What New Orleans Learned from Philadelphia

Check out the post referenced above (click on the title). Here's an excerpt:

"We’re tired of the ridiculous labeling of schools as high-performing and low-performing. The label mentality assumes schools are in permanent stasis rather than in varying stages of evolution and devolution highly dependent on resources and institutional priority. By simply expanding high-performing seat capacity and closing down low-performing schools, you fail to understand or even seek to understand the very elements that make a level of performance possible. You don’t understand schools, you don’t understand success and failure, and you don’t understand how change happens."

BELIEVE! Louisiana but NOT John White

When Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White meets with St. Tammany educators Tuesday at Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, he may find a larger unfriendlier crowd than expected. Although an invitation was sent to each of the 55 district schools to send only three teachers and a principal to the meeting, the public facility will hold many more and teachers parishwide are talking up plans to attend.

The St. Tammany School System is the largest employer in the parish. A full 100% of its teachers are certified with the majority holding a masters degree or higher. Over 230 are National Board Certified employees. The district is the highest performing large district in the state with over 20,000 students. Superintendent White's lack of education credentials will be no match for the expertise and experience of these educators who see this as an opportunity to let Supt. White and the public know their distaste for Governor Jindal's reform legislation and his usurpation of local control from school boards and taxpayers.

A delegation of local teachers who met in Lafayette last week with the statewide committee formed to support the Recall Bobby Jindal Campaign will be in attendance to offer information and gather signatures. Efforts are also being mounted to file recall petitions for some local legislators.

Louisiana Association of Educators representatives will be available to meet with educators before and after the meeting. They will announce regional meetings to explain legislation and its effects on public education. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers is the local collective bargaining agent, but no announcement has yet been made by President Elsie Burkhalter as to her participation in this event.

District Superintendent Trey Folse and several school board members are scheduled to meet with White earlier in the afternoon. Some school board members attended the National School Boards Association Conference in Boston, Mass., this weekend. NSBA President Mary Broderick today published an open letter to President Obama in which she proferred:
"Our schools will never become great through threat or intimidation. Schools must be safe places to take risks, where staff members and students feel valued for their ideas and talents and empowered to fail so that they can grow. Students will learn what they see, experience, and enjoy. We have the knowledge and experience to do this at the national, state and local levels. However, the present narrow focus on accountability and trend of demonizing those in public education, arrogantly focusing on 'failing schools,' is diametrically opposed to fostering excellence. . . Much in our current school systems works against these, and our new national focus on teacher evaluation will continue that trend. . . "

WHAT HAPPENED TO SB 51?

A RE-POST FROM TOM ASWELL'S BLOG - LOUISIANAVOICE

Piyush up to political chicanery as SB51 omitted from Senate calendar on Tuesday: are contents being hidden from public?

by tomaswell

Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show once drawled, “Ohhh, there’s mischief afoot. Yeah, mischief afoot.”

That well may be the case with Senate Bill 51 that raises the state employee retirement age.

First, a little background.

The Senate Retirement Committee was originally scheduled to meet Monday at 9:30 a.m. As opponents gathered in the committee room and overflowed into the hallway, however, word came down that the meeting would be delayed because of a lack of a quorum.

In contemporary American Politic, that normally translates to the administration does not have the necessary votes to get the bill out of committee.

But this committee was wrapped and packaged by Gov. Bobby Jindal, so that explanation wouldn’t seem to hold water. After all, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Jindal had combined to contribute more than $102,000 to five of the seven committee members.

That fact alone should offer sufficient evidence that the fix was in. It's already been shown to work for education bills and prison sales.

So, why the delay?

Apparently, there were some glitches with the bill despite assurances from the administration that provisions of the bill—and companion bills that change the final average compensation (SB47) and SB52 that increases most rank and file contributions by 3 percent—are constitutional.

For two hours committee members met with administrative officials to tweak SB51, coordinating retirement ages with time of service ostensibly so as to adversely affect as few state employees as possible.

In reality, the administration was drafting a more palatable substitute bill so as to neutralize criticism of Jindal’s retirement package by the Legislative Auditor and Gary Lawson of Strasburger Law Firm of Dallas. State Auditor Daryl Purpera retained the firm to conduct an analysis of the proposed retirement bills.

The Strasburger 38-page report opined that most of the retirement package would be ruled unconstitutional if subjected to a legal challenge.

Publicly, the administration pooh-poohed the Strasburger report but the two-hour delay Monday said proponents were having second thoughts.

Lawson, contacted as he prepared to return to Dallas, said he had no opportunity to review the substitute bill and the amendments before being called to testify in opposition to the bill.

“Nobody knows what’s in the bill,” he said, “least of all the committee members themselves.”

That didn’t stop committee members, heavily indebted to ALEC and Jindal for generous campaign contributions from one or both, from rubber-stamping their approval of the bill.

Then on Tuesday things began to take a strange turn on the Senate floor.

The Senate divides daily proceedings into the “Morning Hour,” and “Regular Order.” It is during the “Morning Hour” that Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp reads into the record the reports from each committee meeting of the day before.

