Pastorek resignation shakes the capital
It was a busy week in Baton Rouge, but one story dominated all others: the surprise resignation of Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek to accept a post with an aerospace company in Washington, D.C.
The decision on Pastorek’s replacement will rest with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, but it’s no secret that Governor Bobby Jindal will play a major role. The governor has announced that he favors replacing Pastorek with 35-year old John White, who just three days ago was named to lead the state Recovery School District.
In response, LFT President Steve Monaghan said there should be no hurry to name a replacement. According to state law, the current deputy superintendent automatically moves into the superintendent’s slot.
“There is no need for a rush to judgment,” Monaghan said. “There are competent people in the state department of education who are capable of managing affairs until such a process has been completed.”
“We have an opportunity for a fresh start,” Monaghan said. “There's time to carefully consider all qualified candidates and to select one who has the respect and support of the education community.”
Monaghan said that educators prefer a superintendent with significant classroom experience and demonstrated success as an educational leader.
Making a hurried appointment now could hobble the choices of a new BESE board, which will be elected next November and seated in January of 2012.
Eight of the 11 members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are elected, with three appointed by the governor. The appointment of a new superintendent requires a two-thirds majority vote by the board.
Take action! Let lawmakers know how you feel
There are currently three LFT Action Center campaigns underway to influence the legislature and Gov. Jindal. Already, they have generated thousands of messages to lawmakers.
Take action! HB 454 by Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray) would allow school boards to deny sabbatical leave or extended sick leave in any year in which the state Minimum Foundation Program is not increased by 2.75%, the formula’s traditional growth factor.
This bill is just one more attack on the hard-won rights of teachers and school employees. If it passes, it is possible that sabbatical leave and extended sick leave will become nothing but memories.
The bill is expected to be heard by the House Retirement Committee on Wednesday, May 18 or Thursday, May 18. Click here to tell committee members that you oppose HB 454!
Take action! SB 13 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia) would increase the tax deduction allowed for private and religious school tuition and fees, adding another $5.3 million to Louisiana’s budget deficit.
The state already allows parents of children in private and religious schools to deduct 50% of the tuition and fees they pay from their state income taxes. SB 13 would remove the 50% cap on those deductions, making the deduction equal to the full amount paid, up to $5,000 per child.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers believes that before any new tax breaks are considered, the state should take a look at the existing tax breaks and make sure that they are in the best interest of our citizens.
And we certainly should not consider any new tax breaks at a time when higher education, K-12 schools, health care and other public services are being devastated by budget cuts. Click here to tell senators that you oppose SB 13!
Take action! Governor Bobby Jindal wants to privatize the State Office of Group Benefits. OGB, as it is known, handles health insurance coverage for about 250,000 current and retired state employees. That includes teachers and school employees in more than half of the state's school systems.
State Sen. Butch Gautreaux (D-Morgan City), who chairs the Senate Retirement Committee, has held hearings on the issue, and is concerned that privatizing the OGB is not in the best interests of public employees or the state.
The interests of public employees, retirees and their dependents are best served by an office that has a record of efficiency and fairness in providing medical coverage. Click here, and ask your senator and representative to tell Gov. Jindal that the Office of Group Benefits is a well-run state agency that provides a valuable service.
Committee okays “company school” bill
The House Education Committee overwhelmingly approved HB 421 by Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge), which would allow a corporation to be represented on a charter school board and reserve half of the seats for students from that corporation if the corporation contributes to the school.
The bill is modeled after a 13-year old Florida law, where only four such “company schools” have actually been created since the law went onto effect.
It is heavily supported by the Jindal administration. Testifying that the bill could attract new businesses to Louisiana, Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret said “the perceived quality of public education in Louisiana is still a significant challenge in many of our business recruitment efforts.”
LFT President Steve Monaghan challenged Moret, pointing to the small number of company schools in Florida 13 years after passage of the state’s law.
“To promote this as the next big idea to bring a migration in to Louisiana is beyond the overselling of the proposition,” Monaghan said.
“We don’t want company stores in Louisiana – that’s an anachronism from another time,” Monaghan said. “We need to be very careful with company schools.”
The committee approved the bill on a 12-2 vote, and sent it to the House floor for further action.
There's much more in this week's Legislative Digest
Headlines in this week's edition include:
Bill would repeal due process rights for bus drivers
SUNO-UNO merger bill moves to House floor
Panel denies bill to downsize BESE
House approves retiree substitute bills
Committee approves anti-bullying bill
In the week ahead