Monday, August 15, 2011

Lavish State Funding for Education Alternatives

At a time when state funding for traditional public education has been reduced and frozen even as mandated costs have surged, some alternative education initiatives have received generous funding. In a guest editorial for the Monroe News Star Sunday, State Treasurer John Kennedy pointed out that the state has too many unnecessary consulting contracts. I agree with Mr Kennedy and want to point out just a few of the highly questionable Education Department consulting contracts. These include a no bid contract for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and several appropriations for Teach for America recruitment activities.  Here are the line items in the budget of the LA Department of Education.
  • $729,769 for professional services by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to manage charter applications and to help review charter school contracts for BESE.
  • $630,000 with the Teach for America organization to help recruit TFA recruits for different school districts around the state
  • $468,468 for another contract with Teach for America to assist the State Department of Education in recruiting 600 TFA recruits.
  • $1,267,250 for another contract with Teach for America to specifically recruit TFA recruits for the Recovery District and for the Louisiana Teaching Fellows program in Northwest Louisiana.
I have strong objections as a taxpayer to each of these appropriations.

 The first item of $729,769 to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers looks like a conflict of interest to me.  This group is set up to promote charters, not to look after the interests of public school students.  I believe the Department of Educaiton has attorneys and other highly paid staff who could better review these charter contracts. It is obvious from the recent action by BESE to terminate a charter after serious wrongdoing that this organization is not involved in monitoring alleged violations of state law or provisions of the charter contracts.

The three different appropriations for Teach for America, I believe are unnecessary to begin with and seemingly pay more than once for the same service. I have to ask why are these gifts to TFA necessary? Does the state pay our state colleges of education for all the work they do in helping school systems to place new teachers in local schools?

The Recovery District in New Orleans systematically lays off over 250 teachers each year by closing some schools and opening new ones. This helps to make room for the new TFA recruits. That's a slap in the face of laid off certified teachers who have achieved proper certification and have made teaching their real career instead of signing up for a two year stint in TFA before going on to their true profession. Many other school systems have cut back on teaching positions because of the budget crunch. Why is Louisiana not making efforts to find jobs for laid off certified teachers first, before bringing in more TFA recruits?

I believe that originally this idea to have a large pool of TFA recruits and the subcontract for the Louisiana Teaching Fellows came about because of a push by former Superintendent Pastorek to implement the new value added teacher evaluation model starting in some parishes this year. There was a proposal by some education reformers last year that if school systems could fire and replace the bottom 5% of their teachers according to student performance, that student test scores would improve dramatically. Pastorek had obviously bought into this hair brained scheme. (Most education researchers say there is no real basis for this theory)  In one of the memos concerning the new evaluation system sent to local superintendents last year, Pastorek sought to alleviate fears about teacher shortages caused by the new evaluation system. He suggested that the State Department would attempt to provide a source of new teachers to fill the vacancies created by value added firings. I guess that's the reason for the 600 extra TFA recruits in addition to the recruits by the Louisiana Teaching Fellows (Does anyone know who owns or runs the Louisiana Teaching Fellows?) for the Recovery District.

I hope the state auditors carefully monitor these expenditures and that the legislature considers not renewing such "no bid"contracts in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing this to light. Can you post you voted for and against this?