Teachers union offers competing education revamp

Teachers union offers competing education revamp

Teachers union offers competing education revamp

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by MELINDA DESLATTE / Associated Press

wwltv.com

Posted on January 28, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 28 at 3:25 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- One of the most vocal critics of Gov. Bobby Jindal's education proposals, the Louisiana Association of Educators, offered its suggestions Friday on how to improve teacher quality and boost performance at failing schools, saying Jindal's ideas are flawed and demoralizing to teachers.

The LAE offered a counter-proposal that would require $200 million or more in new funding for public schools and preschool programs, give a $500 tax credit to teachers for school supplies and strip standardized testing as the main criteria for evaluating teacher performance.

The teacher and school employee union hopes to peel away for support Jindal's sweeping education proposals for the upcoming legislative session, which would push Louisiana further from the traditional public school model and offer more ways for students to receive a taxpayer-funded education.

Jindal called the LAE's plan a "blueprint to go backwards and keep Louisiana at the bottom in education."

"It's clear that some of these suggestions come from the national education union, which goes to show you that Louisiana union leaders are taking their cues from Washington, D.C., not Louisiana teachers," Jindal said in a emailed statement.

LAE President Joyce Haynes said policymakers need to consult teachers and education administrators before reworking education laws on teacher pay, job protections and education spending. She said Jindal's approach is ruining teacher morale, improperly judging students on whether they are good test-takers and dismantling public education.

"Why would we use a flawed plan like that?" Haynes said.

Jindal proposes toughening the path for teachers to get job protections, loosening restrictions on charter schools and creating a statewide voucher program that would use state tax dollars to send children in lower-performing public schools to private schools. As many as 380,000 students would be eligible for vouchers. The Republican governor said his ideas would give parents more choices and would create more accountability for teachers.

LAE leaders said Louisiana needs to put more money in public education, an idea likely to hit roadblocks in a state continuing to struggle with budget deficits and shortfalls.

Jindal and the Legislature have kept the public school funding formula static for three years, only increasing dollars to account for additional students but not giving districts the annual 2.75 percent increases they had grown accustomed to receiving to cover rising health and retirement costs.

Haynes said schools should receive at least $200 million for the past three years of increases. The LAE also is pushing for a universal preschool program around Louisiana, though Haynes didn't have a price tag for the idea.

"Simply adding more money is not the answer. We are already wasting nearly a billion dollars of taxpayer money on failing schools," Jindal said.

At the top of the LAE agenda, the union wants to rewrite a recently-passed law championed by Jindal that ties teacher evaluations to student performance scores, revisiting a legislative fight from when the law was approved two years ago.

The scoring standards will begin statewide with the 2012-13 school year. Public school teachers will have half their review pegged to student performance data -- not the flat standardized test scores, but the growth in student achievement on those tests. The system started with a pilot program that exists in at least 20 school districts.

Instead, the LAE wants evaluations that center on a peer review process by fellow teachers, mentoring of poor performing teachers and a review that looks at multiple sets of data, including teacher-developed tests. Haynes said she wouldn't support even using the student performance scores as one-third of the evaluation.

"I don't believe standardized tests should be used in that manner. That's one snapshot. Our children are not just test scores," Haynes said.

Jindal and lawmakers who supported the new evaluation system said the data-driven evaluations will better grade teacher performance and enable schools to identify and reward highly performing teachers while giving targeted help to those who aren't meeting standards.

The union proposes requiring new teachers to have a one-year "residency" overseen by an experienced teacher and tying teacher pay to a four-tiered experience level system. Jindal wants districts to be able to create their own salary scales, rather than a standardized pay system.

Haynes also called on Jindal to hold regional town hall meetings around Louisiana with teachers, parents and school administrators to talk about what they'd like to see in an education reform package.

AP-WF-01-27-12 2340GMT

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