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Story Archives: What's the fuss?
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|What's the fuss?|
Why are so many educators in Louisiana opposed to the educational reform measures that state lawmakers approved in the regular legislative session?
More specifically, what is the education community afraid of?
Those questions are worth pondering in light of the uproar that's ensued in earnest since the close of the regular session earlier this month.
If you've paid attention to the education community, particularly the teachers unions, you've learned that Gov. Bobby Jindal's move to shake up public schools violates the state Constitution. At least that's what the Louisiana Federation of Teachers claimed in two lawsuits filed in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge shortly after the close of the regular session. The filings asked the court to throw out the two acts the Legislature approved that served as the primary vehicles for Jindal's plan to reform public education.
The LFT says the acts – Act 1 and Act 2 – are unconstitutional because they should have been broken up into several pieces of legislation instead of bundled into two bills. It's anyone' s guess what difference that makes, but according to the LFT, Article II, Section 15 of the state Constitution says every bill "shall be confined to one object."
According to the LFT, Act 1 would "adversely affect (s) Louisiana teachers by changing tenure laws, hiring and firing policies, and compensation. It removes the jurisdiction of school boards over teacher employment, and redefines the role of local school superintendents."
The LFT says Act 2 should be shown the door because it "radically redefines public education. It expands the state's voucher program, which pays tuition to private and religious schools, and takes the funding for vouchers from public education's Minimum Foundation Program. It includes a whole new category of charter schools to be created by unelected, largely unaccountable bodies that have the same authority as local school boards."
The Jindal administration maintains the Constitution allows for the appropriation of taxpayer dollars for private and parochial school tuition as along as the state provides for public schools. The administration specifically says the 1974 Constitution is clear on those points.
From a bird's-eye view, the LFT is whistling in the wind if it believes a levelheaded district court judge in East Baton Rouge Parish will rule against the state. That's not to say it won't happen, but any judge of a sound mind knows that an unfavorable ruling for the Jindal administration most likely will result in that judge drawing an opponent in the next election. A well-financed opponent to boot. Don't think a judge won't take that into consideration before issuing a ruling.
Be that as it may, the whole process has turned nasty.
That's evidenced by the organized effort to recall Jindal and his handpicked Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chuck Kleckley of Lake Charles. Individual teachers organized both recalls. Recalling Jindal will never happen. Kleckley may have a problem on his hands, but here's predicting he will survive any recall movement in Calcasieu Parish.
The irony of it all is those education reforms that Jindal championed haven't been implemented. They're scheduled to be put to work when the new school year begins in August, but that's it. Scheduled for implementation.
Lost in the shuffle, or not being discussed in the media and points elsewhere, is the primary reason why the public education community is so upset with Jindal, et. al.
It has very little to do with teachers losing tenure or school boards losing their input in hiring and firing decisions. It also has little to do with superintendents possessing more authority to do what they want and when they want to do it in managing the school systems they were hired to manage.
Instead, the big fuss is all about money. In other words, the education establishment in Louisiana objects to any taxpayer dollars being used to educate children in an environment other than a public school setting. It's that simple.
The establishment's position is understandable.
Let us recall, though, that funding for K-12 public education in Louisiana has increased by more than $1 billion over the past 10 years, but fewer children are enrolled in public schools today. And Louisiana still languishes near the bottom of every ranking of educational systems throughout the country.
What does that tell us?