WHO CAN YOU BELIEVE?

Quite a few educators have forwarded correspondence they have had with legislators regarding the passage of HB 974 (Tenure/teacher evaluation) and HB 976 (Vouchers)and regarding upcoming bills filed.

I am sharing two here along with my analysis of both to demonstrate how misleading, misinformed or patently false some of their comments are. I will forward this blog to both of these representatives so that they can respond in the event I have misinterpreted their e-mails. It became painfully evident to everyone listening to the live House debate that many of our representatives are not familiar with the bills they are voting on or just haven't studied them. Of course THEY AREN'T EDUCATORS!! That's why we have tried so hard to have our voices heard - usually to no avail.

If you have received e-mails from any legislators that you would like me to post here, please send to lpbharley@aol.com to expedite.

From Representative Henry Burns:

Teacher #1 said: Well, here is the response I got from Rep. Burns when I told him I didn't agree with his support:

Ms. _______:

Henry Burns is one of the few legislators who does not have a "hidden agenda." He represents over 45,000 constituents with the majority supporting education reform, seeing how our state has ranked 49th for over 30 years. We are so very blessed to live and raise our children in Bossier Parish but unfortunately all of Louisiana is not so blessed. We greatly appreciate your service. Henry has always been a staunch supporter of public education and continues to be. He fought tirelessly to have many amendments added to the education reform bill and the tenure bill that many of our Bossier Parish educators are thankful for. The bill is now on its way to the Senate. We have a long ...way to go before the final bill is voted on but again, Henry totally supports ALL of his constituents and testifies continuously that Bossier Parish has one of the best education systems in the state.

Just to share a few amendments with you, concerning teacher evaluation: the first year, if this bill passes, will be a "Test" year so that no teacher can be evaluated to be effective or ineffective. We felt this will enable any gray areas to be exposed and dealt with before the following school year. Another major victory is that our tax dollars cannot cross parish lines. This was a major concern for our Superintendent and many of us that did not want our tax dollars leaving our parish. Also, the "C" grade has been taken out of the equation seeing that the majority of vouchers will focus on D and F schools only. Please know that Henry is working very hard for us all. Education Reform is the Governor's No.1 agenda. The Governor had the votes to pass it without any amendments, but Henry kept pushing, for if he had totally worked against the administration he could not have made any progress but by working with them he and other legislators were able to address the key issues that educators had discussed with him. Every one of those issues were addressed in the amendments. He has been a voice for educators and will continue to do so. Again, the bill is with the Senate now and hopefully they will not strip any of the amendments from the bill . It is a long process so please pray for us all.

When I attended the Bossier Parish Tax summit that was held at the Bossier Civic Center Sonya Bailes, the new spokesperson for the BPSB began her presentation with this statement," If you have a good education system the businesses will come." Well this is very true and this is what we need for Louisiana so we as a state can continue to move forward.

Thank you so much for your time and again we greatly appreciate your service to our children and community.

Respectfully,
Dodie Horton
Legislative Asst. to
State Rep. Henry Burns
District 9



Here is my response:

1. Would Rep. Burns be so kind as to provide support for his claim that a majority of his 45,000 (Bossier Parish) constituents support education reform. I would counter that the majority of his constituents don't know what this latest reform agenda has coming down the pipe or the destruction it will bring to public education.

2. Your letter says
"He fought tirelessly to have many amendments added to the education reform bill and the tenure bill that many of our Bossier Parish educators are thankful for."
I would invite all readers to visit the legislative web site at www.legis.la.gov to access a video recording of the entire proceedings of the House on March 23 where you can view Rep. Burns' participation in this debate. I just attempted to do that myself in order to provide a direct link but that video has not been posted yet. You can also go to www.followlabill.blogspot.com/ where you will see a record of the written discussion that took place during the debate of HB 976. I took the time to type significant comments by each representative and an analysis of amendments as they were addressed.

3. The writer said:
"Rep. Henry supports ALL of his constituents and testifies continuously that Bossier Parish has one of the best education systems in the state."
It is impossible in any issue to represent ALL of one's constituents. Readers can check the performance scores of Bossier Parish schools at the Louisiana Department of Education web site.

4. The writer states regarding HB 974:
"The first year, if this bill passes, will be a 'test' year so that no teacher can be evaluated to be effective or ineffective."
I reviewed the legislation and here is the TRUTH. Rep. Burns' statement is misleading and inaccurate at best. You will see that 2012 will NOT be a TEST year. Teachers will be evaluated during the year and student test scores will be analyzed so that BEGINNING with the 2013 year there will be 10% of teachers rated "ineffective" and as a result at-will employees. You can read the bill yourself - the engrossed (amended) version at this link
http://legis.la.gov/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=784094

5. Another statement in Burns' response says:
"Another major victory is that our tax dollars cannot cross parish lines. This was a major concern for our Superintendent and many of us that did not want our tax dollars leaving our parish."
This amendment was worded to mislead the legislature and the public. The fact is that local dedicated tax millage funds WILL be used to partially pay for each voucher awarded. The funds WILL NOT be "transferred" from the district to the state for distribution and they never have been. However, the funds will be deducted from the MFP dollars awarded to each district BEFORE they are sent to the district. The word "transferred" was intended to confuse.

