Thursday, April 17, 2014

Only One Major Bill Left Defending Public Education

Take Action on HB 703

Please ask your state representative to vote "yes" for HB 703. HB 703 by Rep. John Bel Edwards would prevent BESE from bypassing local school boards in approving charter schools in school districts rated “C” or better. It was approved by the House Education Committee last Wednesday. The bill will be debated by the full house on Monday, April 28. This is the only bill intended to curb the abuses of charters and vouchers that was able to get committee approval. See this article in

HB 703 is extremely important to the survival of our public school systems because the new business model being implemented in Louisiana by a group of charters I call predatory charters allows out of state for-profit operators to raid the MFP and damage local public school systems while enriching charter management executives. These schools receive the full state and local MFP funding for each student they are able to attract without the mandate of paying the huge assessment for the unfunded liability of the retirement systems that is required of all local school boards. These charters are also allowed to hire uncertified teachers and provide them with fewer benefits. This preferential treatment allows such charters to spend our taxes on slick adds designed to attract the higher performing students in an area and allow the operators to keep a tidy percentage as profit. The whole scheme by predatory charters is aided by a hands off approach by the LDOE that allows administrators of predatory charters to expel or “counsel out” discipline problems and other low performers who then by law must be served by the regular public schools. Such a process makes the regular public schools a dumping ground for students that lower the school performance scores for regular public schools while the new charters boost their performance score. No matter how often the supporters of charters repeat the lie that charters improve student performance does not make it true. This blog has produced many posts showing that charter school success is bogus and not supported by objective data. The majority of BESE members whose votes have basically been “bought” by big business interests are determined to approve as many of these charters as possible over the objections of our local school boards.

The Louisiana big business lobby, The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) is the major force behind this new model for education in Louisiana, which over time just about guarantees the destruction of our public school system. LABI is promising major campaign contributions to legislators who will vote with them on this restructuring “deform” of public education. Why would the big business lobby in Louisiana support such a destructive system? Such a re-segregation of students by academic ability will result in many students getting short changed in their education. At the same time, the teaching profession will be stripped of salaries, status, and benefits and will lose many of the career professionals that are the backbone of any profession. This growth of predatory charters could  eventually force a collapse of the teacher retirement system at a huge cost to taxpayers and possible loss of promised benefits (see stories on the collapse of the Detroit pension systems) to dedicated teachers who depend on our retirement system. Why would LABI want such a future for Louisiana education and for the teaching profession? It does not make any sense. The only thing that can explain such a strategy by big business is that the leaders of LABI hold a deep resentment and suspicion of the teaching profession. They have no idea how hard teachers in Louisiana work and how dedicated they are to their students. LABI leaders pay themselves huge salaries and benefits to do their destructive work on education. They have a smug disregard for all public employees. They believe that entrepreneurs are entitled to make whatever profits they can extract from our public education dollars.

Governor Jindal and Superintendent John White are 100% behind this effort to privatize public education and reduce the status of teachers to that equivalent to teenage grocery store clerks. This is where teachers have no real professional training (just training in test teaching), minimal salaries, few benefits and can be fired at will for any reason). White and Jindal attorney Stafford Palmeri both testified against HB 703.

The only hope for those of us who truly believe in public education and the teaching profession is to organize and oppose these destructive efforts. It's not too late! Please send an email or telephone your state representative and ask him/her to vote for HB 703 when it goes to a floor vote this Monday. All of the other bills designed to stop the abuses of charters and vouchers have been defeated in the Education Committee. HB 703 is the only bill we have left this year to defend our public schools. The House Ed committee even killed a bill that would require voucher schools to have accountability measures similar to what we have in public schools! You can be certain that LABI will be using their money and power to try to kill HB 703 in the House and the Senate. Please do your part for public education.

Here is what I suggest all supporters of public education do as soon as possible: Get the email address for your state representative. (You can look it up by going to this link on the legislative web site). Here is the email I suggest you send. Feel free to modify it to reflect your own opinion.

Dear ______________,

I am a public school teacher (principal, parent, citizen) who lives in your district. I am requesting that you vote “yes” for HB 703. This bill is very important to maintaining local control of public education. It would prevent BESE from overruling our local school boards in the approval of charter schools. I believe that only the local voters acting through their local school boards should determine the course of education in our parish.

(Your name and city)

You can also get the phone number of the Representative's district office (using that same legislative link) and dictate a short message to his/her legislative assistant asking him/her to vote for HB 703.

You can send the emails right away and make a phone call to their offices on Monday morning and you can put in phone calls to all Reps. at 225-342-6945 on the House floor on Monday afternoon.