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|Alario's ballgame now|
Not in my lifetime have we witnessed the House of Representatives embrace a governor's proposal and approve it as quickly as the House handled Gov. Bobby Jindal's offerings to improve K-12 public education.
In case you've been holed up in a cave for the past couple of weeks and need to be brought up to speed on what's occurred in Baton Rouge, the Legislature convened the regular session March 12 and almost immediately entertained Jindal's proposed bills to shake up the public education establishment.
The Jindal package would open the door for more charter schools to operate in the state, bases teacher pay on student performance and would make it far more difficult for teachers to attain tenure and keep it. On a more controversial front, the Jindal plan would expand a voucher program that originated in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina ripped apart the city and its beleaguered school system. Jindal wants to take vouchers statewide, allowing students to vacate poorly performing schools to attend private ones at the expense of the school districts where the students were originally enrolled.
There's more, but that's an overview that should give you an idea of what Jindal has mind to leave his mark on Louisiana before he sets sail for greener pastures.
One committee hearing in the House where Jindal's education reform initiatives were the topic of discussion got under way early in the morning and didn't wrap up until that night. Opponents of the Jindal plan staged protests on the steps of the Capitol and claimed they were denied access to the committee room where lawmakers plowed through legislation line by line. It was a fairly ugly affair, spearheaded by the state's two largest teachers unions, which stand to lose the most if Jindal gets his way on the education reform front.
Jindal critics who gained access to the House Education Committee where the reform legislation was heard were offended when Rep. Nancy Landry offered a simple motion. That being a request for educators who testified before the committee to state whether they took the day off from work at their expenses or the taxpayers. Sadly, Landry was condemned by the anti-reform folks, who lit her up with rather pointed emails and voice messages, expressing their disgust with her request.
That speaks volumes.
Yet, the hue and cry we heard from the critics in general was irrelevant. The education committee – voting largely along party lines – sent the Republican governor's reform bills to the full House for consideration, setting the stage for a rather dramatic showdown on the floor. At least that's what we anticipated.
The showdown was far more grandstanding than legislating as Jindal's allies largely sat silently while anti-Jindal lawmakers offered amendment after amendment to water down the governor's bills. One by one the amendments failed, though the House agreed to a number of amendments that were sold as measures to correct the ambiguities. Truth be known, the amendments were necessary to keep a majority of the House in line to vote for the Jindal package.
So much for theatrics, for the House shot-putted Jindal's reform bills to the more moderate Senate where it could be argued that Senate President John Alario has his work cut out for him. That could be the case if Alario desires to move the education reform measures as quickly and as assuredly as the House.
Don't make the mistake of betting against Alario and don't forget that he has forgotten more about the legislative process than any other member of the Legislature will ever know.
And he'll move those education reform bills on his schedule, not anyone else's.