This is the official on which bills have been amended and moved favorably by the respective committees. Koepp also reads reports from several committees.

This is an important technical step in the process because it officially gets the bill out of committee and back on the Senate calendar. When this is done, the amendments are posted online. The amendments remained “proposed” until the following day when they are adopted by the body (in this case, the full Senate) and the bill is passed to Second Reading.

The report from the Retirement Committee, however, was not included during Tuesday’s “Morning Hour.”

Then, on Tuesday evening, after the Senate completed its calendar for the day, the body “reverted” to the “Morning Hour,” a normal procedure that allows Koepp to read communications from the House or from the governor.

It was at this point that Koepp suddenly read into the record the report from the Senate Retirement Committee from Monday. He reported SB33, SB47, SB52 and SB740, all “favorably as amended.”

SB51, the most controversial of the lot, the one that raises the retirement age to 67, was not among those reported by Koepp.

That means that the bill is technically still in committee and more importantly (and more ominously), it means that the substitute bill and its mystery amendments are still unavailable to the public.

More than 24 hours after the committee voted out a bill that not one member of the committee had read, the public still has no idea what the substitute bill is, what it says or what it does.

Frank Jobert, executive director of the Louisiana Retired Employees Association, expressed his puzzlement at the omission of SB51 in Koepp’s report.

“Perhaps they (the administration) don’t have the votes on the (Senate) floor,” he said. “I believe even the committee members don’t know what they voted for and are hesitant to go further down this road until they know what they passed out of committee merely to please the governor.”

Jobert added that he had heard that the 3 percent employee contribution increase might yet be ruled a tax or a fee by the Senate leadership “which could cause them to start over in the House or stymie the measure because it is a non-fiscal session,” he said. “This remains to be seen.”

The Louisiana Constitution prohibits consideration of taxes in even-numbered years and last year, when Jindal attempted a similar move, then-House Speaker Jim Tucker said any increase in contributions imposed on state employees would constitute a tax.

Jindal has consistently rejected efforts to increase taxes—at least on his corporate supporters. He had no problem with forcing college tuition increases and apparently has no compunctions about imposing the 3 percent increase on employees’ contributions.

While the reasons for omitting SB51 from the report remain unclear, one thing is for certain: the action was intentional on the part of the administration.

The bill has to be made public at some point in time, so why the parliamentary chicanery? The only possible explanation is to keep the contents of the bill away from public scrutiny for another day or so in order to allow less time for opponents to react.

Jindal Communications Director Kyle Plotkin earlier today issued a statement about a fake Facebook posting in which someone impersonated the governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Kristy Nichols as telling state employees, “We are watching you.”

In that statement, Plotkin said, “We have big challenges and need to have a substantive debate about the issues. These underhanded attacks distract from the issues. It’s unfortunate and surprising that someone would stoop this low to try and win.”

Substitute “tactics” for “attacks” and we couldn’t agree more.

Just another day in the Piyush transparent, ethical and accountable administration.

Michief afoot, indeed.

tomaswell | April 17, 2012 at

MORE MANIPULATION OF SCHOOL PERFORMANCE SCORES

If you thought you had no control over school performance scores pre-reform, you can be sure that now that it's going to be nothing but a crap shoot!

The BESE votes were barely counted and the meeting room emptied today before Superintendent White published his latest dictum that includes a re-design for calculating school performance scores. It's anybody's guess what effect this methodology will have on outcomes but my guess is it won't have any positive effect on improving learning outcomes or moving our public schools forward!

I've asked some of my former students to analyze this and give me their take on it. I'll publish if I get any interest.

Louisiana Department of Education

Post Office Box 94064 | Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9064 | 1-877-453-2721 | Fax: (225) 342-0193


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: 04/17/2012
Contact: Rene' Greer, (225) 342-3600, Fax: (225) 342-0193

EDUCATION LEADERS ADVANCE INITIATIVES TO EXPAND

COLLEGE AND CAREER READY OPPORTUNITIES FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS


BATON ROUGE, La. - Louisiana has significantly improved its high schools. A near 10-point gain in the graduation rate over the last decade means tens of thousands of young adults walked the stage, when they might not have years before. Yet measures of college and workplace success reveal our high school graduates are not prepared to meet post-secondary and employer expectations. Louisiana education leaders have said correcting this divide and ensuring all students, at every grade level, are on track to attain a college degree or succeed in a professional career is their highest priority. Today, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) announced three initiatives designed to support this objective, by making certain students have ample access and are mastering rigorous college and career ready courses.


"The numbers tell us our students are improving, but we still lag behind the rest of the nation, particularly in high schools," State Superintendent of Education John White said. "I'm confident our students can learn at higher levels and that our teachers can lead us there. These three initiatives are critical to making sure our next generation is equipped to meet 21st Century college and workforce demands."


Today's announcement by the Department centers on the following initiatives:

ACT: Every 8th-11th grade student in Louisiana will participate in the EXPLORE/Plan/ACT series, which will be funded by the state, beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. This series of ACT tests will serve as a guide for teachers and families as to what each high school student needs in order to be prepared to achieve at high levels, starting in 8th grade. The role of ACT in the school accountability system will be considered by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) later this year.

