Vermillion Parish School Board in Louisiana joins the Honor Roll as a hero of public education because of its refusal to bow down to the unjust, unwise demands of the State Department of Education. The Louisiana State Department of Education is not at all “conservative.” It believes that bureaucracy should override local control and that the people should hand their local schools over to the whims of the state.

The Louisiana Department of Education chastised four school districts for refusing to obey the Legislature’s command to pay no attention to seniority or tenure when laying off teachers. Three of the four districts–including Vermillion–are among the top 15 districts in the state.

You see, the Legislature thinks it knows more about how to reform education than the best districts and the best educators in the state. Ditto State Commissioner John White, who has only two years teaching for Teach for America and has never been a principal or a superintendent until he was suddenly elevated to his present job by Governor Bobby Jindal, who wants to privatize public education and implement the full ALEC agenda.

The Legislature passed a law (Act 1) last spring saying that layoffs should be based “solely” on demand, performance, and effectiveness. Vermillion’s attorney says that the board has a policy based on the same criteria, but it uses experience as a tie-breaker. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the state, the high-performing Vermillion has a teachers’ union, and the district agreed with the union that seniority or tenure would be used as a secondary way to reduce staff.

Anthony Fontana, a member of the Vermillion school board, spoke plainly about what the Jindal administration was trying to do:

This is an opportunity for Jindal’s administration to bad mouth public education,” said Fontana. “This is another attack on public education. We are not going to stand for it. We have to stand up and fight.”

Jerome Puyau, the superintendent elect of Vermission Parish Schools said, “Our policy does protect great teachers by adding more objective criteria, it takes away the possibility of politics coming into play whether it is the board or superintendent who institutes it. Vermilion Parish respects the experience, certification, and training that great teachers have achieved through the years and has always placed these criteria for major consideration in hiring which is a major reason that Vermilion Parish has been so successful with student achievement.”

This contretemps makes clear what is behind the Jindal agenda: Not improving schools, but privatizing them, even if it ruins the good schools that already exist in Louisiana.

For standing up to the Bullies of Baton Rouge, the Vermillion Parish School Board joins our H0nor Roll as a hero of public education.