Wednesday, March 23, 2016

LABI Meddles in Government and Education; Avoids Price Tag

Who really controls the Legislature?

 School boards and many district superintendents want to change some of the more onerous provisions of Act 1 of 2012. This is Governor Jindal's law that attempted to strip educators of due process rights, seniority benefits and even step salary increases and establish merit pay based on student test scores. Act 1 also attempted to give the state superintendent maximum control over the employment contracts of district superintendents. This legislation was one of the top priorities of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI).

The Louisiana Association of Buisness and Industry (LABI) was formed in Louisiana about 50 years ago primarily to pass the anti-union "Right-to-work" law. The purpose of this law was to prevent labor unions from negotiating higher salaries for construction workers through union contracts that required union membership. By banning agreements that required union membership, the law allowed big business to hire non-union labor at much lower wages, resulting in a higher profit margin. The law is often referred to as the "Right to-work for less" law. There are 22, mostly southern states that have passed such laws. Non Right-to-work states generally have higher average wages and a higher standard of living.

LABI got Right-to-work passed on Louisiana and thereby succeeded in weakening most private sector unions.

Right-to-work laws were part of a nationwide effort by big business in this country to pay less to workers and allow top executives and shareholders to keep more of the profits of corporations. All of this push has resulted in the huge and growing disparity between the incomes of the super rich and the working people. Many economists agree that part of the present economic stagnation of our nation results from this growing income disparity. Trickle down economics was a myth invented during the Reagan administration that still persists today as part of the platform of many conservative politicians.

In the recent Louisiana special session LABI urged conservative legislators to continue tax incentives for big business even while average workers were having their taxes increased and vital state services were cut. LABI was successful in crafting the tax package to include mostly added sales taxes and cigarette taxes with continued exemptions for big business. The trickle down theory assumes that when the super-rich bosses of industry are allowed to keep more of their profits, they will then help the working people by providing more jobs at higher pay. This bogus theory championed by LABI and the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) explains why Louisiana ended up with the most regressive tax structure in the country after the special session even though the state budget is still way out of balance and our state colleges are crippled.

So when you see news stories that reveal that the end result of the special session was pretty much dictated by LABI bosses, be aware that these guys are really controlling much of the legislation in Louisiana. The majority of our legislature do not represent the average person. They represent LABI because that's who finances their campaigns and that's who will defeat them if they dare to vote "wrong". That's why big businesses actually got more in tax incentives last year from the Louisiana government than they actually paid in state taxes!

As it gained influence in the legislature, LABI decided it would be a good idea to control public elementary and secondary education. After all, since the minimum foundation formula amounts to a major portion of the state budget, maybe there were ways to reduce the cost and shift more savings to big business. Surely business leaders could run education better than educators!

The Jindal legislation, Act 1 of 2012, which was supported by LABI was an all out attack on the teaching profession in Louisiana

LABI has not been satisfied with simply destroying unions in Louisiana and in profiting from state government. They have also chosen to dictate how we should run our public schools. LABI leaders decided long ago that local school boards elected by the people to manage our schools are just obstacles to their more elite ideas about how schools should work. LABI feels that privately run charter schools and voucher schools should have full access to our school taxes even though they are not governed by our elected school boards.  LABI believes Louisiana should cut public education costs by paying the least possible salaries and benefits to the teachers.  It is cheaper to hire persons without education credentials so that's why LABI supported the legislation that allows non-educators to teach in charter schools. In addition, Act 1 of 2012 attempted to strip teachers of all seniority rights and step increases and to make district superintendents answer primarily to the state superintendent. Act 1 also included a merit pay scheme for teachers and administrators based on student test scores without providing any extra funding from the state. Funding the merit pay was accomplished by cutting the teacher step increases. The merit pay plan based on state test scores was in effect for only one year and created chaos and many resignations by teachers. LABI wants to restart that disastrous merit pay plan as soon as possible.

One of the big claims of the proponents of Act 1 was that doing away with tenure, seniority rights and step increases was going to empower individual teachers who produced better results in the classroom to demand higher salaries. You know, the same way that construction workers were "empowered" by the loss of their union representation by the Right-to-work law.  I ask my teacher readers of this blog: Have you been empowered by Act 1 of 2012?

LABI mostly controls BESE because of the huge political contributions to BESE elections by the likes of the Broads and the Waltons and the Bloombergs and the Lane Grigsbys. BESE is pretty much dictated to by State Superintendent John White. White likes the idea of also dictating to local superintendents how to run their schools and how to hire and fire educators. Did you know that the most recent changes in the principal evaluation system requires that the school performance score go up each year in order for the principal to receive a satisfactory evaluation? Act 1 of 2012 included a section that required that district superintendent contracts must be submitted to the state superintendent and that all superintendents of school systems rated "C" or below must include certain performance targets approved by the state. All of this so that LABI could more and more dictate how school employees could be hired and fired using student test scores or any other crazy idea the bosses at LABI came up with.

Educators and parents, you need to know your enemies! Be aware of the attacks on our public schools and the teaching profession that are coming from a bunch of elites who don't pay their taxes but who want to tell us how to run our schools. The sad thing is that these bosses are so incompetent and arrogant that they are steadily damaging our education system with testing, test prep, and by driving away the very best teachers. Tell your legislators that you are keeping a report card that shows how many times they vote with LABI and against our public schools!


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