Advanced Placement (AP): The state will provide funds to train approximately 350 teachers to teach AP courses. Through a federal grant and a new investment of state dollars through 8(g) funding, Louisiana will fund 8,500 test administrations for low-income students and for any student taking a course that is new to a school. A BESE committee approved 8(g) funding for this initiative today. The measure of AP in the school accountability system will come before the state education board later this year.

Post-Secondary Coursework for High School Students: While Louisiana is shifting to a system of course choice, funded through Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) dollars, the state will provide funding to institutions of higher education to continue offering reduced-tuition post-secondary courses. The state will also encourage and support districts in applying for TOPS Tech Early Start dollars to support Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) courses. BESE approved funding for this initiative today and will consider the role of post-secondary courses in the school accountability system later in 2012.
"We must continue raising the bar, providing all our students with multiple and challenging pathways that broaden their opportunities and skills," BESE President Penny Dastugue said. "I'm confident these measures, along with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, will enrich instruction and advance the academic and lifelong success of our students."

Louisiana, along with 44 other states and the District of Columbia, has signed on to adopt the national Common Core State Standards. The standards define the knowledge and skills students should acquire throughout their K-12 education careers in order to graduate from high school prepared to succeed in their post-secondary education and workforce pursuits. In Louisiana, the new standards will be fully implemented in the 2014-2015 school year.

State-Funded ACT Series


Beginning next school year, the state will fund the cost of administrating a series of ACT tests to all public school students enrolled in grades 8, 9, 10, and 11. Currently, students pay for testing, or in some cases, schools or districts may pay for students to participate in the ACT test. Under this new initiative, the state will pay for a single administration of the ACT for each student. For students qualifying for the federal free and reduced meal program, the state will fund two additional administrations of the test.

Furthermore, as prescribed by Louisiana's Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waiver Application, the state intends to include student scores on ACT tests in a simplified school performance score, beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. The ACT - a nationally-normed assessment - will account for 25 percent of the School Performance Score for high schools. Additionally, schools will earn points for students who demonstrate growth throughout their performance on the series of ACT tests.

About 75 percent of Louisiana's public high school graduates participated in the ACT test during their high school career. This is up from 69.8 two years ago. White said increasing participation in the ACT Series will yield improved student outcomes by: 1) providing an earlier assessment of student progress; 2) improving student readiness for college; 3) increasing the number of students who consider college; 4) increasing college enrollment and retention; and 5) improving workforce planning and career counseling information.

"ACT assessments provide us with the best possible indication of our students' performance against the Common Core State Standards. From a broader perspective these tests are the best measure of whether our students are on track to meet post-secondary and workforce expectations after high school. Additionally, by administering EXPLORE as early as 8th grade and EXPLORE and PLAN consecutively until 11th grade, our teachers will have meaningful information to diagnose and address the learning needs of their students before they take the ACT in 11th grade," explained White.


Advanced Placement (AP) - Improving Participation and Performance


Louisiana currently ranks 49th in the nation in Advanced Placement rankings. Only 5.6 percent of Louisiana's Class of 2011 graduated with a passing grade on at least one AP exam, compared to the national average of just over 18 percent. Likewise, in the 2010-2011 school year, approximately 120 of Louisiana's 400 public high schools offered an AP course. White said policy changes and the funding approved by BESE today are devised to simultaneously and substantially increase AP opportunities and student participation.

The allocation approved by BESE today will also allow up to 200 teachers in Race to the Top Districts to participate in College Board Summer Institutes. In addition,more than 150 Louisiana teachers in districts with limited or no AP offerings, or districts seeking to expand AP in their schools, will have the opportunity to attend Laying the Foundation training.

In conjunction, proposed changes in the state's accountability system would add bonus points to School Performance Scores when students participate in AP courses. But more points will be given to schools when students demonstrate mastery of courses by passing AP exams.

"Research has indicated high school students who participate in AP courses are less likely to need remedial post-secondary courses and more likely to succeed in post-secondary course work," White added. "In addition, these students are more likely to graduate from post-secondary institutions in four years. Therefore, it's critical that we dramatically increase AP and post-secondary learning opportunities for our students."

Post-Secondary Coursework Options/Funding

Legislation recently approved by lawmakers and expected to be signed by Governor Jindal this week will allow public school students attending C, D, and F schools to enroll in state-funded online classes, post-secondary courses, and apprenticeships, starting in the 2013-2014 school year. To support the development of this new initiative, the LDOE will utilize 8(g) dollars to provide $800,000 to directly pay university systems for the costs associated with offering students post-secondary courses and credit for their high school work.

An additional source of financial support for districts and high schools is TOPS Tech Early Start funding, which is available for high school students who enroll in Industry-Based Occupational or Vocational Education Credential programs in top demand occupations. Participation in these programs as a high school student does not affect a student's eligibility to receive a TOPS Tech Scholarship after high school.

Schools will be recognized for student achievement in post-secondary courses through the awarding of School Performance Score points.

