Education Wrap-Up: Forum Discusses Act 1, Technology More Accessible In Schools
LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) — A panel of education representatives met in Lafayette this week to discuss Act 1, the disputed legislation twice declared unconstitutional that makes changes in teacher tenure laws, salary schedules and personnel decisions.
Former St. Landry Parish School Board Member Scott Richard — now executive director of Louisiana School Boards Association — said its "biggest challenge” appears to be the quantity of changes comprised under Act 1 compounded with “the uncertainty" caused by legal challenges against the act's constitutionality.
Richard said cash-strapped school systems are spending money on litigation to determine the law's legality, even though superintendents have held similar powers statewide for sometime under the state's Title 17 law.
Former Vermilion Parish educator Debbie Meaux, now president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, focused on the legislation's new tenure and termination policies, which revoke a teacher's tenure upon being rated as "ineffective" She also said the new termination policies "are stacked against teachers" and remove due process.
The policy calls for a three-person review panel comprising the superintendent, another school representative selected by the superintendent and a representative selected by the teacher in question.
But Ascension Parish Superintendent Dr. Patrice Pujol, also president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said to remove a teacher from tenure was once "a very, very, arduous, arduous process" that often cost a school system up to $100,000. She said she thinks the new process could be reviewed to reach a "happy medium," but she agrees with the new teacher evaluation systems, which offer more "discernment."
Under the old system, teachers were either rated ineffective or satisfactory. The new system adds at least four more tiers to that rating, and according to Dr. Nathan Roberts, education law scholar at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, it's the heart of Act 1.
"Even though it’s not in Act 1, it's the new evaluation system that has to be solid and reliable for it to work under that process," Roberts said.
The League of Women Voters, Parents Empowered, Power of Public Education Lafayette and the Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders Council sponsored the event.
Meanwhile this week, an organization called StudentsFirst ranked Louisiana as number one in the country for establishing itself "as a national leader for creating innovative and important student-centered education policies."
The non-profit was founded by former Washington schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, whose organization's reform efforts align with rapid shifts occurring nationwide in public education: decreasing public education budgets, establishing charter schools and abolishing teacher tenure among them.
Education Superintendent John White also released a report this week stating 58 of the state's 69 school districts have the capacity to administer online tests in coordination with common core standards, but an additional $6 million will need to be invested in technology to bring the entire state up to standards. Only 17 percent of districts were technologically apt last year.
White's department also announced that 114 of 136 eligible voucher schools will be accepting new applications.