Just another example of how the public is being kept in the dark and deceived.

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Hypocrisy at Work

The capitalist education reformers railed long and loudly about publicly elected school boards micromanaging their systems. But, the Jindal clan saw nothing wrong with their version of micromanagement.

The dirty dozen members of the House Education Committee took it upon itself to report favorably a bill that will require that local school superintendents’ contracts be rewritten, and require locally elected school boards to terminate superintendents should they fail to meet contract requirements.

However, the administration majority on the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gave not a second thought, in December 2010, to renewing the contracts of a dozen Louisiana Recovery School District charter schools. It did so in spite of the fact that all twelve failed to meet the academic achievement goals specified in their contracts. It did so in spite of the fact that eleven of the twelve failed to meet fiscal reporting requirements of their contracts.

That same cabal included in its favorably reported bill a requirement that seniority can’t any longer be a consideration in layoff decisions.

Maybe the electorate should consider turning another of the dirty dozen’s micromanagement details on the legislature. Superintendents alone will be able to dismiss teachers with tenure without a dismissal hearing, which under current law is held before a jury of local school board members.

There is a recall process in the Louisiana Constitution.

Do such policies not constitute MICROMANAGEMENT on a grand scale?

The Governor’s chief of staff comment at the close of the committee meeting said: “...."Democracy at work"...The new Republican Democracy....explain nothing, listen to no opposition and pass the bill when they've all gone home to sleep.”

The public response to the House action is a much larger crowd of teachers and students on the Capitol grounds. Where are the parents who will see funding for their better performing schools fall as cash is skimmed into unlimited numbers of charter schools, virtual charter schools, and voucher accepting private and church schools?

Where are the aggrieved state employees being laid off as Jindal privatizes health care, retirement systems, state self-insurance programs, and prisons? Can they not see that their pain is shared?

Meanwhile the administration continues to reply to meaningful questions with evasion and half-truths. One House member suggested that when voters in a parish or city vote on a referendum to authorize a special tax for special purposes such as a teacher pay increase, the administration should not be allowed to count such funds as a reason to reduce the state share of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP). The response from the administration is that mechanically it would make budgeting more difficult for the administration, and perhaps limit the ability of the administration to fund its ventures into its experimental “reform.”

With Louisiana ranked 34th in the nation in state share of revenue for public elementary and secondary education, the tail appears to be about wagging the dog. Among the 11 Deep South states listed in the Digest of Education Statistics Louisiana ranks 9th in the percentage of total state expenditures devoted to K-12 education at 22% of total spending by the state. Louisiana devoted a three percent smaller share of total state expenditures to education than does Alabama, four percent smaller proportion than Arkansas, 3.4% less than South Carolina and 8.8% less than Texas. Only Mississippi and Kentucky devote a smaller proportion of total state expense to their K-12 education.

Jindal continues in the effort to fiscally starve local school districts. In every budget since his first term election the 2.75 growth factor that allows for inflationary costs in the MFP has been withheld.

Support for transporting students to and from private and church schools has been shifted to the local districts, as has the state guaranteed stipends to teachers who compete for National Board Certification.

As student achievement and school performance score bars are annually increased, the funding reductions are bringing about teacher layoffs that raise teacher to pupil ratios allowing teachers less time to pay attention to individual student needs. These two state education policies combine to almost guarantee more local public schools will become wards of the state Recovery School District or that more local public school students will drain still more funds into private and church school or for-profit virtual charter schools.

Overall administration public education policy has taken a large step toward centralizing control in the state and moving the locally elected school boards further away from their Constitutionally driven place in managing public education.

While the stakeholders in Louisiana public schools are experiencing this transformation, similar stakeholders in Wisconsin, Ohio, Rhode Island and New York are arising in protest to similar capitalist education reform agendas. In Wisconsin a popular movement has forced an incumbent Republican governor in his second year to face a looming recall election. Four members of the Wisconsin legislature have already been unseated in recall elections.

Louisiana citizens must decide what is best for their children.

Don Whittinghill
Research consultant, LSBA (Louisiana School Board Association)

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