Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Great News From the Legislature & the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Strikes Down Use of MFP for Vouchers & Course Choice

This is great news, but look down to my post from yesterday about the efforts by White and his Course Choice providers to rapidly sign up participants for this giveaway program which is scheduled to start this coming school year "Come hell or high water" as far as Jindal and White are concerned. White will have to convince both BESE and the legislature to find another source of funding if he wants to use this scam on parents and students. Please start talking to your legislators now. Louisiana cannot afford this giveaway program that benefits no one but the greedy privatizers. Course choice and vouchers are destructive cancers, and now is the time to cut them out! 

A couple of weeks ago I got a comment to my blog from a teacher who in effect said that she appreciated the support the education profession was getting from this blog, but she said it was a bit depressing to always see so much bad news about education in Louisiana. I responded that when there was good news I would be happy to report it. Well here it is. Good news for a change!

Yesterday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted 102 to 0 to approve HB 160 by Rep. Reynolds.  (See the Advocate story here) This bill will put off the punitive measures required in the Act 54 evaluation system for at least a year. The vote on this bill demonstrates a major turnaround in attitude of the legislature from last year when it seemed that teachers were just not being heard even when they showed up by the thousands at the capitol. I believe that teachers have finally done a good job of "educating" their legislators that evaluation reform must be based on solid and tested programs before it is allowed to affect the lives of dedicated professionals. There is so much wrong with the new evaluation system which I have discussed extensively in this blog! But for now, I hope that teachers and administrators will be able to breathe a sigh of relief that even this stop gap measure is a sign that we can work with our legislature. I am not so sure about John White and Governor Jindal! Remember the bill must still pass a previously Jindal controlled Senate Education Committee and the full Senate.

In addition to HB 160 the House of Representatives approved HB 466 by Representative Havard (I like to brag that he is my Representative) that will stop the change proposed by Superintendent White to a new school grading system that includes the ACT and other unwise measurements. As I have said before, the present school grading system is not much more than a measure of student poverty in our various schools and tells us very little about the quality of teaching in those schools, but this new system would have been much worse and would have resulted in many excellent schools having their school grades lowered for no good reason. As soon as I can get it together, I will include the actual vote tally on this bill so you can thank your legislators who voted for it. Did I ever mention that an important part of the legislative process is to thank the legislators when they do something right, just as you do when you complement your students for good work? Legislators love to be thanked, and sometimes such praise goes a long way toward improving performance. (Just like it does with your students)

Finally, HB 115, The Reverse Parent Trigger also passed the House overwhelmingly. This bill demonstrates that the legislature is not willing to let the RSD keep a school forever if their big claims of improvement don't pan out. It gives the parents the option, by signing a petition to return a school to the local school board in the event it is not improved sufficiently by the RSD. What a great idea!

Potential Problem With School Discipline Law

In the last several months I have been getting numerous emails from teachers and even parents about deteriorating student discipline in some of our public schools. I think it has many causes, but it certainly does not help that our schools are now getting tremendous pressure from the DOE to keep all students in the classroom no matter how disruptive. This is wrong, if it is preventing the students who want to learn from getting the best instruction possible from their teachers.

Now there is a bill awaiting a House floor vote that could potentially make the discipline situation in many classrooms much worse (If you can imagine that). HB 646 is by a good friend of public education, Rep. Pat Smith of Baton Rouge. The Smith bill began I believe as a good, positive attempt to improve the anti-bullying law, but it has unintentionally picked up language that could have a disastrous effect on school discipline law.

I am meeting today along with representatives of the LAE and LFT with Representative Smith and a small coalition of individuals that drafted this legislation in an effort to suggest amendments that would restore the important safeguards for the classroom in the discipline law. Please stay tuned for a report on the outcome of these negotiations. In the meantime I am encouraging teachers and school principals to read the engrossed version of the bill, HB 646, which you can read by just clicking on the bill number. I want you to judge for yourself what it does to the authority of the principal and the teacher in maintaining discipline in our classrooms. I just do not believe in substituting minimal behavior training in the place of real disciplinary measures when students are preventing others from getting an education. And I certainly do not believe that students should be allowed to be extremely disrespectful to their teacher without suffering major consequences!



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