Independent journalist, John Maginnis, has initiated the dialogue leading up to the BESE elections in October. His OP-ED piece, Education leaders need to step up, was posted in the Times-Picayune 08/10/2011:
Here is the comment I posted in response - this reader is answering the call to Step Up!!
Governor Jindal's effort, through BESE, to privatize public education through charter schools, vouchers and tax credits will derail sooner or later because the business model that has worked so well lately in banking and the corporate world is not a viable model for education.
Students are not human capital; they are human beings. Anyone who has invested in one knows they are as unpredictable as the stock market. Parents are not customers looking for the best bargain when making their choices for school enrollment. Hence the need for full and equitable funding and redirecting many of the tax dollars now squandered on out-of-state contracts for testing, consulting, charter management companies, supplements for unqualified Teach for America personnel, inflated salaries for Superintendent and administrative staff, and ineffective programs that don't address the educational needs of our local communities.
Teachers know that pay for performance based on someone else's performance - their students' - is not an incentive because too many factors are beyond their control. Teachers don't teach because of the potential to make an extraordinary salary if their students churn out the state-prescribed answers on a standardized test.
Principals and administrators know that while the maintenance and control of hundreds of children in the confines of one building may appear to the public to be like herding cats, there is method to the madness. It takes not only a hefty dose of child psychology but a good bit of experience and expertise that comes along with a few bruises and, most importantly, a love for children and a desire to educate them. Hiring unqualified college grads who come and go while labeling state certified, highly qualified teachers as failures on the public dole and playing on public sentiment against unions just could be the straw that breaks the back of charter schools who are allowed to engage in that practice.
I would submit that few public-spirited citizens are willing to run for a seat on the Board of Education because they understand that the state's chief education policy-making body and its superintendent must be qualified, knowledgeable and experienced in the field of education. They should be made aware that several BESE members along with their overpaid appointed superintendent are not in any way qualified. Where is the accountability and responsibility at the highest level of public education in our state?
Additionally there appears to be conflict of interest for several who are personally associated with or have relatives who are associated with charters, charter boards and private schools - all of which benefit from policy and proposed legislation supported by BESE. Former Ascension Parish School Superintendent Donald Songy should be a shoe-in to replace Charles Roemer, whose sister, Caroline, is Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. The ethics board previously ruled that she could not appear before BESE on behalf of charter school matters pending before the board. She also was prohibited from interacting with the staff and Department of Education on matters under BESE jurisdiction. I supposed she and her brother are estranged?
On the other hand, current BESE member Dale Bayard of Sulphur has a proven record of support for public schools and has resisted the political pressure to advance the Governor Jindal's design for schools because he has seen the failure of the administration's so-called "innovation." Although his opponent, Holly Boffy, has taught for a few years and understands the argument for protecting tenure, she says she is no longer teaching and is evidently pinning her hopes on public sentiment against that tenure to garner votes, a position that may come back to bite her.
Education leaders have stepped up on a number of fronts. The Coalition for Louisiana Public Education is vying for a voice for educators at all levels from highly qualified, certified teachers to local school board members to district superintendents. Community grass roots efforts to hold back the rising tide of privatization and its attendant reduction of services for special education students, gifted and talented students and the low income population are gaining ground.
We have all had long enough to be convinced that the culture of failure produced by this iteration of reform needs to be replaced with researched, tested, and proven effective education policy that can bring along with it meaningful innovation and progress to our system of public education to meet the needs of all children. The chances for our economy to flourish are much greater with a diverse and educated citizenry.