Do you remember your earliest years in school and receiving your first invitation from a classmate to attend their birthday party? What about the first time you discovered that a classmate had a birthday party and invited your classmates but didn’t invite you? It is generally the first experience that children have with exclusion. The older you get, the more you begin to recognize that the once collective group of your youth begins to splinter off into smaller groups with different levels of exclusivity, and some, inevitably become rivals. This is the exact scenario we see playing out in Louisiana’s education system.
For years now, public education and public educators, have endured the attacks of the education reformers who have formed their highly exclusive groups that dedicate their resources toward making villains out of teachers, labeling schools as failing and weakening the powers of democratically elected school boards. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is hope that the systematic exclusion can be a thing of the past, and locally designed accountability plans would be the first step toward improving our educational outcomes. It provides the opportunity for ALL stakeholders to participate in the development of an accountability plan; because, after all, people will support what they feel they had a part in creating. Based on what has transpired over the last few weeks, and the information I have been provided, Louisiana believes that exclusion is the best policy.
You may remember that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) held a special board meeting to approve the submission of Louisiana’s ESSA plan. After much push back from the Governor, school boards, superintendents, teachers and parents, BESE endured a 7+ hour meeting of testimony; all the while knowing the outcome because it had been determined before the meeting even started. If you’d like to read the full story, Click Here.
At the conclusion of this special meeting, a motion was made by BESE Vice President, Holly Boffy, instructing Supt. John White to meet with stakeholders to address a number of concerns which were listed on the motion. They also instructed him not to submit the plan prior to April 14th; despite USDOE allowing provisional submissions until May 4th.
Since I communicate regularly with the heads of the various organizations, I was pretty confident that when the meetings took place, I would know about them. Imagine my surprise on the morning of Saturday, April 15th, when I learned that the ESSA plan had been submitted. Not only submitted but with no signature from the governor; and no waiver. I immediately reached out to the organizations. What I learned is not only disappointing, but also infuriating. In hindsight, I should not have expected that things would go any other way.
What I learned is that Supt. White did not follow BESE’s directive and meet with all of the stakeholder groups. He did participate in two meetings with representatives from the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. The Louisiana Association of Principals also participated in the second meeting. Also in attendance were Representative Rogers Pope (a former superintendent) and Executive Director of the Louisiana School Boards Association; however, they were not allowed to participate in the discussion. It gets even better. Neither of the representatives of the two teacher unions were even invited to attend; much less, participate.
Think about that for a moment. Both Republican and Democrat education reformers view teacher unions as roadblocks to accomplishing their goals and school boards as ineffective bureaucracies. The educational leader of Louisiana, resisting and ignoring the spirit of ESSA, systematically excluded the unions and the school boards from the process. These organizations represent the very people who will be affected by the accountability plan that is designed to label schools as failing and facilitate the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs.
In addition, the superintendents association was regrouping and planning to meet again to further discuss their concerns after Easter. Late in the evening of Good Friday, Supt. White notified LASS President, Hollis Milton, that he would be submitting the plan the following morning.
This practice of excluding the very people the education system is comprised of HAS TO STOP. Please take the time to Sign the Petition to replace John White and also fill out the Legislative Agenda Survey.