The Associated Press (AP) reports on thenewsstar.com that Governor Bobby Jindal has signed sweeping legislation overhauling public education in the state, while allowing many parents to send their children to private schools at public expense. He and other supporters of the three bills said they will transform education in a state that traditionally lags behind most of the nation in school performance.
The wide-ranging measures:
• Make major changes to teacher tenure, making it tougher to earn and keep while eliminating seniority protection when teachers are laid off;
• Give more hiring and firing power to school principals and superintendents at the expense of locally elected school boards;
• Make it easier to create charter schools;
• Open the way for some students to take part in online classes; and
• Enable the state to better coordinate a fragmented system of publicly funded pre-kindergarten and early childhood education programs.
There was vehement opposition from teacher unions and others in the education establishment who had long managed to stave off most voucher programs and erosion of teacher protections. They criticized the record speed at which the bills were pushed through in a session that does not end until June. They also accused Gov. Jindal of advancing the ideas to boost his conservative credentials nationally.
Aside from calling the measures unfair to teachers, opponents questioned whether the evaluation methods to be used in rating teachers will accurately measure or help improve student performance. The opponents have raised the possibility of lawsuits on a variety of issues, alleging the voucher bill and changes in the role of school boards may violate the state constitution’s provisions on funding and governance of public education.
The voucher bill will let families earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, and whose children attend public schools earning a C, D or F under the state’s accountability program, attend private schools at public expense. The Jindal administration estimates as many as 380,000 children will be eligible for the program and boasts that it is the nation’s largest such program, although it is expected to start slowly.
Among the many tasks facing the state Education Department and Superintendent John White in implementing the legislation will be development of an accountability program. Critics, and even some supporters of the bill, say a plan is needed to make sure students who accept the vouchers actually do better than they would in their public school.
Source: thenewsstar.com, 4/18/12, By AP
[Editor's Note: For prior Legal Clips coverage on Lousiana's voucher measures, see the Editor's Note to an April 2012 Legal Clips summary of an AP article on voucher legislation nationwide.]