Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Disappointing Vote

The House Education Committee, after debate that went into late evening hours yesterday, voted to kill HB381 by Gueyman, Pope and Kostelka that would have provided a process to create Louisiana based school standards in the place of the Common Core State Standards. Big business in Louisiana represented by LABI and CABL once again wielded their power over the legislature. It did not seem to matter that most of the real experts in Louisiana education led by some of our most successful local superintendents warned that the present CCSS may not be appropriate and that the PARCC test may be more harmful than helpful. John White and his big business buddies were determined to put our schools through another round of gut wrenching reform and condemnation. The committee also defeated HB 558 by Cameron Henry that would have stopped the PARCC testing and substituted Louisiana developed tests instead.

I want to thank Superintendent Pujol of Ascension Parish, Superintendent Folse of St Tammany Parish and Superintendent Puyau of Vermilion Parish who led the effort by educators to restore sanity to the process of education reform in Louisiana. There were many other superintendents present also who made their support known for HB 381, along with many supervisors and teachers. LAE and LFT representatives and the School Board Association also supported HB 381.

Many parents stayed to the bitter end of the debate to support this and a bill by Rep. Cameron Henry, HB 558, that would have stopped the PARCC testing. They deserve our sincere thanks for their dedication to their children and to our public school teachers. I testified in favor of the Henry Bill because as I have pointed out in this blog several times, the PARCC testing will be a disaster for Louisiana public education. A test almost identical to PARCC was a total failure in New York state with over 70% of the students getting a non-proficient rating. In addition I pointed out in my testimony that even though the CCSS and the PARCC have been billed as a way of closing the achievement gap between rich and poor, minority and majority etc. the results in New York showed a major widening of the achievement gap. Minority students had a passing rate of only 16%. The same thing will surely happen in Louisiana.

State Superintendent John White made a statement in opposing both of these bills that shows his true motive of casting our public schools in the most negative light possible so that he and Jindal can continue their massive privatization efforts. White repeated once again one of his favorite verbal clubs against our public schools. He said “Our children in Louisiana are just as smart as kids in other states so we owe them these better standards.” Now on its face this statement seems to demonstrate his belief in and support for academic success for our students. But here is the problem: First of all, White is not qualified in any way to draw any conclusions about how “smart” our students are in comparison to other states. He has no training at all in educational measurement. This is simply his way of putting all the blame on educators and public schools when our students do not perform well on PARCC or on any tests that compare us to other states. This is a very cynical strategy to make himself look good and positive as a person who believes in the success of our students and at the same time condemn the entire public education system when our students do not compare well on the tests. The point is not at all about which students are smarter from state to state. The fact is that the main determinant of student academic performance is the relative level of poverty from state to state. To paraphrase James Carville: “It's the poverty stupid!” White's statement is a brilliant strategy for making himself look good while condemning our public schools and public school educators.

One more point about the cynical approach of Governor Jindal. Everyone knows that Jindal is a strong supporter of Common Core and PARCC. He signed the documents that launched the whole program. But in a bid to bolster his anti-Obama credentials and to try to garner tea party support, he sent his representatives to the committee to register his support for HB381. He did not fool anyone.

Thank you to all our readers and defenders of public education who sent emails to their legislators asking them to support HB 381.

The House Education Committee members voting for HB 381 and therefore for revising the CCSS standards were:
· Rep. Henry Burns -- Bossier
· Rep. John Bel Edwards -- Tangipahoa
· Rep. Cameron Henry -- Jefferson
· Rep. Paul Hollis -- St. Tammany
· Rep. Barry Ivey -- East Baton Rouge
· Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard -- Lafourche
· Rep. Rob Shadoin -- Lincoln and Union 

The House Education members voting against HB 381 and therefore for keeping Common Core and PARCC were:
Rep. Steve Carter, Chair  -- Baton Rouge
· Rep. Wesley Bishop -- Orleans
· Rep. Christopher Broadwater – Tangipahoa
· Rep. Thomas Carmody -- Bossier and Caddo
· Rep. Simone Champagne -- Vermilion and Iberia
· Rep. Patrick Jefferson -- Bienville, Claiborne and Lincoln
· Rep. Nancy Landry -- Vermilion and Lafayette
· Rep. Eddie Price -- Ascension, Iberville
· Rep. Gene Reynolds -- Bossier and Webster
· Rep. Patricia Smith -- East Baton Rouge
· Rep. Jeff Thompson -- Bossier
· Rep. Alfred Williams -- East Baton Rouge
We need to remember who supported our public educators and who supported big business in this critical vote.

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