Misplaced Priorities: One Acadiana’s Educational Advocacy

Misplaced Priorities: One Acadiana’s Educational Advocacy

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The education priorities One Acadiana announced at a PR event at ULL’s Picard Center are a mixed bag. Sure it’s great to support increased funding of pre-K classrooms at the Picard Center for Childhood Development. But the confident announcement of success for Louisiana’s corporate-driven reforms is both disturbingly self-congratulatory and dangerously wrong. The absences and odd choices in the presentation should serve as a warning signal to concerned citizens—absent is any mention of Louisiana’s basically unchanged

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LPSB: Lawsuit Threatened; Conditions Set; Draft of Potential Suit Available

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Stories in the Independent and the Advertiser broke the news that Greg Davis, with Gary McGoffin acting as lawyer, have threatened a lawsuit against the board unless they comply with demands to pass as set of resolution that end the investigation of Superintendent Cooper and that the board accept last years budget going forward rather than finish putting together its own budget. The Advertiser in particular has a very interesting and informative set of comments that begin to raise appropriate questions. 

In response to a query I made in the Advertiser comments on that story Gary McGoffin kindly forwarded a copy of the cover letter, and a copy of the resolution he wants the school board to adopt to avert the threat of lawsuit. I’ve uploaded pdf versions to the PPEL site and are making them available at the following URLs:

The cover letter outlining the demands:http://www.ppelafayette.org/…/2014/08/Rule-65.1-letter.pdf

The proposed board resolutions whose passage would presumably head off the lawsuit: http://www.ppelafayette.org/…/Board-Resolution…

The draft copy of the application for an injunction against the board that would be filed against the Board should they fail to comply:http://www.ppelafayette.org/…/Injunction…

Dont mortgage the bridge to our childrens future

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Ann BurrussAnn Burrus has a fine essay on the budget issue in the Advertiser. If you’ve not seen take a look:Dont mortgage the bridge to our childrens future.

“Louisiana teacher flight”

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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.

“School board is correct to oppose state legislation”

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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”

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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.”

Yes.

“Bill could stymie charter’s spread”

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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.

“Film screening focuses on schools, reform efforts”

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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

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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.

A Resignation in the Works?

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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.”