“Louisiana teacher flight”

“Louisiana teacher flight”


KLFY runs a series on Louisiana teacher flight featuring PPEL people Rudolfo Espinoza and Melissa Mangham. Tripling the number of teacher resignations is—or should be—something that raises a red flag. It is heartening to see local media beginning to see through the glib reassurances of some and Rudolfoexplore the real problems that the new “reform” movement is causing education in our parish.

The KLFY page is a little confusing—the report is broken up into two parts. In the first Espinoza points to testing mandates from the state and from the parish that focus teacher’s attention on making points rather than educating their different students. Even more disturbing is that those teachers who insist on teaching their students as if they are individuals rather than test scores are punished by the grading system that the state has imposed.

ManghamIn the second video retired teacher Mangham speaks plainly about the intimidation that most teachers feel and the absurd idea that the newly mandated curriculum pushed by business interests gives us anything new in regard to “critical thinking.” As she says teachers have long been focused on just that—even, I might add, when the business community was promoting the previous bit of “educational reform” silliness in the form of content-centered curriculum and end-of-course testing that condemned critical thinking.

Capitol Update – A second hurdle for HB 703 on Wednesday April 30!


Things move fast at the Capitol during the legislative session. HB 703 was set for a floor vote today — and now it’s up in the air – probably to settle back down for a rescheduled floor vote on Wednesday April 30th.

This is a must-win bill.  It’s going to be close. Representative John Bel Edwards’ HB 703 barely passed out of the House Education Committee by a vote of eight to seven.  It must make it through step two: a vote of the full House.

Promoters of national for-profit charter school chains see as essential the state-level override authority to push budget-breaking charter schools onto A, B and C school districts. High-performing districts know the score and do not want these schools. They do not want BESE to have the authority to override taxpayer consent.

We must work for every single vote on this bill.  Each vote of the Acadiana delegation and the New Orleans democrats is a must have.  Please use www.legis.com to locate the Representatives by parish. Call early! Call often! Email, snail-mail, and fax.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

You can be assured that the for-profit charter school lobby and the business lobby will be out in force to oppose this bill.  CABL, LABI, and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools tout their 100% record of defeating any real reform that threatens the roll-out of the corporate business model of education. They will fight to preserve that record and to ensure the unchecked spread of the for-profit corporate charter school chains.

Those who value an integrated, effective, and equitable public school system that welcomes all students – regardless of parental support, economic condition, disability, or English-language status, need to fight as hard as those who want to divide our public system into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.  The lobbyists are well-paid.  But we have cell phones and heart.

Talking points:

  • Stop BESE from redirecting local tax dollars without the consent of voters
  • HB 703 does not stop, close, or harm existing or authorized charters schools, or stop new schools from going to willing districts.
  • HB 703 impacts only Type 1 applications to A, B, or C districts that reject the applicants because the charter model does not fit into the district plan for success.
  • HB 703 rewards high-performing districts and protects their ability to retain and improve their high rating.
  • If a district slips to a C, D or F rating, BESE can authorize Type 2 charters directly into the parish, since C, D, and F is defined as failing. This supports the original intent of the charter school movement: to deliver innovation for at-risk students in failing schools.
  • State law requires that local school boards determine the number and location of schoolhouses. HB 703 guarantees this legal provision for A, B and C districts.

We can’t take HB 703’s success on the House floor for granted. The time is now, and together we can win that vote!

“School board is correct to oppose state legislation”


The Lafayette Daily Advertiser editorializes in support of the local school board which has taken a stand against 4 of Nancy Landry’s bills and one from Vincent Pierre. The local paper steps through the arguments presented in favor of each and efficiently demolishes them. They are worth a citizen’s review if only in order to remind one how editorials are supposed to be written. I was particularly fond of the following riff concerning “improving voter participation” by moving the school board elections to coincide with the Governor’s race:

theadvertiser…the strategy could backfire.

Opponents of the say school board candidates, who historically don’t have well-financed campaigns, stand a good chance of getting lost on a long ballot.

