Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Education Legislation

I have asked my readers to consider participating in my Defenders of Public Education email system. This system is designed to provide up to the minute information about important education legislation. The “Defenders” can then contact their legislators and advise them before they vote. The Defenders include a cross section of parents, school board members, and educators whose primary interest is to see our public schools constantly improve and provide a great education to our students. Over 1100 persons have signed up so far. All you have to do if you want to receive emails about important actions on education legislation, is just send me an email at and include your zip code so I can figure out who your legislators are.  This post will give you a first look at the important education legislation of this upcoming session that starts Monday, March 10th. But before I go into legislation, I need to tell you about a very important national group.

The Best National Group Supporting Our Public Schools

This blog has often identified the enemies of public education. Now I want to tell you briefly about a great National group that is a true champion of public education. This is the group called the Network for Public Education (NPE). It was formed by a group of public education leaders including Diane Ravitch and Education Week blogger Anthony Cody. Diane writes the Diane Ravitch blog which each day gives us very important information about attacks on public schools. She has written  two books that are very important to our defense of public education: The Life and Death of the Great American Public Education System and more recently, Reign of Error; The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. Diane Ravitch is the strongest and most respected voice at the national level defending our public schools. Anthony Cody and many other leaders in the Network for Public Education help to blog the truth about what is now referred to as the “corporate takeover” of public education.

The NPE held its first annual conference this last weekend in Austin, Texas. I was privileged to attend this historic and extremely informative and powerful conference. Other participants from Louisiana were Noel Hammatt, former president of the Louisiana School Boards Association, Jason France, writer of the sensational pro education blog the Crazy Crawfish, Mercedes Schnieder, a true rising star of Louisiana education who writes the blog Deutsch29. (Go to the Mercedes blog here for a good recap of the NPE conference) Lee Barios who writes the blog, Geaux Teacher!, and last but not least, Jack Loup, the chairman of the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education. Please consider visiting the NPE website and read the regular posts on this blog. It demonstrates in an alarming way that what is happening in Louisiana is just part of a national plan by some of the richest and most powerful billionaires in this country to totally destroy public education and replace it with a for profit free-for-all system of mostly non-educators who want to use our children and our tax dollars for their personal benefit. Please consider also making a financial contribution to the NPE so that it can continue and expand its important mission of informing the nation about the danger of these attacks on public education.

My First Report on Education Legislation for 2014

This article in The Advocate by Will Sentell gives you an introduction to some of the major pieces of education legislation for this session. In addition, I urge my readers to simply use the bill numbers of the legislation in which you are most interested and use the bill look-up system at Louisiana Legislature web site to read the full text and a summary of each bill. I know my readers are all very busy people so I try with this blog to give you the gist of important legislation and my opinion about how it affects public education and the practitioners of public education. So here are my brief descriptions of some of the most important bills at this point. You can click on the bill number to see the full text of the original bill. More will be discussed in future posts.

SB 365 by Senator Appel who is chairman of the Senate education committee would immediately nullify the tenure of a teacher as soon as she/he gets an ineffective rating on the Act 54 evaluation system. So basically, if administrators want to avoid any due process for a teacher such as a tenure hearing, all they have to do is give the teacher one bad evaluation and the teacher would have no recourse at all if the administrators recommend termination. This is a horrible piece of legislation by one of the leaders of the Jindal “reforms” which produced Act 1 and Act 2 of the 2012 legislative session. Since much of those laws have been declared unconstitutional by the courts, this bill by Appel is continuing the attacks on the teaching profession in Louisiana.

SB 449 by Senator Appel would set up a system to manage and protect the privacy of student information. This is apparently is an attempt by Appel to appease the parents who in recent months have strenuously objected to have their children's private educational information made available to numerous private groups, corporations and even employers. I have not yet had time to analyze this bill but we will visit it again in the near future.

SB 171 by Senator Appel rewords the Louisiana Educational Assessment program to make the statewide testing system comply better with goals of the Common Core State Standards to test the student skills necessary for college and careers. The bill does not mention Common Core standards. It just defines our Louisiana standards in the same way the CCSS are defined. This is an example of rebranding the Common Core.

House education committee member and announced candidate for governor, John Bel Edwards has introduced several bills that are designed to remove some of legislation passed recently that attacks our public schools and the education profession in Louisiana.

HB 101 would restore the requirement that teachers in charter schools meet the same eligibility requirements for their job as teachers in regular public schools . Jindal had removed the need for teachers in charter schools to be certified teachers. They only needed a bachelor's degree, and not necessarily in their teaching assignment. Unfortunately this bill still allows TFA teachers to teach with no more than 5 weeks training for any teaching job.

HB 701 removes voucher eligibility of students attending “C” schools. Jindal's legislation had allowed students attending C, D, and F schools to be eligible to attend voucher schools.

HB 702 removes the loophole that allowed any student starting kindergarten to enroll in a voucher school if their parents met the income guidelines.

HB 703 prevents BESE from approving new charter schools in a school system that is designated as a C, B, or A school system. The local school board would have sole authority to approve such charters. In the recent past, BESE has approved charters over the objection of school systems even if they were rated above a D.

Representative Brett Guymann and Cameron Henry have strongly objected to the Common Core State Standards, particularly since they were adopted without public input and without approval of the legislature. They have introduced several bills dealing with school standards.
HB 376 and 377 by Guymann would first require that BESE adopt standards using the Administrative Procedures Act and then receive legislative approval. This would give the legislature the final say on our state education standards. It would also require that Louisiana continue to use the standards we had prior to the CCSS until the legislature has a chance to review any new standards that are being proposed by the DOE. My readers may remember that the standards we had before this year were referred to as the Grade Level Expectations and had been rated number 2 in the nation by Education Week in 2012. At that time our DOE expressed pride in our standards. Guymann's HB 379 would allow local school boards to adopt their own curriculum standards instead of state standards if they are as rigorous as the state standards.  Other legislators have proposed much more on standards:
HB 556 and 557 by Cameron Henry would prohibit the use of CCSS and revert to old standards until new standards can be developed.
HB 558 by Henry prohibits the use of the PARCC test.
HB 554 by Henry would prohibit the CCSS, and allow the legislature to adopt alternative standards and would allow local school boards to adopt their own standards if they are at least as rigorous as the state standards.
HB 559 by Ivy prohibits the use of CCSS and requires that Louisiana develop its own standards.
HB 163 by Burns would prohibit the use of the PARCC tests.
HB 481 by Shadoin requires a gradual phase in of the Common Core standards with a curriculum guide to be distributed by the DOE before the standards are taught.
HB 845 by Reynolds requires the state to provide curriculum guides.
HB 273 and 274  by Guymann would abolish BESE and make the Superintendent of Education an elected position.

HB 375 by Guymann would change the VAM portion or the SLT portion of a teacher's evaluation to count for 25% of the teacher's overall rating. The bill does not deal with regulations implemented by White that allows the VAM to overrule the principal's evaluation in cases where a teacher got an ineffective VAM. I believe that this rule by White was never legal to begin with. I believe it still needs to be clarified in this bill.

Those are all the bills I have looked at so far. There are many others that are also very important to public education. I intend to summarize more education bills in my next post.