Message to Sen. Landrieu From Louisiana Educator


My own conversations with Sen. Landrieu - note that her responses were written by her staff assistant MB who is probably the same Teach For America grad I spoke with when I visited Sen. Landrieu's office in Washington DC.  

Senator Landrieu - 

Thank you to responding to my concerns regarding the adoption of Common Core Standards by our Republican Governor Jindal.

  Since Governor Jindal brought our highly UNqualified  Superintendent John White into Louisiana, both Democrats and Republicans have seen firsthand how so-called education reform, which is in fact a corporate elitist privatization of our public school system, has successfully removed public voice, de-professionalized the Profession of teaching, and destroyed any respect or trust parents and educators have in this top-down managerial system.

It is unfortunate that Arne Duncan, supported by President Obama, has used his powerful and well-funded position to bribe and coerce cash-strapped school districts into accepting reforms that spoke of promises to bring equity and excellence for our children.  They have had the opposite effect.  Now, due to the standardization of every aspect of education, the achievement gap is widening and our most vulnerable children are suffering under the guise of Choice.  

As the effects of the new Common Core Standardization have rolled out of the school house door and onto the kitchen tables of homes where parents are frustrated and infuriated by tmaterials with which their children are being provided, the public has become vividly aware that the rhetoric of reform does not match the reality. Republicans and Democrats alike have actually joined together to make their concerns and voices heard.  Both Republican and Democratic legislators have responded to our concerns and now realize that the warnings of educators nationwide, like me, have substance.   

Your absence and lack of participation at the local level have distanced you from the struggles we have been engaged in at the state level.  You are heavily influenced by the powerful and wealthy lobbyists for organizations like Teach For America, Gates Foundation and, most prominently, proponents hiding behind the alluring names of non-profits like Stand For Children and BAEO.  Their representatives gain access to you in Washington while those of us who wield no such financial power cannot get an audience with you either there or here in our beloved state.  

Our voices are now being heard by state legislators from both sides of the hall.  Conservative and liberal parents, educators and concerned citizens have joined together to expose the destruction that phoney Choice, competition and high stakes standardized testing have brought to our schools and our children.  I ask that you listen intently as you bring your campaign message to your constituency here in Louisiana.  None of us has the money to buy your attention but collectively we have the votes to send our message that we will not stand by and see the Democratic foundation of our public school system crumble. 

I encourage you and implore you to meet with us on your next visit to Louisiana.  We are NOT ill-informed.  My visits to Washington have proven to be fruitless and expensive. 

Sincerely -  A Democrat from St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana


Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT

April 16, 2014

Dear Lee:
In the mid-2000s, there was a considerable grassroots effort led by teachers and experts from across the nation, the National Governor's Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and forty-nine states and territories to adjust high school standards aimed at making high school graduates more prepared to enter the workforce or attend college. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) developed as a result of these discussions and have been voluntarily adopted as college-and career-ready standards by forty-five states. These standards were adopted by the State of Louisiana under the Administration of Governor Jindal in 2010.
The CCSS do not prescribe a national curriculum; rather, they lay out explicit academic goals that students should meet in order to be successful in today's career and college environments. They have been supported by business leaders across Louisiana, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. In no way does the federal government require or pressure states to adopt the CCSS. All states that have chosen to adopt these standards, including the State of Louisiana, have done so freely without any directive from the federal government. Accordingly, these voluntary state-based standards have not been written into federal law.
While I had no involvement in the adoption and development of the CCSS by the state, I support a collaborative effort by Louisiana's parents, teachers, local school districts, and Louisiana's state government in setting appropriate academic goals for Louisiana's students to master. I am pleased that these individuals came together without directive from the federal government to elevate the education standards for Louisiana's public education system. Louisiana's students deserve no less than the highest standards in learning and the high quality education that they need to compete with their peers nationally and internationally. This will ensure a more promising future for our students, our workforce, and the economic health of our state.
Thank you for contacting me about this important issue. As a member of the United States Senate, my jurisdiction remains limited to federal legislation and does not provide me with the authority to manage the Louisiana's public education system. However, I understand your concerns and will keep them in mind when working with the State of Louisiana on related education issues. Please feel free to visit my website at http://www.landrieu.senate.gov for more information on my legislative views and actions.
With warm regards, I am
Sincerely,
Mary Landrieu
United States Senator

MLL:mb
Senator Landrieu says here:

As a member of the United States Senate, my jurisdiction remains limited to federal legislation and Louisiana's standardized testing policies fall under state jurisdiction. However, I understand your concerns and will keep them in mind when working with the State of Louisiana on related issues.  