That’s what Teten refers to as “an election effect called ‘ballot drop-off….'”

“More or less people stop voting or tire of voting after a certain point,” Tetan said. “Or they don’t know the names.”

A possible 10 percent increase in voter participation, coupled with the possibility that the advantage could easily be canceled out by the negative effects of being in a bigger election does not make a convincing argument for moving the election.

We vote to keep things as they are.

The final argument the Advertiser makes agains these bill gets at the most powerful reason for opposing them all:

At the very least these bills represent state intrusion into local matters, a recurring theme of late, it seems.

‘Acadiana Educators React to Common Core Implementation”


Rudolofo EspinozaExcellent video coverage of Acadiana resistance to politically imposed state education “reforms” from KATC. Featuring friend of PPEL Rudi Espinoza and Vermillion Parish Superintendent Jerome Puyau.

Themes include: Common Core failures, excessive testing, teacher dissatisfaction, and firing John White. Lots of quotables. But the Quote of the Day has to be the opening line:

“We spoke with educators who have been warning state officials from the beginning.”


“Bill could stymie charter’s spread”


Mike Hasten, a state beat writer for Gannett, has a piece in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser this morning that is a ray of sunshine for public education in these dark days. RayOfSunshineIn a success for advocates of public education—and PPEL which mounted a campaign of grassroots lobbying from Lafayette—House Bill 703 was successfully voted out of committee. The bill would limit the power of the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to impose charter schools on local school systems that maintain an A, B, or C ranking using the state’s own system. The 8-7 vote was one of the few victories that proponents of local control have had in the session to date and surprised the overconfident advocates of state-mandated charters:

“The vote surprised opponents, including Stafford Palmieri of the governor’s office, the Council for a Better Louisiana and representatives of the Charter School Association, who had successfully gotten the committee to shoot down other bills seeking to limit the creation of charter schools.”

Key to this win was that for perhaps the first time charter school proponents were faced with actually having to deal with the real consequences of the state mandates for successful local schools systems:

Edwards said…”When a charter school opens up, local dollars flow to that school, as well as state dollars” … Answering an argument that schools receive funding for the students who remain, he pointed out that charters draw a few students from numerous classes but schools still have to pay the same for teachers, school maintenance and other costs for the ones that remain.

Kathleen Espionoza The most salient real-word example of a school system harmed by was Lafayette’s. PPEL member Kathleen Espinoza who journeyed down to the capital to speak before the committee is extensively quoted in the article:

Lafayette Parish’s situation was a main focus of the argument for the bill.

Kathleen Espinoza, the parent of public school students and representative of Power of Education Lafayette, said last fall the Lafayette Parish School Board voted 6-2 against creating another charter school. At the time, Lafayette schools had an overall B rating.

The charter founders then went to BESE and got approval 9-2.

“That resulted in a state takeover of five schools,” she said, and “diverts millions of tax dollars of the citizens of Lafayette to for-profit management companies in Florida and Michigan.”

Espinoza said the school board estimates it will have a $7 million shortfall because of the charter.

“That’s $7 million in funds lost that will now require cuts across our system, a system ranked successful by your own accountability system,” she said.

“I know of no other free-market scenario where the new competitor comes in and demands that all of its operating costs be paid by the existing competitor,” Espinoza said. “With a heavy heart, I am beginning to believe the Department of Education doesn’t want the traditional public schools in my parish to succeed and is systematically manipulating its power to engineer the exchange of public capital into the corporate realm.”

To make things worse, she said, the LPSB is being forced to negotiate with another charter provider and if it rejects the application, she’s certain BESE will approve it.

She asked the committee, “Do you favor local autonomy or do you favor the rubber stamp authority of a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that instead of nurturing our successes seems set on dismantling them in order to advance a political agenda?”

The bill now goes to the House floor for debate.

Kudos to Kathleen!

And make no mistake about it: Lafayette is emerging as a hotbed of opposition to the dismantling of public education. That is a direct result of the uncomfortable fact that the damage being inflicted on Lafayette’s successful school system gives lie to the claim that only weak systems are being targeted. In truth, every public school system in the state is under attack; Lafayette’s travails simply make that undeniable.

