the Louisiana Retired Teachers Association, the National Board Certified Teachers of Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators, the Louisiana Association of Child Welfare and Attendance Personnel and the National School Board Association.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Better Choices coalition and LFT announce legislative agenda and lobby day

In a series of press conferences around the state, the Better Choices for a Better Louisiana coalition made a powerful case for raising new revenues for the state, and announced that the coalition will have a lobby day on Wednesday, May 4.

With Louisiana facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, coalition spokespersons said that Governor Bobby Jindal’s plan for more cuts without any new revenue cannot solve the state’s problems.

“Doing more with less” is a hollow promise,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan told reporters. “The state is not doing ‘more with less’; it’s doing less with less. The current budget proposal sacrifices education, health care and the quality of life issues that could provide a better future for the families of Louisiana.”

To read more, please click here.

Advocate reporter Will Sentell covered a Better Choices press conference for this article.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Public education coalition stings Pastorek and Jindal

The new education coalition mentioned in EdLog recently has come out swinging, holding its maiden press conference on the steps of the Claiborne Building, home of the Louisiana Department of Education.

As WVLA-TV reporter Kelsey Scram tells it in this article, "A group of school leaders say they've had enough with cuts to education. Now, they're banding together and speaking out."

Representing the Louisiana Federation of Teachers at the press conference was East Baton Rouge Federation President Carnell Washington, who told reporters, "We believe that this governor and this administration have made poor choices...We are coming together to try and stop the train from the direction in which it is going."

Education researcher Charles Hatfield revealed one of the dirty secrets of the Jindal administration's attack on public education, which has included the state takeover of some schools, flat-lining funding for education's Minimum Foundation Program and shifting millions of dollars in state costs onto financially strapped local school boards.

Despite resources poured into schools seized by the state, Hatfield said, "With the few exceptions, which you can count on one hand, most of the schools are really not performing that well. In fact, many of them are atrocious."

Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek responded quickly with a rant in which he characterized the coalition as the "grumbling of those who are unwilling to be inspired" by his failed policies.

Pastorek's screed was trumped by this guest column in the Louisiana Voice blog, penned by Don Whittinghill of the Louisiana School Board's Association.

Whittinghill wrote, in part, "The Superintendent apparently believes that only he, and a small coterie of highly-paid associates, is motivated to 'continue doing the right thing for kids.' His vision of the right thing includes bringing in a host of private companies to manage schools and to provide a varied menu of professional services that have one thing in common: They pull money out of the classroom."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Privatization and imaginary dollars do not a budget make

Just the FAX is a newsletter sent to state legislators each Friday from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. Issues are available online at

The holes in Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposed $24.9 billion budget are showing. We know that the budget depends too heavily on imaginary dollars and the sale of state assets—one-time cash infusions that will probably cost the state more in the long run than they gain right away.

The imaginary dollars pose a big problem for lawmakers who must adopt a balanced budget by June 23. Before that money comes available, the legislature will have to approve constitutional amendments, and voters will have to adopt them at the polls in October. Can the budget be considered “real” if its revenue sources are unclear from June to October?

The sale of state assets is also problematic. The sale of prisons, for example, might produce a temporary windfall. But history shows us that over the long haul, privatized services often cost much more than those provided by government.

Legislators should be very wary of the governor’s plan to privatize the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits. That is a well-run, scandal-free operation that provides insurance for a number of state and local public agencies, including many school systems.

The Office of Group Benefits has a $500 million accrued surplus, which makes it a tempting target for the Wall Street types who drove our economy off the cliff in 2008.

To read the rest of the article, please click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Letting off some steam...

This post on the Truthout blog is angry, passionate, truthful, and just what we need to hear. Some samples: "A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. " "Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King." "The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. " Check out the whole story!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

St. Martin Federation to the rescue!

When the St. Martin Parish School Board proposed laying off more teachers and school employees, and reduce salaries and benefits for those who remain, it was up to the newly chartered St. Martin Federation of Teachers and School Personnel to come to the rescue.