Sen. Landrieu needs to be educated regarding the influence and funding, which fall slightly short of mandates, that Sec. Duncan has exercised and many of our congressmen and women have supported that have extended and exacerbated the failed accountability policies of NCLB courtesy of the Bush administration and now championed by Jeb Bush and his Foundation for a Education Excellence.  A long sentence for sure,  but it has been a long four years struggling to preserve a democratic system of public education that HAS BEEN virtually controlled from Washington.  

Sen. Landrieu needs to understand that because she REPRESENTS Louisiana in Congress that Louisiana's standardized testing policies ARE "under her jurisdiction" just as much as they are under the jurisdiction of every federal and state tax paying citizen and VOTER from Louisiana. 

Sen. Landrieu does not understand our concerns.  How could she when she is insulated from her constituency here and when we travel to Washington and fail to obtain and audience with her.  Sen. Landrieu needs to hear our voices as she makes her way through Louisiana asking for votes. Conservative Republicans have pulled out all the stops in trying to change Sen. Vitter's message which is in support of Common Core because they believe it will help his campaign for Governor, but Sen. Landrieu is getting a pass from Democrats in her quest to retain her seat in Congress.  CCSS is just the tip of the iceberg.   Sen. Landrieu supports privatization and is a champion for Teach For America.  She needs to understand that she is in a small boat paddling the wrong way!  

Education and politics don't mix.  Sen. Landrieu has disagreed with Obama policy in the oil industry and she needs now to understand that democracy does not belong to one party!  Pres. Obama's appointment of Arne Duncan has been a disaster. Let's ask her to make it right.

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT

September 24, 2014

Dear Lee:
Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns for standardized testing in public schools.  Your comments help me to make a more informed decision before acting on behalf of the citizens of Louisiana.
I agree that standardized tests must not serve as the only measure of academic impact for either students or educators. Rather, standardized testing should assist in the evaluation of student progress and academic attainment, along with other metrics. Schools must use these results to address areas of weakness and tailor instruction to best fit the needs of their students.    
As a member of the United States Senate, my jurisdiction remains limited to federal legislation and Louisiana's standardized testing policies fall under state jurisdiction. However, I understand your concerns and will keep them in mind when working with the State of Louisiana on related issues.  
Once again, I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts on standardized testing. I trust that you will continue to contact me about issues of mutual concern. Please feel free to visit my website at http://landrieu.senate.gov for more information on legislative issues.
With warmest regards, I am
Sincerely,
Signature
Mary Landrieu
United States Senator


MLL:mb

The American Independent

Landrieu touts charter school reform despite questionable results in New Orleans

Louisiana senator criticizes traditional educators at Washington event
By Mikhail Zinshteyn | 06.30.11 | 5:21 pm
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) spoke today at the Center for American Progress indicating education policymakers cannot wait for socio-economic conditions to improve for disadvantaged students, arguing instead for a public school landscape that includes charter schools.

The event discussed the ways in which funds from the School Improvement Grant, a federal program, could assist school districts in improving chronically underperforming schools. In addition to the senator, state and city public school administrators offered insight and context into school turnaround.

A longtime advocate of tapping charter operators to turn around struggling schools, the senator said her work in Louisiana included “breaking up the monopoly [of traditional school districts] and encouraging appropriate competition in public schools.”

The state, and New Orleans in particular, has emerged as a poster child for aggressive school turnaround measures, best exemplified by the Recovery School District.

In November 2005, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 35 that put most of New Orleans’ schools in the hands of RSD, a school system introduced in 2003 by a separate piece of legislation that manages troubled institutions. Prior to the passage of Act 35, RSD operated five city schools. The new law increased the minimum performance threshold schools had to meet, deeming many in the city as failing.

