This day, set aside to honor the egalitarian message and life of Dr. Martin Luther asking Jr., is an appropriate time to consider the efforts by Governor Bobby Jindal to dismantle public education in Louisiana and replace it with a free market of choices, one with for-profit schools and no unions.

This plan will benefit the haves while harming the have-nots. It is an affront to the legacy of Dr. King. It will be implemented by people elected with the support of economic royalists. It is the work of elitists who shamelessly call themselves reformers as they grind the faces of the neediest into the dirt.

The Jindal plan includes vouchers, charters, for-profit online schools, and for-profit vendors, as well as a teacher evaluation that assures that few teachers will get or keep tenure. They will never have the protection of academic freedom, a concept unknown to corporate reformers.

Jindal’s state commissioner John White, who taught for two years as part of Teach for America and has never evaluated a teacher, says that the his standards will make it very difficult for teachers in Louisiana to win tenure.

In response to the new evaluation system, there is massive demoralization; the rate of teacher retirements has spiked by 25%. Superintendents say they are having a tough time replacing veteran teachers who are bailing out of White’s dystopian state.

Surely, teachers with years of experience in Louisiana public schools must think they are living in a madhouse, when the state superintendent has so little experience, and White has put the evaluation system in the hands of a 20-something with two years of teaching experience and an expired teaching license.

Meanwhile, John White has recommended a change in state board policy so that schools no longer will be “required” to have a librarian, a library or counselors. He wants the language to be changed to “recommended,” so that principals have the autonomy to decide if they want to spend their diminishing funds on a librarian or something else. Will this improve education?

Was it as a member of Teach for America or a member of the unaccredited Broad Academy that Commissioner White developed such contempt for public school teachers and American public education?

Here are the proposed changes:

Teachers, parents, and students need to know the proposed changes Superintendent John White is asking the BESE board to approve next Tuesday.

Two large changes will result in the possible removal of all counselors, librarians, and libraries.

Comprehensive Counseling (1125) no longer requires secondary schools to have counselors, only that “It shall be recommended that …” they have them. Libraries and Librarians (1705) have been reworded similarly: “It is recommended that each secondary school have [them]…” (All italics are mine.) This will allow school systems to eliminate these highly valuable and necessary individuals.

“Carnegie Unit and Credit Flexibility” (2314) allows students to earn credit in two ways. The traditional path involves passing a course with a 67 or greater. The new path is for students to demonstrate proficiency in one of three ways. 1) They can pass a nationally-recognized test, though no definition of such a test follows. 2) They can pass a locally developed test of proficiency, with, again, no definition following. 3) Lastly they can submit portfolios that meet a list of requirements to demonstrate proficiency. Students can now attend any amount of time they wish, because should they demonstrate proficiency, they can still earn the Carnegie credit.

This is only a sample of other changes.

  • · No school system is required to participate in a School Accreditation program (311) every five years and receive a classification.
  • · The school will no longer be sited for having staff not holding a valid Louisiana teaching certificate or for having physical facilities that “do not conform to the current federal, state, and local building fire, safety, and health codes.”
  • · One section (1103) states a high school student shall be in attendance a minimum of 167 days out of 182, but later Section 2314 says the minimum number of minutes required is 7,965, whic! h can be achieved in 159.3 days in a 7-period day, and in 133 days in a 6-period day.
  • · Section 2313 for Elementary Program of Studies (covering K-8) has been stripped of its suggested outline of content areas. Any school can design any curricula it deems appropriate.
  • · The section on Summer Schools (2501 and 2503) have been gutted of most of their requirements, including minimum instructional hours and class size limits.
  • · One person without a valid teaching certificate could teach hundreds of students in one class taught for one week if the school superintendent approves it.
  • · Section 1703 also allows local educational agencies to use state money to purchase textbooks that BESE has not approved.

Please contact the BESE board and strongly voice your objections to these proposed changes by Superintendent White and Governor Jindal.

No one could seriously believe those changes will improve education in Louisiana.

Vincent P. Barras, educator