FAST FACTS:

ACT

EXPLORE, which will be administered to 8th and 9th grade students and PLAN, which will be administered to students in 10th grade, are curriculum-based educational and career planning programs designed to measure achievement in English, math, reading, and science, as well as prepare students for their high school coursework and their post-high school choices. ACT, to be administered to students by the state in 11th grade, is a curriculum-based assessment that evaluates 11th and 12th graders' learning outcomes in English, math, reading, and science. Test scores reflect what students have learned throughout high school and provide colleges and universities with information for recruiting, placement, and retention.

The ACT exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, and students receive a composite score, which represents an average of their reading, English, math, and science scores. The ACT is designed to measure the skills and knowledge taught in the nation's high schools and deemed essential for success in college and the workplace. The test is administered to high school students in all 50 states and is utilized by most Louisiana colleges and universities to determine eligibility for admissions, scholarships, and placement in college courses.

In 2011, the state's average ACT composite score increased by one-tenth of a point, from 20.1 in 2010 to 20.2 in 2011, keeping pace with the increase in the national average composite score, which also grew by one-tenth of a point, from 21.0 to 21.1.
While Louisiana's average composite score trails the national composite score, over the last ten years the state's increase in this measure is six times the increase for the national average during the same time period. Since 2001, Louisiana's average composite score grew from 19.6 to 20.2, while the national average grew by only one-tenth of a point, from 21.0 in 2001 to 21.1 this year.

Based on average composite scores, minority populations in Louisiana outperformed their peers in four out of five categories. The average ACT composite score for African-American students in Louisiana is 17.5, compared to 17.0 nationally. American-Indian students in Louisiana earned an average composite score of 19.2, compared to the average score of 18.6 earned by their peers across the country. Hispanic students in Louisiana earned an average composite score of 20.4, which is significantly higher than the national average of 18.7 and the state's overall composite score of 20.2. And Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders in Louisiana earned a composite score of 20.2, compared to their peers' score of 19.5.

The Laying the Foundation program is a division of the National Math and Science Initiative, and is dedicated to improving the teacher corps across the country. The program provides a comprehensive training program that includes STEM-focused Pre-AP and AP teacher training aimed at ensuring teachers have the resources and training they need to deliver rigorous, college-ready curriculum to their students. The program has demonstrated results in Louisiana.

Testing Schedule (Tentative)

State-Funded Assessment
Grade Tested
Timeline

EXPLORE
Grade 8
Two Week Window in November/December 2012

(Specifics to Follow)

EXPLORE
Grade 9
March 19, 2013

PLAN
Grade 10
March 19, 2013

ACT
Grade 11
March 19, 2013



Advanced Placement


AP courses may be taught by site-based instructors, or schools may register to offer students courses through the Louisiana Virtual School (LVS), which is operated by the LDOE.

Louisiana students graduating in spring 2011 had access to more than 30 AP courses.
In 2011, BESE adopted a policy requiring all schools to offer at least one new AP course in a unique subject area, beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. In the 2012-2013 school year, schools must offer two AP courses, and continue adding a new AP course in a unique subject area in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.
The number of public high school students taking one or more AP exams has increased by 10 percent, from 5,140 in 2010 to 5,662 in 2011. This includes an 11.5 percent boost in the number of African-American students taking AP exams. Despite this growth, in 2011, only 5.6 percent of high school students in Louisiana earned a Qualifying, or passing score (3 or higher) on at least one AP test.

Dual Enrollment and Industry-Based Certifications (IBCs)

Dual enrollment programs enroll qualifying high school juniors and seniors in college-level courses at local technical, community and four-year colleges, as well as in work skills courses at Louisiana Technical College campuses.
In the 2010-2011 school year, credit was awarded for 386 high school courses through dual enrollment.

High school students across Louisiana can choose to pursue more than 50 Industry-Based Certifications, which are portable credentials recognized by industry and earned by an individual as a result of mastering knowledge and skill competencies.
From 2007-2008 to 2010-2011, dual enrollment has increased by more than 130 percent. During this same time period, IBCs have nearly tripled.
General

Louisiana ranks last in the nation in the percent of students growing up in a household where at least one adult has completed a bachelor's or associate's degree. And according to Kids Count, 17 percent of the state's children under 18 years old live in a home headed by a high school dropout.

For every 100 students entering Louisiana's high schools, only 71 students graduate from high school in the traditional four-year time frame; only 49 of these high school graduates pursue some form of post-secondary education; and only 19 of these 49 college-goers earn a bachelor or associate degree within six years.

College Remediation Rate: In fall 2010, 34 percent of first-time freshmen in Louisiana enrolled in college development (remediation) courses.

VAPID QUOTES!

Senator Elbert L. Guillory - District 24 - during debate in suppot of HB 976 regarding holding private and parochial schools accountable.

"I don't need test scores to tell me if a school is good. I can walk into a school and SEE if it's a good school or not."


We could save a whole lot of money and stress from high stakes testing by hiring Senator Guillory to walk into our schools with a divining stick and tell us which schools are good and which are bad.

