Apr 19, 2010 12:20 PM by Melissa Canone
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal clearly isn't trying
to make friends with Louisiana's teacher unions.
The governor describes his education agenda this legislative
session as a way to improve school, teacher and student
performance. It could just as easily be described as a list of
everything the unions oppose: promotion of charter schools, teacher
evaluations tied to student test scores and public schools' ability
to sidestep teacher salary schedules and tenure rules.
The head of the Louisiana Association of Educators called the
governor's agenda "anti-public education and teacher-bashing."
Two bills are drawing much of the ire from the unions: one
measure would make public schools function more like charter
schools by letting them get waivers from state law and education
policies and another would rate teachers in part on student test
scores and make it easier to dismiss them if they fail repeated
While not surprising that a Republican governor doesn't embrace
the positions of union groups, Jindal's package of education
proposals this year is considered an all-out assault against them.
Before the legislative session started, criticism began.
The head of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Steve
Monaghan, sent the governor a letter complaining about the bill
that would let schools and school districts apply for a four-year
waiver of state laws or statewide policies.
"We were hopeful that the coming legislative session would be
more collaborative and less contentious," Monaghan said in the
letter. "That hope is not reflected in the proposals outlined in
the so-called Red Tape Reduction Act."
Monaghan said teachers haven't complained that areas like
teacher salary schedules, teacher certification and student-teacher
ratios - areas listed by Jindal as regulations that could be waived
- are impediments to student achievement.
Jindal described the measure, sponsored by Rep. Jane Smith,
R-Bossier City, as a way to shrink burdensome regulations on
schools that can inhibit academic improvement. Low-performing
schools would have to improve student's standardized test scores
when having the waiver, or face takeover by the state.
Higher-performing schools that don't improve while having a waiver
wouldn't be able to get it renewed.
"So often we've heard from schools that complain that we give
flexibility to charter schools or we've heard from public schools
that the state only helps them through the recovery district when
it's time for a state takeover," the governor said.
Joyce Haynes, president of the LAE, said educators believe the
changes would allow for mass firings of teachers.
"One thing I've learned as a teacher for over three decades is
that one person's 'red tape' is another person's important
protection for students and schools," Haynes said in a statement.
If the teacher groups weren't jittery enough, Jindal's also
pushing a bill by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, that would
rewrite the evaluation process for teachers.
The bill would require annual evaluations for teachers starting
next year. At least 50 percent of that review would be tied to
student performance data and whether students are improving their
scores on accountability tests.
"The bottom line is, let's reward those teachers, let's reward
those classrooms where our students are learning," Jindal said.
Teachers currently get formal evaluations at least once every
three years - but those aren't specifically tied to student
performance data. If a teacher meets the standards for three years,
they get tenure, a type of job protection that makes it much more
difficult to be fired.
Hoffmann's bill would upend that system, though teacher unions
dispute that standardized tests are an appropriate method for
grading student achievement.
That doesn't really matter. Jindal doesn't seem to be trying to
curry their favor much anyway.