Monday, May 19, 2014

Please Oppose SB 636

Senate bill 636 by Senators Bodi White and Dan Claitor is really just an ideologically driven attempt by a few individuals of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce to once again reorganize the East Baton Rouge school system. (Click here to see the full text of the bill) These individuals who have no experience or knowledge of educational practice believe that we can just try one crazy idea after another to transform schools that serve high needs, high risk students and that we will eventually hit upon a miracle solution that will work. All without ever addressing the real factors that inhibit school success.

These same Chamber bosses were fully supportive of a takeover by the state of a number of low performing schools in the Baton Rouge area over 5 years ago with the goal of transforming them into high performers by turning them over to independent charter operators. Those charter operators supposedly were going to institute site based management and focus all efforts on high student achievement. The principals of those schools were paid relatively high salaries and were supposedly given maximum authority over hiring teachers and staff and focusing the budget most efficiently for student success. Well, the results of this experiment are now in and it is clear that all of the schools taken over by the state and converted to charters have failed miserably  except for one middle school which is now under investigation by the FBI for unspecified allegations. These schools failed so spectacularly that the state has taken them over again and proposes to hand them to new charter operators. Amazingly, two of the schools had deteriorated both physically and academically, to the point that the state decided to give them back to their original school boards because no charters would take them! Clearly, site based management was expected to be the primary philosophy that would magically cure these schools. But it did not work.

So now in direct contradiction of Einstein's definition of insanity, the whole EBR school system would be forced by legislative command to adopt site based management. That's what SB 636 would do to a system that has gradually pulled itself from an F rating to a C rating based on the state system of accountability. The constitutionality of this bill is highly questionable and the only way to fix that would be to apply this failed philosophy to all public school systems in the state. That's why this bill should be of concern to all educators around the state.

The principals of the EBR school system have overwhelmingly objected to this scheme because they know that one human being cannot conduct all the state mandated teacher evaluations and serve as a true educational leader and at the same time manage a complex logistical system that operates much more effectively using central office expertize and economies of scale. That would be the logical, sane way of operating this large system or even most of our smaller school systems. The Chamber refuses to recognize that the EBR system has convincingly outperformed the site based management of the charter schools.

SB 636 with the full support of the meddling big business community has passed the full Senate and the House Education Committee and only needs approval by the full House to go to the governor's desk. Please telephone or email your House member today and ask that he/she oppose this extremely illogical and discredited legislation.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is EXACTLY why I have supported the St. George pullout from the beginning...the EBR system is like the Titanic, in order to salvage any semblance of public operated school systems...St. George needs to get as far away from the EBR school system as it can. EBR has been like a reverse gangrene case....but instead of amputating the offending member to save the life of the whole, Zachary, Central, Baker, and now St. George have been amputating themselves in order to not die! It is sad...but true...however, Baker didn't amputate themselves soon enough.

Noel Hammatt said...

Let's hope that other commenters on here have a little more insight that "anonymous" above, who simply ignores the issues at play in Michael's post and rambles on about nothing intelligible. Michael, you have done an excellent job of describing this bill... and, as always, you are incredibly generous in your interpretations of their actions. I see it as a devious play to create chaos in order to take over the entire EBR system as the prophets of profit did in New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I respect ALL of the work that Micheal has done...and I am a strong proponent of public schools. I would not write letters to my reps if it weren't for Mike and his defenders of public education. I am a teacher...I do not have the time/energy to keep an eye on the snakes at the capitol. I choose to remain anonymous when I think my comments might be unpopular with my "friends" here. We don't always agree on everything.

C'mon Noel...you've been looking at the EBR situation for a LONG time. The truth is...EBR's school system has become a project to be torn down and rebuilt in reformy style. The momentum hasn't slowed in recent years, if anything...it has begun to careen out of control. I think they are trying to make it another New Orleans Recovery district, but without a Hurricane Katrina to facilitate changes.

St. George has a better chance chance of being a lasting public school system alone...like Zachary and Central. Baker had the right idea, but their demographics (poverty rate, mostly) have changed dramatically from the groups that fought for their secession...and the consequence has been a slow strangulation.

I NEVER ONCE said that I like St. George...but it would be better than the charter school wasteland that Mike so eloquently mapped out in this post!!!!!! I've said ever since the "bad legislative year" when we were locked out of the capital, 2010?...EBR will be eaten alive by charters...

