Sunday, April 6, 2014

Good Legislative News for Our Students

In my opinion, the best development last week for our students was the quiet approval of HB 944 by the full House of Representatives by a vote of 94 to 0. This legislation finally provides real support for students who want and need technical and career education as part of their high school curriculum. It means that many of our graduates will soon be prepared for thousands of high income careers that do not require a four year college diploma. In fact many of the career diploma graduates will graduate with  two years of high quality career training which may include numerous dual enrollment courses and industry based certification.

HB 944 by Representative Fannin and Senator Kostelka, now puts the career diploma at a favorable status with a college prep education. Graduation with a new career diploma will not only provide students with industry based certification, but such students will be eligible to attend both community and four year colleges upon graduation. There is no limiting of the opportunities for our students. The new law also requires that no high schools will be penalized by the school grading system because of students graduating in the career areas.

Why this abrupt departure from the ten year push of college prep for all that has dominated education in Louisiana? 90 percent of our graduates in recent years were graduating with a Core 4 college prep diploma, yet only a small minority were completing college. It was time to face reality. Thousands of new jobs in Louisiana are being created by the construction of numerous new chemical plants that are benefiting from the rapid development of abundant natural gas using new "fracking" techniques. Many plastics and fertilizer manufacturing processes use natural gas as a feedstock. Natural gas can even be converted into gasoline. Auto and truck engines can be adapted to burn natural gas with much fewer emissions. Some major new facilities on the coast will liquefy natural gas for shipping to the world market for natural gas where world prices are double what they are in the continental U.S.

But natural gas related jobs are not the only new opportunities for our students. Louisiana is also benefiting from the production of huge new reserves of oil also using the new fracking techniques. The boom in production of oil is adding hundreds of jobs in high tech welding as new pipelines and shipping facilities are being added. The fear not long ago, was that some industries were considering importing welders from as far as Taiwan because Louisiana was not training our local kids in high tech welding. By the way, many girls are now breaking through some of the barriers to formerly male dominated jobs.

Many of our students will benefit from growth in other fields that result from the Louisiana economic boom such as food service, restaurants, housing, hospitality, medical services etc. etc. Many of these new jobs will appeal to both young women and young men. The exciting new development is that for the first time there will be a constant fine tuning of high demand careers because of strong cooperation between our educational system and the Louisiana Workforce Commission and business and industry. Some of the leaders in industry are proposing partnerships with local school systems for offering many free or low cost courses for high school students related to the new jobs being created.

State Superintendent John White deserves credit for changing DOE and BESE policies to greatly expand the opportunities for our students using the career diploma. What would be the alternative to this modernization of our high school curriculum? Our many non-college bound graduates could serve fast food and provide laundry services at minimum wage to the thousands of high paid out-of-state workers who would soon be imported to our state.

inBloom Appears Doomed

The gigantic cloud student data collection system funded by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation appears to be dying because of the student privacy legislation being passed in Louisiana and several other states, but particularly because inBloom has now lost its biggest customer, the New York state K-12 system. The Schroeder legislation on student data privacy, HB 1076, formerly 946, continues to make its way through the legislative process. Parents who oppose the misuse of student data will remain vigilant. HB 1076 is scheduled for House floor debate on Monday, April 6.

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