Representative Nancy Landry’s hidden agenda?

Representative Nancy Landry’s hidden agenda?

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Debbie Hargrave is a retired Lafayette Parish teacher.

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Debbie Hargrave

Does Nancy Landry have a rather frightening hidden agenda in 2 of her 18 education bills before the legislature this term? PPEL supporters committed to Public Education need to be aware of the long term goals that may back up these bills which are explained as innocuous measures to possibly change the governance of our school system.

The 2 bills are as follows: House Bill 593 – This bill calls for a Constitutional Amendment that would exempt Lafayette Parish from following the Louisiana Constitution that requires the legislature to create parish school boards and provide for elections of its members. This will diminish or deny the right of the citizens of Lafayette to elect our school board members. House Bill 980 – This bill creates a commission to reorganize the governance of the Lafayette Parish School Board. The commission will be selected by the Chamber of Commerce (1), the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce (1), Lafayette City President (3), Lafayette City Council (1), area Mayors (1), ULL President (1), South Louisiana Community College Chancellor (1), House Representatives from Lafayette(1), Senators from Lafayette (1), Lafayette Parish Association of Educators and Louisiana Federation of Teachers (1) and Lafayette Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (1). This will be a total of 13 members with none representing the Lafayette Parish School Board.

Of great interest is an article posted on Nancy Landry’s Facebook page with a question as to whether “traditional school boards are becoming dysfunctional and obsolete.” The article is from Education Next – http://educationnext.org/lost-at-sea. It is titled “Lost at Sea: Time to jettison one of the chief obstacles to reform: the local school board” and was written by Lisa Graham Keegan and Chester E. Finn, Jr.

To me, the most troubling paragraph in the article is as follows: “Once every school is essentially a charter school, there will be no need for a centralized municipal-level body that makes decisions for an entire school system. Individual schools will respond to the needs of their families and employees while the state sets standards and monitor academic results.”

Representative Landry was quoted in The Independent as saying “I know we’re all looking forward to the next elections, but in case it doesn’t work out how WE want, I think we need to have this insurance policy on the shelf.” I heard her explain to the Youngsville City Council that the work of the Commission established by HB 980 would be something to “put on the shelf” just in case. She did not explain the “just in case” as the opportunity to deny the rights of Lafayette Parish voters as would be established by HB 593.

Privatization is not reform.

The Truth about Charters

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Kerii Landry-Thomas, a graduate of Northside High School, is a Baton Rouge attorney. She began researching charter schools while investigating education options for her own child.

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Kerii Landry-Thomas

I have received numerous advertisements for the new schools opening up in the Baton Rouge area. If you listen to Pandora radio, then you too would have been bombarded with the commercials. I’ve heard of the small class sizes, great teachers, culture of academic achievement and the new computer labs that will be made available. Conversely, the commercials don’t state historically high teacher turn-over rate, the lack of books and other resources, and the lack of oversight for these charters. Moreover, most people don’t know that charters can do absolutely nothing during their 3-5 year contract and still get their public funding. In addition, they can pack up and leave if they don’t want to stay in the “local market” or set up under a new name and a new concept and get another contract from the local or state government. All while taking public funds from public schools. I discovered this information by reading and asking questions of both former teachers who worked at charter schools and former parents whose children attended. Charters are a sneaky way of privatizing education and financially enriching a few off the backs of the many.

Too often, “the many” are low income minority students whose parents or guardians may not ask a lot of questions because they have full faith that the charter schools will do what is advertised. In addition, it is easy to persuade someone to come to the shiny, new building with no track record if that person is searching for a better option than they believe is available now.  At issue for me is the fact that charters have limited accountability compared to their public counterparts. Charters are not under the same obligation that public schools are to have policies that foster diverse school settings. Charters are not constitutionally mandated to provide an education to all students and charters have no obligation or loyalty to a community. The profit motive is the driving force and is paramount in their decision-making process. In addition, recent trends in Louisiana indicate that charters tend to pick the students who require the least maintenance possible and expel those that might not be able to meet academic test standards or those who have learning disabilities. After “cherry-picking” which students they wish to service, students with the most needs are sent back to public schools absent the state funding needed to provide services for them. (i.e. kids with behavior issues likely need extra tutoring, counseling and other additional support).

The purging process begins, usually after October, which is the time that schools receive funding from the State. Trend analysis of enrollment data for school systems with a significant charter presence clearly demonstrates that the enrollment numbers of public schools in the area go up after October. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I believe that the confluence of Common Core standards, high stakes testing and SPS (school performance scores) are clearly being used to demolish public schools and foster an environment primed for private charter school.

