Friday, May 31, 2013

Four Senators Block Evaluation Changes

The vote for HB 160 in the House Education Committee was unanimous and the vote on the House floor was 102 to 0. But yesterday the vote in the Senate Education Committee was 4 to 3 to kill the bill. It was obvious that LABI  and the Jindal forces had done a simple math calculation and found that they needed only four votes to kill HB 160 and to move forward with full implementation of the new Act 54 teacher evaluation system despite all of the flaws and potential for destruction of good teachers' careers. The following Senators voted with LABI and Jindal to kill HB 160: Conrad Appel of Jefferson,  Jack Donahue of St Tammany, Elbert Guillory of St Landry and North Lafayette, and Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge.

Senators voting for HB 160 were Eric LaFleur representing Avoyelles, Allen and Evangeline, Mack "Bodi" White representing Livingston and part of EBR and Mike Walsworth representing Morehouse, W. Carroll, Claiborne, Union and North Ouachita. My readers may want to send thank you emails to the "yes" voters.

I want to emphasise that the great majority of the legislature knew that HB 160 was very much needed to restore some of the morale of the teaching profession that was so damaged by the ill conceived and poorly executed Act 54 plan,  probably the most punitive and error prone teacher evaluation system in U.S. Even the original author of Act 54, Rep. Hoffman , pleaded with the Senate Committee to adopt the carefully crafted compromise in HB 160 that would simply have delayed the most harmful parts of the new evaluation system. Rep Hoffman had made a commitment upon adoption of Act 54 that he would demand that the evaluation be halted if it was found to be unfair to teachers. Well he and 102 members of the House of Representatives were defeated in this effort by LABI and just 4 members of the Senate Education Committee. Unfortunately, this is just one example of how the legislative process can be manipulated by the haters of public education.

Representative Reynolds, the author of HB 160, did succeed Thursday in amending the contents of HB 160 on to HB 129 by Vincent Pierre which was just approved also Thursday by the full House. So there is a slim possibility that the legislation may have a chance of being reconsidered before the legislature adjourns on June 6. My opinion is that even if this passes, it is just a stopgap measure that does not cure the serious flaws in the new evaluation system. We have already seen with the "Seabaugh Solution" how the new system can be manipulated to favor just a few teachers while ignoring many other valid problems with the evaluation system, not the least of which is the 74% error factor in VAM in identifying so called "ineffective" teachers.

LABI and Jindal also succeeded in killing HB 466 by Havard that would have prevented a change to White's new school grading system for public schools that introduces the ACT for all students as a factor in the grade calculation of our high schools and adds a complicated system of bonus points for low performing students who exceed a new arbitrary VAM target.

I will say this over and over again until educators listen: It is time that educators get organized to fight these and many other attacks on our public education system. Educators have the power succeed because of their numbers and because of their collective intelligence to get organized to stop the ALEC inspired Jindal attacks on public schools. Just as one example, I checked with LAE and found that there are over 700 LAE members who live in Elbert Guillory's district. I wonder how many of those members bothered to send Senator Guillory an email or make a phone call asking him to vote for HB 160? The same is true of the three other Senators who voted to kill HB 160. What about the thousands of teachers who are not members of LAE or LFT who also did nothing while their profession was under attack? What about the members of A+PEL who lobbied for the defeat of HB 160? Wake up teachers! You need to first know your enemies. Then don't get mad, just get smart and get involved in the democratic process! It is not too late. Bad laws have been changed before, and organized educators can do it again. All educators, (teachers and administrators) should resolve now that they will become active in the legislative process. You don't have to follow my advice on specific legislation. Just use your head and start defending your profession.

Let me tell you what is happening right now as educators are trying to decompress from this very stressful school year. The true growth of the MFP will probably not be funded at anywhere near the required 2.75%  growth factor, probably because the voucher schools need 45 million dollars to be expanded as John White has proposed for the coming year. Meanwhile your school boards are required to make huge contributions to the unfunded liability of the retirement system which was caused by bad legislative policies of the past. At the same time charter schools are allowed to be exempted from the retirement system causing a drain on contributors. Many Parishes are being forced to lay off teachers and increase class size to balance their budgets, while spending more on computers to give the new PARCC tests. These are tests that will further drag down the phony letter grades being assigned to our public schools while voucher schools are exempted. I could go on and on . . . but you get the picture.

I plan to work with the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education which includes school boards, administrators and teacher unions to beef up our systems for contacting and lobbying the legislature for the proper support of public education in the coming year. Please do your part when called upon for your profession and for public education.