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|Knee-jerk reaction to ambitious proposal|
It didn't take long for more than a few educators to express their reservations about Gov. Bobby Jindal's wide-ranging proposal to reform K-12 public education in Louisiana.
They – some superintendents and principals – steered clear of engaging the governor over the rhetoric he employed when he announced his plans last week to remake public education as it is known today. Instead, it's the particulars of Jindal's reform package that upset some educators, who, in some instances, reached out to local media to air their concerns.
It was somewhat surprising Jindal's proposal elicited such a quick rebuttal since the governor spoke in broad terms when he unveiled the highlights of his reform package, which state lawmakers will entertain in the 2012 regular legislative session. The response also was a bit of a surprise because not one piece of legislation concerning education reform has been put in its final form, much less introduced for educators, legislators and the general public to contemplate.
Simply put, the reaction to Jindal's proposal was premature, and it put educators at odds with a governor who was re-elected some three months ago with 66 percent of the vote.
Boys and girls, that's a mandate. And a mandate – whether real or perceived – can prompt a governor to swing for the fence, so to speak, in advocating an issue or a cause that's important to him. Besides, the governor has the voters on his side.
While the superintendents and principals who spoke up were somewhat reserved in their comments about Jindal's plans to rock the apple cart, we can't say the same for two men who call the shots at the state's two largest teachers unions, Louisiana Association of Educators and Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
At the weekly gathering of the Baton Rouge press club on Monday, LFT President Steve Monaghan accused Jindal of blaming teachers for problems in education in Louisiana and he repeated what we've all heard many times before. That being the state does not adequately fund public education.
Monaghan was correct to some degree on the later, but that's another topic of discussion for another day.
Meanwhile, LAE Executive Director Michael Walker Jones suggested Jindal desires to privatize public education, not reform it. He also suggested that poor people "don't have a clue" in making informed decisions about what's best for their children's education. Demeaning and inflammatory would be a proper description of the union boss's remark.
It is important that we not confuse the men and women who work on the frontline in public education with the union bosses and their underlings. The former would be classroom teachers, principals, superintendents and support staff. The later would be so-called union representatives, whose livelihoods exist as long as school systems across the state automatically deduct union dues from the paychecks of union members and forward them to union headquarters in Baton Rouge. Roughly one-half of those monies end up in the hands of their national counterparts in Washington.
That's something educators should bear in mind when the time arrives for them to work out their difference with the governor over his plans to reshape public education. They should ask themselves, "Who has their best interests at heart?"
Yet, educators and union bosses alike should remember that they'll achieve far more by engaging the process in lieu of demonizing it.
Or as an elder might be prone to say, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.