Raymond C said...

Zachary's poverty rate has skyrocketed and it will, in 5-7 years, be a majority-poor, majority-black system.

St. George has both worse slums than Baker, Central, or Zachary ever had AND a more entrenched private-school population that those three did too.

It's demographically equivalent to Istrouma in the 1970's, and several of the St. George ZIP codes (70816 and 70817) haven't added any new middle-class white residents since 2000.

Even if it DID happen, the notion that you'd see middle-class families streaming into the public schools is laughable.

They promised us that with the return to neighborhood schools in 1996-1997, and it certainly didn't halt the increase in poor and black population of Wedgewood, Riveroaks, Highland, Magnolia Woods, Wildwood, Shenandoah, Southeast Middle, and Woodlawn High.

So, with that out of the way: Why do you honestly think that St. George would be immune from charters?

Lafayette's got a B-rated school system, and the state has already approved three charters there.

The state will be greenlighting charters up and down Burbank, O'Neal, Coursey, Harrell's Ferry, and South Perkins before St. George even elects a school board.

Anonymous said...

Good points, Raymond. But...

Every district has poverty...the trick is to have less of it, or hide it better, than the districts surrounding yours.

The charters festering in Lafayette does highlight a growing problem for strongly-rated public schools in the state...however, Lafayette has had so much in-fighting between the board, teachers, and admin...the gate has been opened. Parents would flock to the charters just to escape the idiocy of the role-players in the school system.

I didn't say St. George would be immune to charters...just that it would be less susceptible to charters than if it were a part of EBR. Lets face it, even Zachary could be divided with a charter school given current BESE approval criteria for charters...but, which parents would defect to it?

KimberlyDtchr said...

Dear "Anonymous",
The bill of goods you're tryin
to sell us sounds like lyin
Laffy's board has had its prob
With a redefined Super's job
Which twisted the public's mind
To a spiral of muck - They're blind
To the $$$ behind it all
Which will cause the schools to fall.

In other words, you don't know what you are saying about Lafayette
OR
you DO and are trying to misinform others.

The school board has not had such issues since the 2012 Legislative attack upon public school students, teachers, and schools.
We now have a budgetary shortfall of 11.something million --- about what the charters are going to cost our district. BESE forced this upon the good people of Lafayette. The Chamber and the pro-business side who will be profiting from the charters have helped limit the truth getting out to the people, thereby diminishing the democratic process.

The two schools that were rated as "failing"? Funny, none of those who were and are pro-charter gave a hoot about those kids, perhaps with the exception of 100 Black Men.

Oh, if you are going to post comments, have the courage of your convictions and attach your name.

Anonymous said...

KimberlyDtchr....If you knew my name, it wouldn't change a thing...except you'd have a name for someone you don't know. But, it also lets me know that my "friends" are not nearly as open minded about differing ideas as I thought they were. I am learning a lot about why "WE" are seen in such a negative light here...I used to think we were on the same team...but I see we can't even tolerate civilized conversation within our own ranks. No wonder no one wants to listen to us...I'm not sure I am willing to continue my fight for public schools if my own people will trample me. I could do what most of my teacher friends are doing...put my head in my shell and wait for retirement to arrive.

Think about it...I've said I'm for public schools from the beginning. We all agree that predatory charters are a nightmare to be reckoned with. I agree that charters are a dark reality for EBR (I've prophesied this since the charter/voucher pipeline was created in 2012, thanks for reminding me of the year I was left to sit on the capitol steps while my career was dismantled)...I have suggested that St. George might have more public school stability alone as a suggestion...and I've been blasted to smithereens for considering it. I NEVER said I liked it, but God forbid we contemplate the thought that I might be right. Zachary and Central have been rather successful in maintaining their public school system by becoming independent...either St. George goes down with EBR, OR...it could break away and have a better chance of survival?? This is a conversation that relates to this post...despite allegations it is an irrational thought.