St. MFT/SP President LaTonia Cretian addressed the board, asking members to come up with alternatives that would not hurt teachers and school employees. Her research showed that the board could use part of its "rainy day fund," as well as some money from the state's Education Excellence Fund, to avoid further cuts this year.

Within days, the board announced that it had decided against layoffs this year. KATC-TV reporter Carolyn Cerda covered the issue for this story.

View the video of the story here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

We are One: Public employees will display their value

Just the FAX is a newsletter sent to state legislators each Friday from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. Issues are available online at

This weekend, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers will host its annual Paraprofessional and School Related Personnel Conference. It is the only statewide gathering dedicated to the concerns of school employees other than teachers. We’re meeting with classroom assistants, clerical staff, food service workers, maintenance and custodial employees and transportation workers.

A special guest at the conference will be Leonal Hardman, president of the Louisiana branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He and LFT President Steve Monaghan will jointly announce a new informational campaign to remind our fellow citizens about the necessary work done by public employees, and the important role that public employees play in our communities.

It should not be necessary to say that public servants are vital to our state and our nation, but that is an unfortunate sign of the times. Across the nation, public employees have become scapegoats in the struggle to balance budgets. Instead of blaming poor political choices or Wall Street malfeasance for our economic woes, some point to the salaries and benefits of the people who provide the basic government services we all depend on.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can't we all just get along?

Our schools would be in much better shape if more people shared the attitudes of Memphis Education Association Executive Director Ken Foster and Memphis City Schools Deputy Superintendent Irving Hamer, Jr.

The two paired up for this article in the Christian Science Monitor, in which they agree that "the tone of the national (education) conversation is serving as a wedge, further widening the historical rift between labor and management. Such strife can only harm efforts at meaningful reform."

The pair write honestly about their goals for public schools, their points of agreement and disageement, and the need for open, honest collaboration to improve our schools.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Public Education Coalition Working To Make Louisiana First in Education

The new state-wide Coalition for Louisiana Public Education, consisting of major education stake-holders, has united in working toward the goal that “Louisiana will be a national leader in traditional public education.”

The new think tank’s coalition members have begun working together with elected officials toward major legislative initiatives with a dual objective -- to propel Louisiana toward national pre-eminence in public education, which will subsequently boost Louisiana economically.

Contrary to adhering to “the status quo,” these Coalition members are committed to helping state legislators and education administrators make the hard decisions, guaranteeing equitable education opportunities for all children, to set Louisiana on a path to national excellence.

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

Monday, April 4, 2011

More proof of decline in Louisiana

A recent issue of the fax newsletter that LFT sends to members of the legislature posed the question, "Is Louisiana a state in decline?"

The article asked if the $24.9 billion budget proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal is causing long-term damage to the state's quality of life.

Students graduating from Louisiana's colleges and universities "face life in a state with closed parks, shuttered museums, rutted roads and rickety bridges," the article said. Some wondered if that was an exaggeration.

In answer to that question, Advocate reporter Michelle Millhollon has this article in Sunday's edition:
State government’s money problems are translating into fewer hours to tell the story of the pirates, idealists, rock legends and political powerhouses who once called Louisiana home. The cutbacks to some of the state’s museums began in January with slashed hours and terminated student workers. Now another round of reductions is threatened because of the $1.6 billion shortfall facing the state in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Officials are worried about the impact on communities and culture while visitors are concerned about the decreased access to buildings that tell Louisiana’s history.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1: No joke in Baton Rouge and Washington

Just the FAX is a newsletter sent to state legislators each Friday from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. Issues are available online at

While the Louisiana Legislature prepares for a session that will consider devastating budget cuts, Washington is already well on the way to adopting a budget that promises major pain for our country’s working families.

The plan working its way through Congress will eliminate Head Start funding for 200,000 children, cut Pell Grants for 9.4 million college students, eliminate primary health care services for 11 million Americans and delay Social Security benefits for about 500,000 eligible citizens.

The national situation is disturbingly like our own. In Louisiana, big businesses avoid paying more than three-quarters of the taxes on the books. At the same time, our governor is cutting funding for services that the people of the state depend on.

To read the rest of this legislative fax, please click here.