As a result, between 107 and 115 schools were shuffled from the city’s original district — The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) — into either RSD or Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) control. As of March 2011, there were five school classifications totaling 88 schools within the city headed by three public authorities. Only 29 are not charters. This map illustrates the extent to which the city’s schools are balkanized (PDF). New Orleans now has the largest percentage of charter schools of any city in the U.S., at roughly 70 percent.

Performance indicators for New Orleans schools are mixed. While there is marked improvement for the city’s graduation rate and a decline in the number of drop outs, state test scores remain low. On the graded scale the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOA) is adopting this coming school year,a vast majority of schools in the RSD system will receive a mark of D or F. A group of education researchers critical of the RSD, Research on Reformsdetermined (PDF) fewer than 10 percent of schools in the controversial district will score a C or better next year.

Rayne Martin, chief of innovation for LDOA, said, “we believe letter grades are right to be applied to all schools.” According to her, those ratings will be accompanied by an improvement value to show parents a school is making progress despite its low scores. “We understand there is an issue with community perception for the schools,” Martin said.

Labor groups might take pause with that explanation — a lawsuit is still pending in the Pelican State over the alleged wrongful dismissal of 8,500 employees, including 7,500 educators, shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck. Their jobs were terminated, the teachers group maintains, on the grounds “[LDOA] officials changed the definition of an acceptable School Performance Score from ‘60’ to ’88,’ which allowed the takeover of 107 NOPS schools.”

Landrieu sounded clinical at times when talking about traditional teachers, however. “Charter schools are in many ways a threat and competition to local school boards,” she said, calling publicly-operated school systems a monopoly on education. “If traditional teachers and principals can rally themselves and admit that they failed … they can be part of turnaround,” she added. “If not, they can leave.”

According to LDOE’s District-At-A-Glance website, RSD schools have a 91 percent rate of students on free and reduced lunch programs, a typical sign of low-economic status given the maximum income eligible for the program is $40,793 (185 percent of the federal poverty line) for a family of four. The state average is 66 percent.

The city’s charter schools run into other problems, according to critics. Selective admissions procedures favor higher-income families and many of the privately-managed, but publicly-funded, schools incorporate draconian expulsion policies that some say is a mechanism to protect those academies from low-performing students.

One of the reasons many school districts are mobilizing to opt-out of No Child Left Behind regulation is to avoid the 2002 federal legislation’s punitive sting. Earlier in June. U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan told reporters if reforms to NCLB aren’t pushed through by Congress, 83 percent of schools nationwide could be labeled as failing.

Under NCLB, schools that persistently underperform must allow students to enroll in other programs within the district, taking valuable state and federal funding that rides with every pupil. The penalties continue to snowball until downright school closure or charter school takeover is prescribed. Other consequences include hiring a private company to take over operations or placing the school under direct state control. All of those options were put into play in New Orleans.

The CAP event considered models for school turnaround that depart from NCLB.

Senator Landrieu - did you see this? 

A companion resolution to the House sponsored resolution sent to you yesterday.  When will this position filter down to our state where it should be initiated?  


Bill Text
113th Congress (2013-2014)
S.RES.345.IS




S.RES.345 -- Whereas education belongs in the hands of our parents, local officials, local educational agencies, and States; (Introduced in Senate - IS)

SRES 345 IS
113th CONGRESS
2d Session
S. RES. 345
Strongly supporting the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments, and strongly denouncing the President's coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants and flexibility waivers.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

February 6, 2014

Mr. GRAHAM (for himself, Mr. LEE, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mr. SCOTT, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. COCHRAN, Mr. CRUZ, Mr. WICKER, and Mr. ENZI) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