Senator A. G. Crowe - District 1 - Despite criticism that Senator Crowe's SB 513 does not clearly define pornography, the Senate Finance Committee gave unanimous approval to the bill which would require the Department of Economic Development or the Office of Entertainment Industry Development to deny tax breaks if a film is pornographic. Although the bill doees not have a specific definition for pornography, it would apply to X-rated movies or movies that are "triple X or quadruple X.

"I don't have a definition of pornography; you know it when you see it."


Maybe Senator Crowe should also serve his public by volunteering to take on the job of labelling these movies.
"

INSIGHT ON FLORIDA'S "REFORM"

Florida Charter School "Boom": Warning Signs
There is a charter boom going on with too many oddities:

1) 15 of 30 "F" schools in Florida are charters. "Then last year in Florida, charter schools received 15 out of 31 of all the failing FCAT grades that went to public schools. Charter elementary and middle schools were seven times more likely to get an F than traditional public schools."
Read full article here. http://www.edreform.com/2012/04/05/charter-schools-must-be-accountable/

2) VP Joe Biden's brother is associated with charter Mavericks HS, which has accounting and performance issues - plus a desire to open 100. Third whistle blower on alleged fraud emerges. Frank Biden has real estate experience.
Read full article here.http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2012/04/third_whistleblower_lawsuit_mavericks_palm_springs_mechato.php

3) Parents signed up for an arts-oriented charter, but were not told of its association with Scientology.
Read more here. http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/article1217694.ece

4) Duval School Board, in North Florida, followed the rules on charter applications and denied an application. The charter took it to a Charter School Appeal Board established by the State School Board. The appeal board sided with the school board and against the charter. The charter took it to the State Board (all members are appointed), which overturned the appeal board and the district. The district is taking this one to court. What are the rules? Who decides? Murky. More loss of local control?
Read more here. http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2012-03-28/story/duval-state-odds-over-virtual-charter-school

5) Then there was the recent Parent Trigger mess. Florida residents were denied opportunity to speak at committee meetings and at hearings to give opposing views, while proponents from outside the State were given that access. This is hardly an example of democracy. The good news is that the bill failed. It deserved to fail...the "devil is in the details."
Read more here http://grumpythings.blogspot.com/2012/03/parent-trigger-scholastic-snake-oil.html and here http://grumpythings.blogspot.com/2012/03/florida-parent-trigger-too-many-holes.html

6) Florida took Race to the Top funding and school districts are under strain trying to meet the requirements.

7) In Florida, former Governor Jeb Bush and his Foundation exert too much power. The Director of his foundation, Patricia Levesque, is adviser to Governor Scott. Her husband is also General Counsel to the Florida House. When voting on charter bills, he advised no conflict of interest nor ethics violation for legislators with personal ties or ties via family to vote on those bills IF the bill did not affect only that family business. Read more here.http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/ethics-commission-clears-miami-rep-erik-fresen-alleged-voting-conflict

8) Last week the Florida DOE issued a report on public charter progress. While some point to the report as clear evidence that charters are "better" than traditional schools, the report itself does not identify variances. One critical factor is that of the total number of public charters in Florida, the performance of only 40% are included in the report. The remaining 60% are not required to be "graded" because the size of the student population is too small to be statistically relevant and under Florida law are excluded. So while we applaud student achievement, growth, and progress wherever it exists, taxpayers still have no information that affirms that disruption leads to any return on investment. There are too many unknowns to recommend Florida's charter boom as a scalable model to replicate.
Read more here.http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/10/2741430/florida-releases-report-on-charter.html

What happens in Florida is worth watching. These initiatives are heralded in other states as models to follow; however, they do not hold up under scrutiny. Legislators should analyze carefully what is in the best interests of their states students, parents, community members, and taxpayers. Careful deliberation and legislative accountability is not a sign of being anti-charter nor anti-accountability; but rather a sign of doing the job they were elected to do.

MY COMMENT: Do we see a pattern here?
"These initiatives are heralded in other states as models to follow. . "
These "reform" policymakers all herald their results as models. Superintendent John White was promoted based on the "extraordinary success" of New York City's model - which is an abject failure. U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan and Paul Vallas were promoted based on their Chicago experience - which is an abject failure. Florida is touted as a model for the nation and it is a disaster as is Washington, D. C. after Michelle Rhee. It's EASY TO LIE to a complacent public whose expectation is that their Board of Education and Department of Education will do their job of supporting and improving public education. Instead we have the reality of politics and the even more pervasive influence and power of ALEC and it corporate "reform" agenda whose goal is to "transform" public education into a private, for profit, free enterprise monster.

PUBLIC EDUCATION POLICY
needs to be policy supported by the PUBLIC and designed and enacted by QUALIFIED EDUCATORS. It is by its nature a governmental agency but for it to be effective and serve the public for which it was designed, it needs to be LOCALLY CONTROLLED and HELD FULLY ACCOUNTABLE BY THOSE IT SERVES!!!

SECOND VOUCHER SCHEME CLEARS COMMITTEE

If you think Governor Jindal rapidly pushed through his gold standard reform legislation - HB 976 and HB 974 - just so he could get his reform agenda out of the way, think again!!! The strategy all along has been to create as much attention and tension as we could muster on these two bills then quietly filter through some even more egregious legislation under the radar.