I would have to say, according to your ultimatum you gave, that I do not know that much about Lafayette...because I am NOT trying to misinform others. What I DO know is that Lafayette finds itself in the papers on a regular basis with teachers upset about losing instructional days, superintendent "malpractice" (hiring, for/then later against charters, infighting, etc.), "Teachers Standing for Solutions" (the teachers that started it gained my admiration/respect, but they exposed all that is wrong with the system without many solutions on the ground level - which is NOT their fault, but the complaints that have not been solved made it to the parents' ears), etc. You mention an $11 million dollar shortfall, but the charters haven't opened yet...so are you saying it is actually going to become a $22 million shortfall???? Even a B rated system will struggle with these kinds of headlines! You can keep your head in a hole in the ground...but to salvage public schools...we have to learn how to disagree/come up with solutions better than these comments on this blog.

KimberlyDtchr said...

Anonymous:
1) The budgetary shortfall is now possibly 18mill. Billy Guidry (acct LPSS) had visited the LPSS schools and shared the actual numbers and 3 proposed solutions. I am a teacher, my sister is a teacher. We've both had our "visits". Mr. Guidry explained in detail how the $ breaks down re the charter $$$.

2) I am no affiliated with a nebulous "we" to which you referred: I am a "me". My "friends" are those who share the " risk"; not hide in the dark shooting arrows. A pastor I respect once said he does not regard complaints from the generic "we" or "they", for there was not enough care invested in the relationship nor the problem to discuss it personally. Hence, meaningful discourse re St. George, charters, Lafayette cannot truly take place where there is an imbalance of power, which your secrecy supports. I'm glad you chose to stand up for your profession on 2012, as that was in your self-interest. It is decidedly AGAINST my self-interest to comment publicly on that which I do.

Anonymous said...

Imbalance of power that my secrecy supports? I could have a Google Account that says my name is "fill in the blank" or "KimberlyDtchr"...Samuel Clemons and Benjamin Franklin had meaningful discourse with "fill in the blank" names. A pastor I respect once told me that it is better to give charitable offerings anonymously...an anonymous donor may be more invested than those willing to attach their name to their gift. Which pastor do we trust??? Hmmm...

I believe the arrows that I shoot from the dark are valid thoughts that may need a little tweaking, but they may not be completely wrong.

I think where we are butting heads is...you guys have decided that charters should be a bloody battle taking no prisoners. This mode of attack ignores the evidence that few, if any, districts in the US are retreating from charters. It also is very unbecoming behavior for educators.

I think charters CAN be positive if done the way they were originally intended...a group of teachers who want to combine forces to have cutting edge pedagogical laboratories: bilingual, vocational, project-based, literature-based, etc. Instead of allowing predatory charters to infiltrate and take over schools in the system...why aren't the public systems creating their own charter school programs???

The Federation of Teachers has been advising school boards since 2012, "If a charter asks to be based in your parish, you should grant it so you have some control over it...otherwise, it looks like BESE will grant them permission at the state level and then you will have no control over it." (Enter Lafayette - stage right) If charters can't be avoided, can they be managed??

We are so hell bent on stopping them, we are passing up the opportunity to fight fire with fire (beat them at their own game). Their charters fail because it is about the dollar...could public school sponsored charters, with the right attitude, thrive? If Lafayette had three board-sponsored charters (with the best teachers/kids fighting to get in)...would the BESE approved charters gain enough students to last a whole year???

Never mind...I forgot....I can't have meaningful discourse. I think I am done commenting here...but it does make me wonder if I should try to set up a non-predatory charter school that would be under the control of the public system I work in? I wonder how I would even broach that conversation? If my charter school was successful...would it devour predatory charters? (I know they would try...but would their probability of success be weak? I also see how it plays into the competition mentality of reforms...but could public schools get it together and squelch the demand for competition like Wal-Mart?)

KimberlyDtchr said...

Anonymous: Sorry- my name is Kimberly Kunst Domangue.
You are not giving an offering, so I think your exegesis skills are in need of tweaking as well. Rather, you suggest taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich: They're winning, anyway!

Funny you did share further thoughts about our budgetary hole here in Lafayette due to the charters. Charters are part of a bigger movement that is resegregating schools by SES and diminishing the teaching profession.

I do not subscribe to the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" school of thought. I'm just not cut from that type of cloth. Perhaps I'll never see that retirement you will get to enjoy in about two years. But that doesn't mean I'll roll over and support anti-public school "reforms", the same ones that consider you an expense too great for the taxpayers.