Monday, April 29, 2013

Let the People Choose Our Next State Superintendent

Important Update:

I regret to inform my readers that SB 41 by Senator Kostelka was killed in the Jindal hand-picked Senate Education Committee by a 2 to 4 vote. Unfortunately this was not unexpected. Senator Kostelka made an impressive presentation to the committee citing numerous examples of inappropriate influence by outside interests that intend to profit from Louisiana's "reform" initiatives. Herb Bassett pointed out the manipulation and misrepresentation of data by the DOE, and many others explained how unresponsive the present appointed superintendent is to legitimate concerns of educators and parents across the state about the ill conceived and poorly executed programs of our present DOE. I repeat: Our public education system is too important to be controlled by the amateurs that now operate the LDOE!

I once thought that it made sense to have BESE appoint the State Superintendent. The idea was that BESE could take applications from all over the country and from Louisiana in search of the most qualified candidate. You know, someone who has been properly trained in the field of education and who has devoted many years to his/her craft as a teacher and an administrator. Someone who has dealt first hand with the problems of properly educating the students who come to our schools with all manner of abilities, gifts, and handicaps. It just so happens we have many such professional educators here in Louisiana who could compete very favorably with out of state candidates.

Unfortunately, in recent years it has not worked out that way. BESE has simply waived all the important qualifications for Superintendent in favor of candidates with no training, no experience, and only bogus reformist ideology. First we had the appointment of a lawyer who had no training in education except for his service on BESE, who was appointed Superintendent based on his politics. He was a disaster in my opinion because he put Louisiana on this insane path of excessive standardized testing and systematic misuse of testing to the point that schools now mostly rehearse kids for state tests while important real life courses are neglected. Then we had the most recent atrocity visited upon public education by the appointment of a faux educator, who is here only to promote the ALEC agenda of privatization and teacher bashing.

There is no way in my opinion, a vote of the general public could not have done better. At least if we had a statewide campaign, the  voters would get to compare qualifications of the candidates, and I believe the voters would elect an experienced educator. Yes, big money supporters may try to influence the results, but at least Illinois recently elected a real educator over a big money supported reformer. He then went on to get himself "appointed" in Florida.

If you feel the way I do that's it's time we limited the power of the Governor to run and ruin education, please ask your legislators to vote for Senate Bill 41 by Kostelka, that would propose a constitutional amendment changing the position of State Superintendent to an elected office. What could be fairer? This is the ultimate parental choice legislation. At least this way we could judge each candidate on the important issues such as vouchers to religious schools (which has never received a vote of the people in Louisiana).

SB 41 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee this Wednesday, May 1 at 9:00 AM. Please send emails and make phone calls to the Senate Education Committee members asking them to vote "yes" for SB 41.

I just got word this morning that the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education will strongly support this legislation.

Here is the contact information for the Senate Education Committee:
Senator Conrad Appel (Chairman)
721 Papworth Avenue
Suite 102A
Metairie, LA 70005

(866) 946-3133
Senator Eric LaFleur (Vice-Chairman)
P.O. Box 617
Ville Platte, LA 70586

(337) 363-5019
Senator Dan Claitor
7520 Perkins Road
Suite 160
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

(225) 765-0206
Senator Jack Donahue
3030 East Causeway Approach
Mandeville, LA 70448

(985) 727-7949
Senator Elbert L. Guillory
633 East Landry Street
Opelousas, LA 70570

(337) 943-2457
Senator Mike Walsworth
4007 White's Ferry Rd
Suite A
West Monroe, LA 71291

(318) 340-6453
Senator Mack "Bodi" White
808 O'Neal Lane
Baton Rouge, LA 70816

(225) 272-1324
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508

(337) 993-7430


russ Wise said...

Sorry, Mike, but I can't go along with you on this one. I can remember the "good ol' days" when Louisiana elected its Supt of Ed, and as I recall it was as political then as it is now. Can you see Jim brown as Supt of Ed? I'd much rather see legislation requiring BESE to have to use a search firm to produce four candidates from whom the Supt must be selected. you can't take the politics out of politics but you can reduce its impact with properly drafted legislation.

carey said...

I think Russ is onto something, since my first gut reaction to your article was "gee, how will ALEC use such an election to get the person they want in." It's almost a damned if you do; damned if you don't situation in Loosiana, and the rest of the U.S. of A., for that matter...

Michael Deshotels said...

Russ & Cary make good points, but I want to remind everyone that all of the ALEC forces fought to have Tony Bennet elected in Indiana, and a real educator with much less funding still won. We just need to mobilize all the anger in the education community for a good campaign for a good educator.

Anonymous said...

The people elected Chas Roemer, and a few others to the BESE in order to "hi-jack" the ed reforms. I'm afraid the sheeple are too easily persuaded by a few bumper stickers and advertisements. However, on the other hand...BESE has not acted for public education as we expect them I must agree with Mike and the Coalition, the sheeple couldn't do worse than BESE lately. Supporting this bill sends a direct message to BESE that their shenanigans, and ignoring rational arguments, will cost them some power. We can always support a bill later on down the road to make this position appointed again...when/if BESE actually starts appointing someone that will unite and motivate the teachers of the state to perform meaningful reforms instead of attack, vilify, and demoralize teachers.

Anonymous said...

Boo...hiss...I really think the picture of Chas Roemer propogates the cartoonish features of his head. :) I agree that BESE should lose the ability to pick a superintendent if BESE is going to ignore school boards and teachers for a political agenda.