Yesterday, the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee gave its blessing to HB 969 which will allow the state to reimburse private citizens and corporations that contribute to nonprofit groups that award tuition grants. A 9-2 vote sent the measure, modeled after a Florida law that Governor Jeb Bush signed a decade ago, to the Senate floor. (so how's that going for Florida? See my next post.)

Senator Talbot's bill would allow corporations and individuals to give UNLIMITED AMOUNTS of money to independent, nonprofit groups that would, in turn, grant private-school tuition scholarships to students who live in households at or below 250 per-cent of the federal poverty level ($55,000 for a family of four). The contributor would receive a rebate, paid from the state general fund equivalent to the amount paid in tuition. The scholarship-granting entity would be able to keep up to 5% for "administrative" costs. The contribution would reduce the filer's taxable income.

Did you get that? Scholarship-granting entities. I can't wait to see the creative names identifying such entities. Can the public really buy the concept of opening up a storefront, collecting money, sending it to BESE/LDOE (who has sole authority to award vouchers) and depositing 5% in their checking account. Wonder how many of these "voucher-mats" will launder this money through out-of-state banks!

Senator Talbot sells his bill as a way to encourage community organizations and citizens to invest in private-school scholarships with the public covering the tab on the back end.

Talbot told senators that his model would save the state money and was not intended to give "any financial benefit" to rebate recipients, given that donors would offset any initial tax deduction by claiming the rebate as income.
WHO ARE YOU KIDDING?

To make this scheme even more difficult for the average taxpaying citizen to understand or trace, under Talbot's plan, aid for kindergarten through the eighth grade would be capped at 80% of the state portion of the Minimum Foundation Program per-pupil financing formula and 90% for high school. The MFP-based voucher plan that has already passed the Legislature (HB 976) allows grants up to the TOTAL STATE AND LOCAL financing amount as dictated by the MFP.

DID YOU GET THAT FOLKS? Money collected by LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS through millages supported by local taxpayers dedicated for specific purposes to fund their local public schools will be used to pay for vouchers.

In passing HB 976, some legislators attempted to convince opponents that since there would be no "transfer" of funds from the district to the State, that local funds would not be used. In fact, district funds NEVER WERE transferred to the state. MFP funds sent to districts by the state are calculated based on a complex mathematical formula that considers and includes the amount of local funds districts are able to collect. Under this bill, the amount of those local funds will be deducted from the STATE portion of MFP that is sent to the district. Although the exact method of voucher funding calculation HAS NOT BEEN CLARIFIED, we know (for example) that if a voucher (tuition) is $5,000 and a district per-pupil MFP state portion is $4,000, the additional $1,000 will be deducted from the total state MFP dollars sent to the district. HB 976 allows grants up to the total state and local financing amount dictated by the MFP. If anyone can explain that better or identify an error in this explanation - PLEASE DO!!!

Another BOGUS selling point by Talbot and other proponents of the voucher scheme is that rebates would cost less than educating the students in public schools. That claim comes with a great deal of number distortion, manipulation and just plain ignorance of the MFP formula. It should also be noted that a legislative fiscal analysis said a Florida program has found that between 5% and 10% of the grant recipients never would have attended public schools in the first place.

In response to objections that private schools receiving the voucher students would have no accountability regarding student outcomes, Jindal's main minion Ms. Palmieri said,
"We're not trying to turn private schools into public schools."
REALLY Ms. Palmieri? We KNOW that you are trying to turn public schools into PRIVATE SCHOOLS!

In his opposing comments, Senator Dale Erdey, R-Livingston (thank you Sen. Erdey) asked Talbot why the tax code does not offer a direct inventive for individuals and business to offer direct support to public schools. He said,
"This bill is about helping a select group of schools that are not public."


Talbot responded with a statement that provides yet more proof of the REAL agenda:
"I view it as helping a select group of students."

SB 650 - REAL TEACHER EVALUATION - Update Bill failed in Committee

The dust hasn't settled yet in the aftermath of the scramble of Jindal's minions in the legislature to dismantle public education and to discredit and decertify the teaching profession. . .

But next to be heard in the Senate Education Committee is SB 650 offered by Senator Ben Nevers. Read the bill then dust yourselves off and begin contacting members of the Senate Education Committee RIGHT AWAY asking them to support this bill. Here are the Digest and full versions of the bill for you to digest:

http://legis.la.gov/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=787035 DIGEST

http://legis.la.gov/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=787031 FULL VERSION

In addition to eliminating the guarantee of lawsuits that the value-added feature of HB 974 will bring, this bill actually provides what any good teacher evaluation methodology should offer - improvement to the quality and effectiveness of the teacher and improved learning opportunities for the student. HB 974 is purely punitive in nature and obviously designed to devalue certification and remove the highly qualified status from the Profession of Teaching.

Here is contact information for the members of the Senate Education Committee. Take a minute to thank Senator Nevers and offer your support to him as he presents this bill in committee. Also thank Senator LaFleur who was the only member of this committee to vote AGAINST HB 974 and HB 976 on final passage. I will post the hearing date and time as soon as it is announced.