RESOLUTION
Strongly supporting the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments, and strongly denouncing the President's coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants and flexibility waivers.
Whereas education belongs in the hands of our parents, local officials, local educational agencies, and States;
Whereas the development of the common education standards known as the Common Core State Standards was originally led by national organizations, but has transformed into an incentives-based mandate from the Federal Government;
Whereas in 2009, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), both of which are private trade associations, began developing common education standards for kindergarten through grade 12 (referred to in this preamble as the `Common Core State Standards');
Whereas sections 9527, 9529, 9530, and 9531 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7907, 7909, 7910, and 7911) prohibit the establishment of a national curriculum, national testing, mandatory national teacher certification, and a national student database;
Whereas Federal law makes clear that the Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of State assessments in elementary and secondary education;
Whereas President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced competitive grants through the Race to the Top program under sections 14005 and 14006 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5; 123 Stat. 282) (referred to in this preamble as the `Race to the Top program') in July 2009;
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, Secretary Duncan stated, `The $4,350,000,000 Race to the Top program that we are unveiling today is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Federal Government to create incentives for far-reaching improvement in our Nation's schools.';
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, Secretary Duncan also stated, `But I want to be clear that Race to the Top is also a reform competition, one where States can increase or decrease their odds of winning Federal support.';
Whereas, under the Race to the Top program guidelines, States seeking funds were pressed to implement 4 core, interconnected reforms, and the first of these reforms was to adopt `internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace';
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, President Obama outlined the connection between common education standards and Race to the Top program funds, stating, `I am issuing a challenge to our [N]ation's governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools--your State can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.';
Whereas the selection criteria designed by the Department of Education for the Race to the Top program provided that for a State to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a `common set of K-12 standards';
Whereas Common Core State Standards establish a single set of education standards for kindergarten through grade 12 in English language arts and mathematics that States adopt;
Whereas Common Core State Standards were, during the initial application period for the Race to the Top program, and remain, as of the date of the adoption of this resolution, the only common set of kindergarten through grade 12 standards in the United States;
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, Secretary Duncan stated, `To speed this process, the Race to the Top program is going to set aside $350,000,000 to competitively fund the development of rigorous, common State assessments.';
Whereas, since the Race to the Top program's inception, States have been incentivized by Federal money to adopt common education standards;
Whereas States began adopting Common Core State Standards in 2010;
Whereas States that adopted Common Core State Standards before August 2, 2010, were awarded 40 additional points out of 500 points for their Race to the Top program applications;
Whereas 45 States have adopted Common Core State Standards;
Whereas 31 States, of the 45 total, adopted Common Core State Standards before August 2, 2010;
Whereas States that have adopted Common Core State Standards are given preference in the application process for the waivers issued under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861) that provide flexibility with respect to certain requirements of such Act;
Whereas States that have adopted Common Core State Standards are currently collaborating to develop common assessments that will be aligned to the Common Core State Standards and replace existing end-of-the-year State assessments;
Whereas these assessments will be available in the 2014-2015 school year;
Whereas 2 consortia of States are developing common assessments: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC);
Whereas national standards lead to national assessments and national assessments lead to a national curriculum;
Whereas education standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning;
Whereas challenging academic standards are vital to ensuring students are college and career ready;
Whereas blanket education standards should not be a prerequisite for Federal funding;
Whereas States are incentivized to adopt Common Core State Standards by the explicit correlation between the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by the State and the preference provided to such States through the Race to the Top program and the flexibility waivers issued under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861);
Whereas the Secretary of Education has created a system of grants and waivers that influence, incentivize, and coerce State educational agencies, commissions, and boards into implementing common elementary and secondary school standards and assessments endorsed by the Secretary;
Whereas when Federal funds are linked to the adoption of common education standards, the end result is increased Federal control over education and a decreased ability of schools to meet the individual needs of the students in their schools;
Whereas the implementation of Common Core State Standards will eventually impact home school and private school students when institutions of higher education are pressured to align their admission and readiness standards with curricula based on the Common Core State Standards;
Whereas the 10th amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads, `The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people'; and
Whereas, throughout the course of United States history, States have maintained the responsibility of education based on the 10th amendment because the explicit power of educating children was not delegated to the United States by the Constitution: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, that it is the sense of the Senate that--
    (1) States and local educational agencies should maintain the right and responsibility of determining educational curricula, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education;
    (2) the Federal Government should not incentivize the adoption of common education standards or the creation of a national assessment to align with such standards; and
    (3) no application process for any Federal grant funds, or for waivers issued by the Secretary under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861), that occurs after the date of adoption of this resolution should award any additional points, or provide any preference, for the adoption of the Common Core State Standards or any other national common education standards.



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