Covering Louisiana

Apr 18, 2012 3:53 PM by Tonya LaCoste/Press Release

Gov. Jindal signs education reform bills into law

Governor Jindal signed legislation today that reshapes public education in the state. Parents can now use vouchers to send their children to private schools with tuition aid from the state, and changes to teacher tenure rules are now law. Teachers must be rated "highly effective" for five out of six years to maintain tenure. Two consecutive years of an "ineffective" rating is grounds for termination. Governor Jindal said, "If we truly want to improve economic development, if we truly want to improve health care outcomes and lower our incarceration rates, it all comes back to providing our children with a better education. I'm proud of the fact that Louisiana has outperformed the national and regional economies for the last four years, but if we want to continue to outperform the national and southern economies we've got to make sure we continue to improve education for our children."

Jindal also signed into a law an early childhood education bill that will require the state education board to devise an integrated network of early childhood education programs and child care centers that receive public funding, with specific performance standards and letter grades, to be fully phased in by the 2015-16 school year. Funding could be yanked for underperforming programs, once the standards are in place.

The governor said reform is important for the state and country. "We live in an aspirational society and the opportunity to receive a quality education is part of the American Dream. Every child isn't receiving an equal opportunity to a quality education today. For our country to continue to lead the world, we have to right this wrong. That's exactly what these new laws will do." Lafayette Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rob Guidry said, "The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce is pleased to contribute to the successful effort to reform public education. There is much remaining to do, but the foundation is laid."

BESE Member Jim Garvey said, "These two bills will go a long way towards improving the education system in Louisiana. HB 974 will help us identify those teachers who need extra help in perfecting their profession, and it will allow us to focus more resources on the hard to fill teaching positions in areas such as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes. HB 976 will give parents more choices in finding the education solutions that best fit the needs of their children. With the help of these bills, Louisiana can look forward to reclaiming its recognition as one of the best places to live, and one of the best places to run a business in the United States."

HB 974 by Rep. Carter empowers effective teachers, supports ineffective teachers who want to improve, and rethinks district management to prioritize kids not adults:

· Under this law, more specific performance targets that consider student achievement and recruiting and retaining effective teachers would be required in the contracts of superintendents in C, D, and F districts.

· The law also requires school boards to delegate to the superintendent and principals hiring, firing, and teacher placement power and authority to make reductions in force (RIFs) primarily based on effectiveness.

· Additionally, this law gives districts the ability to construct their own salary schedules for new employees based on what they need-such as math teachers, teachers to work at high poverty schools, and performance. Under this law, districts can start rewarding current teachers based on performance and demand.

· The law says layoffs and compensation will now be done based on merit rather than longevity alone.

· The law also makes clear that tenure should be earned and not given automatically. Under this law, teachers would earn tenure after five years of highly effective ratings.

HB 976 by Rep. Carter expands choices and empowers parents in four key ways:

· First, this law gives parents more levers to affect change by allowing a school to become eligible for Recovery School District (RSD) intervention after three years of failing if at least 51 percent of parents at the school sign a petition to do so.

· Second, this law creates three additional pathways to become a charter school and this legislation streamlines and improves the charter application process for all charter authorizers.

· Third, this law gives students access to more courses regardless of zip code. Under current law, students are generally funded on a per pupil basis to attend one school full time. If the school they attend does not have the courses they need or want, the student doesn't have many options for accessing these courses. This law creates a new type of entity that can offer individual courses to students. All students at public and private schools have access to these courses, but only certain students are funded.

· Fourth, this law expands access to the Scholarship Program to students in C, D, and F schools or who are entering Kindergarten statewide whose parents make up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty level.

SB 581 by Sen. Appel creates a coordinated early childhood system framework focused on Kindergarten readiness:

· There are many full time and part time early childhood educational and health programs that receive a total of $1.4 billion in state and federal funds per year, plus an additional $150 million for Head Start. The system is regulatory and focused on inputs, making it difficult for early childhood providers-public and private- to navigate. There is no measure of quality that gives parents actionable information.

· Under this law, BESE would create a coordinated early childhood system by July 1, 2013 by doing four things:

1. Establishing a definition of Kindergarten readiness and setting performance targets for children ages 0-2 and academic standards for children ages 3-4 based on Kindergarten readiness and aligned to the Common Core Standards for K-12.

2. Creating a uniform assessment and accountability system for publicly funded programs that includes letter grades as clear actionable information for parents.

3. Coordinating with DCFS and DHH to align licensing standards for childcare priorities-specifically those receiving CCAP public funds - and align the Tiered Quality Improvement Rating System with this new accountability system. This will streamline and reduce red tape for providers so that dollars flow more easily and the system is easier to navigate according to a set of aligned program standards.

4. Including Head Start programs, which would have to participate in this new system and improve the quality of their programs as a condition of their licensing.


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