Kudo’s as well to the regional representative Dee Richard from Thibodaux who backed Lafayette’s appeal.

Brickbats and hisses to Nancy Landry of Lafayette whose loyalties seem to follow from a particular political agenda instead of the community she represents.

Lagniappe: Join PPEL! Like the PPEL page on Facebook or follow @PPELafayette on twitter.

“Groups supporting Common Core out of their element”


Vincent Barrass, a PPEL member, has a guest column in today’s Advertiser. He staunchly defends respecting educators’ special competence in their own field and questions the qualifications of many who pretend to understand the task of educators.

The essay, in its entirety:

Groups supporting Common Core out of their element

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

Vincent Barras

Vincent Barras

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

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce recently listed its priorities for the legislative session, and among them is 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 think 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.

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 23 years, as well as numerous history and English classes. I am an expert on education — not these various groups.

I have a right to explore the qualifications and biases of every organization that supports Common Core. Have they received money from Bill Gates or any of his organizations? Have they teachers who have implemented the Engage New York curricula that was designed to match Common Core? Have they actually read the poorly-written modules we teachers have received or taken one of their confusing tests? Are they 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 27 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 additional organization wish to herald the need for Common Core, I have these words of advice: Unless they are qualified to speak on the subject, it would be best if they were to stick to their own areas of expertise.

— Vincent P. Barras is a Lafayette educator.

“Film screening focuses on schools, reform efforts”


20140414-104527.jpgThe Advertiser runs a  story covering the public screening of “Rise Above the Mark”  being co-sponsored by the Louisiana Writing Project and PPEL. In addition to offering basic info as to the time and place the article reports on the discussion and response period scheduled after the event. From the article:

Toby Daspit, co-director of the Acadiana chapter of the National Writing Project, said he hopes the screening spurs conversation about the role of teachers in education, as well as efforts like charter schools and voucher programs.

“We definitely look at this as a conversation starter,” Daspit said. “The film uses Indiana as kind of the focus, but Indiana parallels Louisiana in terms of the impact of corporate reforms, privatization, the sort of cumbersome rules and regulations that are placed on teachers. It also touches on standardized testing and the sort of impact that has on student creativity and then teacher evaluations.”

Following the film, there will be moderated discussions about the issues addressed in the film. Audience members also will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on video.

“We hope to have a discussion of people’s reaction, if there are parallels to Indiana or not, and what next steps might be needed to align the community goals for public education, and address some of the challenges that exist,” Burruss said.

Get the details and a nifty map at the PPEL event page.

Mounce Editorial Defends Public Education


lafayette municipalities

Hats off to Nancy Mounce whose essay in today’s Lafayette Advertiser on education does a great job of both focusing on the core problem and of pointing out the arrogance of some factions of the local business community. Privatization of public education is indeed the issue and “Education by corporation is not a solution.” The local chamber (not all of the business community) seems to believe that they have the expertise to micromanage the Lafayette school system when they’d be most unhappy if teachers made parallel criticisms of their performance without a realistic assessment of the problems they face. (Ex: Just where does the chamber get off telling other people how to do their job. After all, for just how long has Louisiana been the slowest growing state in the union? Go-to Experts? Nah, not even in their own field of growing the economy.)

A place where I might differ with Ms. Mounce is on her use of the “Nation at Risk”study to kick off her criticism with the current “reform” when she says that “rising tide threatens the future of public education.” The Nation at Risk study was arguably the opening salvo in a long series of  biased attacks on public education based on false information and statistical misinterpretation. As a study it has long been debunked—in fact almost immediately—but the evidence was suppressed for years as it did not fit with the administration’s emerging political agenda. For a thorough discussion of this affair see: The Myth Behind Public School Failure.

