Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another Major Victory for Public Education

Important breaking news:

BESE President Chas Roemer sent a letter last night to Senator Appel, chair of the Senate Education Committee explaining that the wrong MFP resolution was sent to the legislature and was the one considered by the committee! He stated that the language submitted to the legislature was from a working draft that was never considered by BESE and that the correct version has now been sent. What a bizarre development!  Roemer further stated that this incorrect language was the reason the committee rejected the formula, despite the fact that Senator Dan Claitor stated on the record in the committee that the revisions of the formulas for special education and gifted and talented were also a major concern of many legislators.

Many believe that the real reason the Jindal allies on BESE do not want to meet is that they do not want to deal with the many issues that have surfaced recently about possible unethical behavior by Superintendent White. (see the post below) What Roemer is really saying is: "This is another  fine mess you've gotten us into Johnny."

A Thirty Million Dollar fine is being assessed to State Superintendent White to be paid back to local school systems as part of the recent Supreme Court decision on vouchers and the MFP. Unfortunately that's a fine that must be paid by taxpayers, not by White, and it could eventually be assessed back to local school systems as the Jindal controlled BESE prepares to rubber stamp another Jindal/White revision of the MFP. The 2013-14 MFP formula is being sent back to BESE as a result of yesterday's action by the Senate Education Committee. That's a big victory for public education advocates but the revision by BESE is far from guaranteed to be fair to our public schools.

According to the AP story linked here, White informed the Senate Education Committee that the Supremes had not only struck down the use of MFP funds for vouchers but had declared the 2012 approval of the MFP by the legislature to be null and void because the House vote approving the MFP was not a legal majority. This means that the MFP, according to the constitution must revert to the 2011-12 formula which did not employ the various schemes by Jindal and his minions to raid the MFP in various ways including the vouchers.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many educators that sent emails and made phone calls to their Senators asking them to reject the 2013-14 MFP. I especially want to thank our Defenders of Public Education group which has been particularly active this session.  If that new version of the MFP had been approved, it would basically have continued the Jindal/White plan to dismantle public education. At least this way, educators have a shot at correcting some to the flaws in the new MFP. I believe our special education advocates have a real chance of restoring the proper formula for funding special education in place of White's new weighted formula.

I must warn educators that the battle of the MFP is far from over, and could possibly end in a tie between the Jindal public education haters and those of us who are now fighting for the survival of public education. The biggest part of the problem is money. The legislature with the present budget just does not have enough money to both fund real public education properly and to take care of the Governor's vouchers and course choice programs.

My opinion is that by far the most dangerous of the Governor's privatization schemes is the Course Choice program. We have already seen how salesmen for the out of state providers have rampaged through neighborhoods signing up numerous students that had not even agreed to take such courses using the "gift" of a free tablet computer. Then our DOE, even though the start of the school year is still months away and no funding has been appropriated, gave local Superintendents only 72 hours to approve the enrollments. This was purely a pressure tactic by White to sign up as many students as possible to these bogus courses so that he could insist that the legislature fund the program, no matter what. I want to complement the school systems that have resisted these pressure tactics and have chosen to protect their students from this scam.

I believe that the vicious attacks on public education by the Jindal administration and the many unethical deceptions by White, such as the "Seabaugh solution" have helped to unify the education profession in Louisiana as we have not seen in decades. Educators have finally started demanding support from their legislators. That is the key to success for us. Forget about changing Jindal and White and even BESE. We must change the legislature!

How do we change the legislature? Very simple. Just exercise your right to send emails, make phone calls and just tell your legislator how you want him/her to vote. It's as simple as that. They represent us, not the reverse! They depend on us for their reelection and they fear our anger if they continue to meekly follow Jindal and White. We have already seen major changes in attitude of some legislators that last year we could not even talk to.

Finally, I want to complement the leaders of the excellent Coalition for Louisiana Public Education that has been created to support public education in the face of these  attacks by the public education haters. The School Boards' Association, the LAE, the LFT and administrator groups have unified as never before for the common goal of protecting public education. It is my hope that some of the damage already done to public education can be repaired through this positive coalition and that eventually public education can truly be improved and strengthened for the benefit of our students. Yes I am still foolishly optimistic and I hope many other educators are too.  We will only win if we truly believe we can win!


Lee Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT said...

According to this chart (see link below) provided by White when he was selling his tax-saving voucher plan, the State saved almost $20 million dollars by providing vouchers. Where did the $20 million in tax "savings" go? Supt. White should be able to pay back the districts quite easily by diving into his special "savings account" shouldn't he? Or was a goodly portion used to pay the TFA Corps installed at LDOE.

See for yourself:

The New Orleans Imperative said...

White needs to leave by any means necessary (resignation or dismissal) and the Attorney General needs to begin comprehensive investigation of the Louisiana Department of Education and BESE.

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