Committee Members


Senator Conrad Appel (Chairman)
721 Papworth Avenue
Suite 102A
Metairie, LA 70005
(866) 946-3133
appelc@legis.la.gov

Senator Eric LaFleur (Vice-Chairman)
P.O. Box 617
Ville Platte, LA 70586
(337) 363-5019
lafleure@legis.la.gov

Senator Dan Claitor
7520 Perkins Road
Suite 160
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(225) 765-0206
claitord@legis.la.gov

Senator Jack Donahue
3030 East Causeway Approach
Mandeville, LA 70448
(985) 727-7949
donahuej@legis.la.gov

Senator Elbert L. Guillory
633 East Landry Street
Opelousas, LA 70570
(337) 943-2457
guillorye@legis.la.gov

Senator Mike Walsworth
4007 White's Ferry Rd
Suite A
West Monroe, LA 71291
(318) 340-6453
walsworthm@legis.la.gov

Senator Mack "Bodi" White
808 O'Neal Lane
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
(225) 272-1324
whitem@legis.la.gov

LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN !!

I join the thousands of teachers statewide who are very disappointed that due to factors beyond our control we were unable to join the rally on the Capitol steps yesterday. I propose that we "rally" via a letter writing campaign that will afford each and every one of us the opportunity for a strong personal voice in this one-way conversation with legislators. There seems to be not much left but to HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE to us and to the public.

I am suggesting to all my contacts (educators, parents, students and their neighbors, friends, relatives) that they write a short (or long) letter to each one of the Senators who voted YES yesterday in the Senate for HB 976 and HB 974. In that letter, they will include a copy of each of these vote count records (see links below). These letters MUST BE SENT BY SNAIL MAIL - U.S. POST OFFICE - TO THEIR LEGISLATIVE OFFICES. Those who are willing to spend a little more should send them Certified or Return Receipt Requested. The added expense is small compared to the price that we will all pay as a result of this legislation.

I am sending the following letter which can be used, edited or replaced by anyone who participates. Above all, it must conclude with a question and a request for a response to the return address. I would like to collect those responses (or a record of the lack of response) for a future press release/conference on the steps of the Capitol.

Lets make this campaign VIRAL.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Write a letter to each Senator who voted YES for HB 976 and/or HB 974. Indicate in your letter which of the bills they voted FOR.

2. The most effective letters are personal accounts. but conclude your letter with a question and a request for a written response.

3. Attach a copy/copies of the final votes for each of the bills. Circle the Senator's name in RED!

4. Mail using the attached address list.

5. Collect copies of as many letters as you can from your personal circle of friends and professionals and mail or deliver to me at: 178 Abita Oaks Loop, Abita Springs, LA 70420 If you send your correspondence via certified or return receipt requested mail, please include those in your package.

This is my letter:

Dear Senator _______:

At the conclusion of the historic debate on April 4, 2012, your vote was cast to dismantle public education via the provisions of HB 976. No longer will every child in the State of Louisiana have an equal opportunity for a free and appropriate education. Many children will be reduced to nothing more than a name on a lottery ticket. Gambling in Louisiana has reached its zenith with the passage of this bill.

Your vote was also cast to remove the Profession of Educator in the state of Louisiana via the provisions of HB 974. The expertise earned by our classroom teachers, principals, administrators and our District Superintendents through their continued pursuit of advanced degrees and certification has been denied. The respect and quality developed through experience and years of professional development have been deemed meaningless. Classroom teachers are now nothing more than at-will employees - human capital (lower case).

The fact that so many highly qualified educators throughout the state and the nation have expressed so much opposition to the types of provisions contained in these laws should have been a red light - an indicator to STOP, look BOTH ways, before speeding head long into passage of this legislation. Instead you chose to accuse teachers of being incompetent, lazy, and self-serving. That was your primary SELLING point to the public as you bartered with Governor Jindal for your vote.

I would appreciate a response from you explaining how you believe these bills will improve the quality of education in the classroom. What provisions in these bills actually address that? Senator Guillory said, "You can tell a good school when you SEE one." What do you expect to SEE when you visit a good school? When you visit a classroom of children and are handed a list of test scores, can you match the score with the child?

I look forward to your response so that we can all know what good teachers and good schools LOOK like.

