Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Let's Review the Democratic Process

On Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. the House Education Committee will hold a hearing on Governor Jindal's education reform package in Committee Room 1 at the Capitol. This legislation will include at least HB 974 and HB 976. The Senate Education Committee will have a hearing on the Senate versions of the bills on Thursday.  Thank you to St Martin Parish and Vermilion Parish School Boards for making it easy for educators to attend. Educators in other parishes must try their best to participate also.

HB 974 basically destroys teacher tenure and eventually makes almost all teachers "at will" employees with approximately the same employment status and job security as a teenage store clerk. If the bill passes, school systems will be mandated to make most teacher employment decisions based on student test scores. But with this legislation, teachers who never achieve, or who lose tenure because of one bad evaluation can be fired for any reason with little recourse.
  • The bill absolutely outlaws any layoff decisions for teachers based on seniority. A 25 year teacher must be laid off before a first year teacher if the new value-added evaluation yields even a slightly higher score for the first year teacher. No consideration can be given to the older teacher's 25 years of service to the school system or previous good evaluations.
  • Each teacher automatically loses tenure upon receipt of an evaluation of "ineffective" no matter how many excellent evaluations he/she has received in the past.
  • The Act 54 evaluation of a teacher that results in an "ineffective" rating shall be considered proof that the teacher is incompetent. Such teacher can be fired at any time without a tenure hearing.
  • Even if the teacher's principal rates a teacher as "highly effective" on the qualitative part of the evaluation, a value-added result of "ineffective" overrules the Principal's evaluation and the teacher will receive a final evaluation of "ineffective".
  • With this legislation our Governor and State Superintendent of Education are willing to bet the careers of thousands of teachers that an untested value-added evaluation which is producing highly erratic results in other states will accurately identify the 10% of Louisiana teachers that deserve to be fired each year. (According to the Act 54 evaluation plan, the bottom scoring 10% of teachers automatically get rated "ineffective".)
HB 976 would allow the almost unlimited expansion of voucher schools and charter schools throughout the state. Such schools would have a great incentive to recruit the best students thereby pulling high performers out of and lowering average student performance in public schools. The voucher schools would not be subject to accountability regulations and could expel or council out problem students back to the public schools. Local school boards would be required to forfeit the MFP funds for all such students recruited away from public schools. In addition, if a public school is rated by the state as "failing", charter school organizers would be allowed to run petition drives among parents to force a takeover of such schools from the locally elected school board. All MFP monies would follow these students to their new school.

The above legislation is patterned after extremely destructive legislation that is being introduced all over the country by a conservative big business group called ALEC. Click on this link to read a description of ALEC activities. This group is funded by school privatization interests such as K-12 Virtual Schools.

The Education Committee process is as follows: Prior to the start of the meeting proponents and opponents of the bills to be heard may be seated in Committee Room 1 which is on the ground floor of the Capitol on the House side. Seating is on a first come first served basis after the doors to the committee room are unlocked about half an hour before the meeting. Proponents of the bills may fill out a green card and may request to testify on the bill or just indicate support. Opponents fill out a red card and may request to testify against the bill. The hearing begins when the author of the bill is allowed to introduce the bill and discussion proceeds. At some point the chair calls for testimony from the audience. After discussion of pros and cons, committee members make appropriate motions and the bill may be voted up, down, or other approved disposition. If the bill passes it must go through the rest of the legislative process.

Please send emails to your legislator and to members of the House Education Committee. Attend the hearing if possible. Click on this link to use your address to get to your legislator web pages. Their Email addresses are listed there.

Many Educators should also attend the Senate Education Committee meeting on Thursday morning about 9:00 a.m. where the Senate versions of the same bills will be heard upon adjournment of the morning Senate session. Please send emails to your Senator and to the Senate Education Committee members before Thursday.

The future of your profession and the public school system is at stake. Please do everything possible to exercise your democratic rights and represent your profession.
Michael Deshotels

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What are the components of the teacher evaluations of Act 54? I want to view a copy of the evaluation components. Why can't anyone access this?