Friday, March 9, 2012
Jindal Plan Moving Now! March 14-15
They are telling us that if we as educators care about public education we had better show up at these committee meetings in large numbers. Our professional education lobbyists for the teacher unions and School Boards Association are heavily outnumbered by the big business lobbyists. And I'm sorry to say they have millions of dollars more than we have to contribute to legislators' campaigns. What we have is numbers! Public school teachers live and vote in every legislative district in this state in large numbers. When you add our voting relatives, we should be the most powerful political force in this state! Why don't we start to exert our potential influence?
I know, it's because teachers and principals are busy preparing kids for the all important LEAP tests! I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that if the Jindal package passes intact, the public schools are in serious trouble and if you continue reading the second portion of this blog and my posts from the last two weeks you will know why.
Please talk to your colleagues now, and plan to take a personal day Wednesday or Thursday, March 14 and 15 to come to the Capitol and show your concern about this disastrous plan. Educators should read the bills carefully and some should plan to testify in the committees. Every educator should go to the legislative web site, get the email address of your Representative and Senator now and send an email immediately indicating your opposition to these bills. I am including two sample emails, but I would expect the creative educators out there to customize their own emails to say exactly how they as individuals feel. Now is the time for us to do something important for our profession.
Here are the bills we expect to be heard; (we now have the official agenda and they are listed). In the House Education Committee starting at 8:30 a.m. March 14, HB 974 and HB 976 will be heard. Please click on the bill number to get the full text of the bill. 974 is the School Employment and tenure bill I discussed in my last post, and 976 is the Voucher and Charter school expansion bill. The corresponding Senate bills that will be heard on March 15 are SB 603 and SB 597. Let me give you the most critical information about the Voucher and Charter school expansion bill.
By far the most destructive part of this bill is the provision that lets BESE authorize a large number of new agencies across the state that can approve new charters in every parish. These charters don't have to tackle turnaround of failing schools. (which have been a dismal failure in the RSD) They will be new charters that can cherry pick the best students from the public schools while public schools continue to serve the left overs. They have every incentive to do this because the new law says that they have to maintain a "B" or better rating. So expect a big PR campaign from these charter companies in your parish to recruit students for college prep schools. If you have resisted setting up magnet schools in your parish because you don't want to pull the best students out of your regular schools, they will specifically target your parish. If you have a lot of middle class families (white and black) who are uncomfortable with the school population in their local school, they will target your parish. Now imagine a few years into the future to see the result of all this. Schools will be re segregated into the haves and have-nots, and the public schools will be left with the have nots.
Now on the issue of HB 974. (tenure nullification and firing teachers based on student test scores) I just want to add a little information to what I gave you earlier this week. The issue is not tenure. Many teachers will tell you they don't care about tenure because they have a principal who knows they are doing a good job and who will never try to fire their good teachers. The problem is this new Act 54 evaluation system will be so erratic and unpredictable that teachers will be mostly at the mercy of the value added formula gurus at the state Department of Education. (there are many horror stories from other states that have tried this) Student performance is supposed to count for only 50% of the evaluation, but I firmly believe it will have a much greater impact than 50%. What do you think will happen if you teach in a high poverty school rated as C or D and most of the teachers get a satisfactory evaluation because of the COMPASS portion of the evaluation? Someone from Baton Rouge is going to come down hard on the principal because he/she is not rooting out the "incompetent" teachers. We all know it has nothing to do with teacher competence. "It's the poverty stupid!" You get the picture. This bill puts every educator unfairly at risk. Please start working on your emails to legislators now, and plan on sending a delegation of teachers and administrators to Baton Rouge on March 14 and 15.
This is how you get the email address of all legislators: Click on this link, and type in your address and zip to find all your legislators. Click on each one to go to their web page where you can get the email for your Rep. and Senator.
Additional Resources: Since this was first posted the LAE website has added a great legislator contact feature. Just click here to take advantage of the LAE expertize.
Take my advice. Forget about your party affiliation. This is not a political party issue. It is a survival of education issue. We just want our legislators to represent us and our families for a change when they vote on this.
Here is a simple sample email. I am sure you can improve on this:
Dear (your legislator):
I am a (teacher) (principal) (etc) who lives in your district. I am very much opposed to HB 974 (or SB 603) because it will unfairly base my continued employment as a teacher on student test scores. I do my job faithfully as a teacher but I have no control over students whose parents send them to school unprepared or let them miss too much school or allow them to refuse to do homework or study. I do not want to have my job and my due process destroyed because of factors over which I have no control. Please vote against this bill. My family and I are depending on you to represent us, not some unproven system.
Here is one for HB 976 and SB 597
Dear (your legislator)
I am a public school educator in your district. I am writing to ask you to oppose HB 976 or (SB 597). This bill (along with a lot of other bad provisions) allows private companies to come into our parish and establish a school that will cherry pick our students so that some individuals can make a profit off of our children. This will not improve education. It will simply further damage our public schools and endanger public educator's careers. Please vote against this bill.
Finally, I strongly recommend that schools have faculty meetings to plan your strategy on this. Someone needs to take the lead and research the bills and inform everyone. Send them to this blog. Do everything you can!
Posted by Michael Deshotels