Sincerely,

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
Retired Teacher/Parent/Grandparent
178 Abita Oaks Loop
Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420


HB 976 FINAL PASSAGE http://legis.la.gov/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=789473

HB 974 FINAL PASSAGE http://legis.la.gov/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=789137

Senator Robert Adley
611 Jessie Jones Drive
Benton, LA 71006

(318) 965-1755
adleyr@legis.la.gov

Senator John A. Alario
1063 Muller Parkway
Westwego, LA 70094

(504) 340-2221
alarioj@legis.la.gov

Senator R.L. "Bret" Allain
600 Main Street
Suite 1
Franklin, LA 70538

(337) 828-9107
(985) 850-2738
allainb@legis.la.gov

Senator "Jody" Amedee
2109 S. Burnside Ave.
Suite A
Gonzales, LA 70737

(225) 644-1526
amedeej@legis.la.gov

Senator Conrad Appel
721 Papworth Avenue
Suite 102A
Metairie, LA 70005

(866) 946-3133
appelc@legis.la.gov

Senator Sharon Weston Broome
P. O. Box 52783
Baton Rouge, LA 70892

(225) 359-9352
lasen15@legis.la.gov

Senator Troy E. Brown
P.O. Box 974
Napoleonville, LA 70390

(985) 369-3333
brownte@legis.la.gov

Senator Sherri Smith Buffington
9973 Mansfield Road
Keithville, LA 71047

(318) 687-4820
smithbuffington@legis.la.gov

Senator Norby Chabert
P.O. Box 2417
Houma, LA 70361

(985) 858-2927
chabertn@legis.la.gov

Senator Dan Claitor
7520 Perkins Road
Suite 160
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

(225) 765-0206
claitord@legis.la.gov

Senator Page Cortez
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508

(337) 993-7430
cortezp@legis.la.gov

Senator A.G. Crowe
201 Crowe's Landing
Pearl River, LA 70452

(985) 643-3600
crowea@legis.la.gov

Senator Jack Donahue
3030 East Causeway Approach
Mandeville, LA 70448

(985) 727-7949
donahuej@legis.la.gov

Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb
1520 Thomas H. Delpit Drive Suite 226
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

(225) 342-9700
dorseyy@legis.la.gov

Senator Dale M. Erdey
P.O. Box 908
Livingston, LA 70754

(225) 686-2881
erdeyd@legis.la.gov

Senator Rick Gallot
P.O. Box 1117
Ruston, LA 71270

(318) 251-5019
gallotr@legis.la.gov

Senator Elbert L. Guillory
633 East Landry Street
Opelousas, LA 70570

(337) 943-2457
guillorye@legis.la.gov

Senator David Heitmeier
3501 Holiday Drive
Suite 225
New Orleans, LA 70114

(504) 361-6356
HeitmeierD@legis.la.gov

Senator Ronnie Johns
1011 Lakeshore Drive
Suite 515
Lake Charles, LA 70601

(337) 491-2016
johnsr@legis.la.gov

Senator Robert W. "Bob" Kostelka
P.O. Box 2122
Monroe, LA 71207

(318) 362-3474
kostelka@legis.la.gov

Senator Eric LaFleur
P.O. Box 617
Ville Platte, LA 70586

(337) 363-5019
lafleure@legis.la.gov

Senator Gerald Long
P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483

(318) 628-5799
(800) 265-2437
longg@legis.la.gov

Senator Daniel "Danny" Martiny
131 Airline Highway
Suite 201
Metairie, LA 70001

(504) 834-7676
martinyd@legis.la.gov

Senator Fred H. Mills
800 S. Lewis St.
Suite 203
New Iberia, LA 70560

(337) 365-8484
millsf@legis.la.gov

Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell
6305 Elysian Fields Ave.
Suite 404
New Orleans, LA 70122

(504) 284-4794
morrelljp@legis.la.gov

Senator Dan "Blade" Morrish
119 W. Nezpique Street
Jennings, LA 70546

(337) 824-3979
morrishd@legis.la.gov

Senator Edwin R. Murray
1540 N. Broad St.
New Orleans, LA 70119

(504) 945-0042
murraye@legis.la.gov

Senator Ben Nevers
724 Avenue F
Bogalusa, LA 70427

(985) 732-6863
neversb@legis.la.gov

Senator Barrow Peacock
1619 Jimmie Davis Highway
Bossier City, LA 71112

(318) 741-7180
peacockb@legis.la.gov

Senator Jonathan W. Perry
P.O. Box 100
Kaplan, LA 70548

(337) 740-6425 --- )
perryj@legis.la.gov

Senator Karen Carter Peterson
1010 Common St.
Suite 2510
New Orleans, LA 70112

(504) 568-8346
petersonk@legis.la.gov

Senator Neil Riser
P.O. Box 117
Columbia, LA 71418

(318) 649-0977
risern@legis.la.gov

Senator Gary Smith
P.O Box 189
Norco, LA 70079

(985) 764-9122
smithgl@legis.la.gov

Senator John R. Smith
611-B South 5th Street
Leesville, LA 71446

(337) 238-2709
smithj@legis.la.gov

Senator Gregory Tarver
1024 Pierre Avenue
Shreveport, LA 71103

(318) 227-1499
tarverg@legis.la.gov

Senator Francis Thompson
P.O. Box 68
Delhi, LA 71232

(318) 878-9408
thompsof@legis.la.gov

Senator Mike Walsworth
4007 White's Ferry Rd
Suite A
West Monroe, LA 71291

(318) 340-6453
walsworthm@legis.la.gov

Senator Rick Ward
3741 Highway 1
Port Allen, LA 70767

(225) 246-8838
wardr@legis.la.gov

Senator Mack "Bodi" White
808 O'Neal Lane
Baton Rouge, LA 70816

(225) 272-1324
whitem@legis.la.gov