I implore my community to please pay attention and look beyond the used car salesman pitch from the private charter companies that promise “achievement”, “rigor”, and “an assurance that all kids achieve”. Here’s a question, observe if any of the folks promoting charters actually send their kids to charter schools. Heck, the folks making decisions about public schools don’t send their kids to public schools (e.g. Chas Roemer, president of BESE). Public schools are not perfect, but what they provide is a guaranteed opportunity for education for all kids, a mechanism for communities to participate in the direction that education will take and accountability. We don’t want power, especially the power of education to be in the hands of a few and that is where the private charter road leads if we don’t take a stand now.

The myth behind public school failure

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In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

Read here.

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

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VP Barras is a veteran teacher at Lafayette High School.

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VP Barras

In the movie Network, Peter Finch said a line that has now become immortal: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Frankly, that’s me right now, and here’s why.

On March 27th, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce listed its priorities for the legislative session, and among them is its support for Common Core.

I then thought, “Oh great. Another organization is trumpeting its support for Common Core.”

If I were to write a manual telling doctors how to operate, people would laugh and doctors would rightfully ignore me. I have not attended medical school nor received the training a doctor needs.

Yet organization after organization with little or no educational background thinks they are experts on education. The Council for a Better Louisiana, Stand for Children Louisiana, and the Louisiana Association for Business and Industry, just to name a few, have all published their support for Common Core.

Apparently, merely having attended school or college—or simply having a child—affords everyone a seat at the table to determine the future of education. Worse, everyone listens to these organizations and not the teachers themselves.

I am a highly-qualified teacher with two Bachelor’s degrees and a Masters in History. I was chosen the Outstanding Sophomore, Junior, and Senior in UL’s College of Education, not to mention the Outstanding Graduate of its 1992 Spring Commencement. I have experience writing curricula and have taught Algebra I and II for twenty-three years, as well as numerous history and English classes.  I am an expert on education, not these various groups.

To every organization that announces their support of Common Core, I have a right to explore your qualifications and biases. Have you received money from Bill Gates or any of his organizations? Are you teachers who have implemented the Engage New York curricula that was designed to match Common Core? Have you actually read the poorly-written modules we teachers have received or taken one of their confusing tests? Are you experts in the cognitive abilities of young children and adolescents? I suspect the answers to these questions are a resounding NO.

And I have upsetting news for these organizations who don’t even bother to explore what is in Common Core: the people who wrote it weren’t experts either. The twenty-seven authors were mostly test-makers, and none were teachers. Why should I give their handiwork any credibility when they lack the credentials to even be classroom teachers?

So, should any new organization wish to herald the need for Common Core, I have these words of advice: unless you’re qualified to speak on the subject, mind your own business. Otherwise, I will accord your opinion the weight it deserves: little.

It’s Not Your Father’s Chamber

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It’s a sad day for the Lafayette Chamber—and for Lafayette. Today’s Advocate posts a short article outlining the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce’s legislative agenda. For those of us who’ve followed the changes at the chamber with some discomfort, today is the day our worst fears are realized. It used to be that the local chambers of commerce were support groups for regional business and rabid boosters of their local communities. The community could count on

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Corporate Education Isn’t Education, Part 1

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It is popular to make the claim that Education should be more like Business. A lot of the way we have come to talk about education comes out of a corporate way of thinking about the world. It is common to hear that education should be “more efficient,” that it should be “about choice,” and that education is all about “getting jobs.” It is even assumed by some that schools that people “freely choose” shouldn’t

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Lafayette chamber reveals legislative priorities

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The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce announces its support for several education bills that don’t align with the best interests of our schools, students, teachers — and which in some instances run counter to the votes of our elected school board representatives. Read here.

Why do teachers leave the toughest schools?

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Veteran teacher Kirsten Ragatz of Minneapolis explains what leads to teacher retention difficulties in high-poverty schools. “I have taught children who had no food at home, were the victims of sexual abuse, were homeless, or had experienced serious trauma, and my experiences are not unique in any way. My colleagues all have stories to tell. The teachers I have worked with love children, and they love teaching. We all have had more joyful moments than

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Nancy Mounce: State-level solution not needed for local-level problem

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Rep. Nancy Landry’s proposed bills would enable unelected officials to have control of Lafayette’s school system. Read here.