Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jindal War on Public Education Will Continue

Members of the Coalition For Louisiana Public Education meeting in Baton Rouge Monday predicted that Governor Jindal will continue his deliberate dismantling of public education in the coming legislative session. Key members of the Coalition representing the LSBA (Louisiana School Boards Association), LAE, LFT, parent groups, and other organizations of public educators expect that the Governor and his big business allies will find new ways of getting around three recent court decisions opposing their plans to privatize our education system.

Number one on the Coalition's list of concerns will be a continued attack by Jindal on funding for public education in the coming fiscal session. Some members of the Coalition predict that Jindal and White will demand that BESE reduce funding for public schools even as they continue to increase unfunded mandates on local school systems.  Coalition members fear that Jindal will create a new line item for funding of vouchers in the state budget and at the same time induce a compliant BESE to reduce MFP funding for public schools. This tactic which may or may not be allowed by the courts would allow Jindal to continue to support many dubious private schools at the expense of public schools.

The attack on teacher unions will continue. There is a proposal by LABI, the big business ally of Jindal to prohibit the use of payroll deduction as a benefit to teachers to pay their union dues. At the same time the LABI legislation would exempt the A+PEL organization from such a rule because in the opinion of big business, this group is more "progressive" and does not support political candidates. What an insult to the teaching profession! Jindal and LABI would do every thing possible to discourage teachers from joining the very organizations that would protect teacher rights and benefits and encourage their own version of a company union that just goes along with actions that hurt teachers and the profession. The legislation passed last year that allows any college graduate to become a teacher in a charter school without formal training is just the beginning of attacks on the profession. Another front in the battle is an attack on teacher benefits such as our defined benefit retirement system. Most charter schools do not allow their teachers to participate in the teacher retirement system and refuse to pay into the system for the legacy costs of our retired teachers. A decline in teacher union memebership in LAE and LFT would make it much easier to strip teachers of benefits and all the trappings of a profession!

There are many other insidious and hidden attacks on our public schools promoted by the ALEC inspired legislation passed last year. For example, the parent trigger legislation in Act 2 (which has not been nullified by the court rulings) allows charter school hired guns to run parent petitions in schools with D or F ratings by the state requiring that they be taken over by the RSD and then converted into charters. Yet there is no provision for a school to be converted back to a school board run school even if the parents find that they don't want to be run by the RSD. Many parents in the New Orleans area are frustrated now because some charter schools that are eligible to return to New Orleans school board management are refusing to do so.  Previous State Superintendent Pastorek convinced BESE to leave it up to the local charter board to decide to go back to local school board governance. So the parent trigger system only works one way to encourage dismantlement of public schools!

All I can say to educators, parents, and school board members is wake up! If you care about keeping democratic control of your public schools and if you care about keeping teaching a profession instead of a disorganized bunch of test teachers, do the following:
  1. Join your teacher union or administrator organization in efforts to support our public school system against these attacks. Yes, and that means pay your dues! Because every dollar you save by not being a member, you will pay back ten times over in lost benefits and respect as a profession. I keep my membership in LAE active even though I am not actively employed. I am also encouraging parents to join or form parent orgtanizations to help fight aganist this threat to our neighborhood schools.
  2. Sign up today for my Defenders of Public Education data base so I can keep you informed by email when important issues come up in the legislature that require you to talk to or send an email to your legislator. All you have to do is send me an email to louisianaeducator@gmail.com and either tell me the name of your Senator and Representative or give me your address so I can look the information up on the Louisiana Legislature web site. Be sure to include your preferred email address so I can reach you more efficiently. 
Our public education system is worth fighting for. But we have to be willing to make our case early and often to our local legislators!

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