Four reasons that Common Core advocates should reconsider their support


By Ann Burruss, parent and educator

Are the Common Core State Standards and accompanying PARCC tests the vanguard for the corporate takeover of public education? Joshua Bleiberg in “Four reasons that critics of Common Core should reconsider their opposition” confirms connections exist between multiple aspects of today’s failed corporate education reforms and support for Common Core. The following are four reasons to reject Bleiberg’s argument and to consider opposing Common Core and PARCC testing.

1) Big data is coming. “Standards will improve how big data works” is suggested by Bleiberg as a reason to support Common Core. Parents don’t want big data to work on or anywhere near their children. Promoting ‘”big data” as a Common Core feature not a bug, shows a stunning lack of awareness or respect for parents’ concerns. Bleiberg writes, “National standards also make it easier to link databases from separate states and districts together, which enables larger data sets.” Large data sets are not necessarily better-used or more valid data sets. States are awash in data today, to little good effect. Accountability and evaluation systems based on a single high-stakes test such as PARCC are invalid indicators of student learning or teacher effectiveness.

2) Market efficiencies enrich corporations. Bleiberg states “Standards also lower the barriers for new companies to develop programs.” In practice the exact opposite is unfolding. CCSS is consolidating curriculum and testing materials. Vast profits will be made by the Common Core curriculum dealers and PARCC testing companies who got in on the ground floor. Benefits to “new companies”? Doubtful.

3) Market efficiencies grow for-profit charter schools. Bleiberg writes “Developers can create a single tool for a national market rather then many tools for every set of standards.” Bleiberg obliquely acknowledges that states have existing standards – but 50 sets of state standards do not provide adequate business opportunities to corporate profit-seekers. CCSS allows charter schools to experience huge efficiencies, allowing them to purchase just one curricula for their multi-state business enterprises, enhancing their business model, which is simply making profits from taxpayer money – money that should got to educating children.

4) New ‘governance’ gets rid of school boards and direct accountability. Bleiberg uses a new buzzword promoted by Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix and Rocketship charter schools: governance. The word ‘governance’ is used by the corporate reformers to promote the removal of local elected school boards. Local governments know their constituents’ needs and are nimble enough to act. Corporatizers prefer appointed boards and unaccountable not-for-profit charter school boards. Hastings has set a national goal of 90% of students enrolled in charter schools by 2030. Elected school boards are seen as a hindrance to the speedy implementation of corporate takeover.

Elected local school boards listen to parents, educators and citizens who are becoming increasingly alarmed by the convergence of corporate interests to ‘create efficiencies’ to capture profit from public education. High education standards are essential to equitable and effective education, but must it be Common Core standards? Bleiberg’s article serves as a warning that the alarm bells ringing over CCSS and PARCC are justified on all fronts: big data, corporate enrichment, for-profit charter schools and governance.

A Resignation in the Works?


Off the AP Wire—

WASHINGTON (AP) – Louisiana Superintendent John White issued a terse press release from his family home in Washington, DC. In it he claims to have taken a leave of absence from his position in Louisiana. The release reads, in its entirety: “I have taken a leave of absence to rethink my priorities away from the tumult of Louisiana.”

Associates in the Louisiana Department of Education who asked not to be quoted directly said Mr. White was asked by his mother why he wasn’t correcting the errors about his qualifications in his Wikipedia biography. Reviewing the entry was said to provoke a crisis of conscience and confidence. The article reads, in part:

 “Washington, D.C., the son of a lawyer-father and a television journalist-mother. He has one younger brother and only sibling, an officer in the United States Navy. In his youth White had also considered becoming a Navy officer.[3] He graduated in 1994 from the exclusive private St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.[4][5]

“White then received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1998 from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. He later received a master’s degree in public administration from New York University.[6] He attended Eli Broad’s Superintendent’s Academy, based in Oakland, California, which produces “wunderkind” school leaders who gain their credentials after ten weekends of instruction over a one-year period. White completed the program in 2010.[7]

“White is not certified as a teacher, principal, or superintendent in Louisiana. [8]”

Kyle Plotkin, Communications Director for Governor Bobby Jindal, responded to an AP query by refusing comment saying “We don’t comment on ridiculous rumors that people in our administration have developed a conscience. Especially not on April 1st.”