I am writing in reference to the statements by State Representative Gene Reynolds in the March 27th paper.
He states he has voted NO (against) the Jindal supported reforms to laws governing public education in Louisiana. His objections include "using public funds to pay for private or charter school education". Isn't one of the MAJOR reforms to the Orleans Parish public schools, Charter Schools? This approach is reported to be producing results in New Orleans, why not try it throughout Louisiana.
He also states, "... you are setting up public funds to cyber schools (virtual schools)..."why does it matter if students are educated in a physical school or in a "virtual school" (on line)? Virtual schooling exists throughout the world, why prevent it from being used for public education? The student who goes to "virtual PS" is still a public school student.
With regard to "private schools" we parents who PAY for a private education, still pay the same amount of taxes as if our children attended "public school", we are paying TWICE for the same education. Why do we do it, to provide a better education for our children?
The objective of Governor Jindal's proposals is to reform a badly broken Louisiana public education system. Objecting to new and creative approaches goes counter to the desire for improvement. One must try what has not been tried, if one wishes to do what has not been done! We moved to Minden in 1975, integration of the public schools was just getting underway. I attended a series of bi-racial meetings, the theme I heard loud and clear was, "We want our children to have the best education possible from the best teachers available". I could close my eyes and hear the same words from white and black parents. That was a pleasant introduction to Minden. Unfortunately, that was not what was received. Drop-out rates remain high; students have graduated from Webster Parish Schools unable to read and do arithmetic at high school level. Louisiana Public Schools rank near the bottom of the 50-states. It has been stated, "If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation is its father". Repeating the same old things will not solve today's problems; let's give the Governor's approach a try. How could it possibly make things worst?
Unfortunately, there are NO discretionary funds with which to implement any changes. For three years the Webster Parish School System has burned through the available "emergency fund". The reductions in staff which should have begun five years ago, with the decline in enrollment, is now required. What a paring knife could have accomplished over five years, now will take a meat cleaver. Representative Reynolds objects to proposed changes in the function of the school board, and their power over the superintendent. Where were they exercising this control when they approved budgets that depleted "emergency funds"?
I would recommend the elected School Board positions become NON-PAYING (except for actual expenses) as is the practice in many districts throughout the USA. A NON-PAYING board, should attract more individuals experienced in private business who would be willing to serve.
Tenure, and changes to the policy are also part of proposed law reforms. It is very difficult for me to understand the way tenure is applied. Teachers and supervisors are all paid the same based on length of service. It is not possible for teachers with the same length of service to receive different salaries. Lincoln said, "All men (and women) were created equal..."; not all ARE equal. No successful business ignores performance of their professional employees, when salary is determined. Remember the voices I heard in 1975, "best education possible from the best teachers available." Why aren't we rewarding the "best teachers available"?
I hope the citizens of Webster Parish will contact Representative Gene Reynolds and Senator Robert Adley and tell them, "We're mad as _____ and won't take mediocre schools anymore". Support trying what has not been tried – how could it make things worse?
Lee C. Estabrook, PhD, PE (ret.)