6. The writer says:
"Also, the 'C' grade has been taken out of the equation seeing that the majority of vouchers will focus on D and F schools only."
This is patently false and misleading. The amendment states that D and F schools will have priority over C schools. Since BESE will have sole discretion as to whom the vouchers are awarded (due to confidentiality issues) there will be little accountability. If the amendment were effective it would have said that NO C schools would be included. You can read the amendment here:
http://legis.la.gov/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=783869

You can read all amendments and see which Representatives sponsored them at the legislative web site by typing in HB 976 in the Bill Search box. I don't see ANY amendments sponsored by Rep. Burns.

* * * *
This response was from Representative Kevin Pearson of St. Tammany Parish:

Dear _______,


Thank you for contacting me. First, I want to reassure you that teachers in St. Tammany would be least affected by any of the proposed changes if they were to pass. Our schools are near the top statewide, yet we are part of a state system in need of repair.

This legislation was drafted with the intent to impact schools in failing parishes, yet the impact has been misrepresented by some organizations for either fear of change or misunderstanding. I would never vote on legislation that would harm our local (or state) system, but I have to say that it would be my responsibility to vote on some issues if they stood to improve statewide education. Those who live in St. Tammany are very fortunate to have good schools and teachers who are committed to excellence. However, in Louisiana we also have parishes like Tensas, St. Helena, East Feliciana and others where there are considerable problems, leaving Louisiana with a 47th ranking.

Our state is suffering because of this deficiency in the system. Not only are many of our college graduates leaving the state, we are also seeing fewer big business opportunities because of this negative perception about our educational system. These underperforming schools have a negative impact on the entire state. I can assure you that the legislative proposals are not intended to change or harm a system that is in working order, but have been brought about to bring assistance to systems in need. I understand that any change can have unforeseen consequences, and for that reason I am committed to evaluating each article of legislation before making any decisions.

I truly appreciate concerns such as yours and hope that you will be able to attend the upcoming public meetings with state legislators so that we can all reach a consensus about improving the education of our children. We need to hear from our educators, and I sincerely appreciate the job that you do each day.

Because of teachers you like you, my children will have successful futures. Adam has just applied to grad school and Becca will graduate soon having a double major and a long list of achievements. Again, I am very fortunate to live in St. Tammany parish. I just wish our state had more teachers like you and those of our parish.


Sincerely,

Kevin Pearson


1. Rep. Pearson said:
"Teachers in St. Tammany would be least affected by any of the proposed changes if they were to pass."
These bills will deeply affect ALL teachers in every school district. All one has to do is read both bills and it is crystal clear. This reform plan was originally touted as "optional" for lower performing schools and districts. That has morphed into a "Blueprint for Education" that mandates every single provision for ALL schools and districts and teachers.

2. Rep. Pearson said:
"This legislation was drafted with the intent to impact schools in failing parishes, YET THE IMPACT HAS BEEN MISREPRESENTED BY SOME ORGANIZATIONS FOR EITHER FEAR OF CHANGE OF MISUNDERSTANDING."
This is patently false. In fact, our legislators are the ones MISREPRESENTING this legislation.

3. Rep. Pearson said:
"I would never vote on legislation that would harm our local (or state) system. . . "
The record shows that Rep. Pearson DID VOTE FOR this legislation and his record of votes cast on the amendments is part of the record. Rep. Pearson sits on the House Education Committee where these bills were first introduced. During the public hearing, before all the amendments submitted for debate had been considered, it was Rep. Pearson who moved that NO MORE AMENDMENTS BE CONSIDERED. What would compel a legislator to impede the democratic process EVEN WITH REGARD TO OTHER LEGISLATORS whose job is was to seriously consider these bills before submitting for final consideration in the full House?

4. Notice that Rep. Pearson stated that Louisiana is rated 47th in the nation while Rep. Burns stated that Louisiana is rated 49th.

5. Rep. Pearson said:
"I can assure you that the legislative proposals are not intended to change or harm a system that is in working order. I understand that any chanage can have unforeseem consequences, and for that reason I am committed to evaluation each article of legislation before making any decisions."
What explains Rep. Pearson's unwillingness to consider proposed amendments?


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