A certain chief executive is fond of stating that in a political battle while his opponent may bring a knife he’ll bring a gun. Pity the opponents of education reform in Louisiana, whose facts and logic only allow them to bring a knife to the fight over that issue, as their remarks yesterday demonstrated.
The Louisiana House Education Committee took up the matter yesterday, recommending changing personnel and accountability laws that promise to improve school performance, as well as approving of expanding an existing scholarship voucher program that will increase options for families and spur greater achievement from public schools, along with more per student funding for them, through competition. Today, the Senate Education Committee does the same on related bills, both actions occurring unusually early in a legislative session. Gov. Bobby Jindal has backed enthusiastically these ideas.
Teachers’ unions, aided and abetted by some school districts whose politicians resent the reduced power and privilege they would have under changed laws, tried to flood the Capitol with members playing hooky from school, causing the closure of schools in a few districts. The same tactic will be tried today. As a result, the mob scene created caused security problems that forced extreme filtering of people into the largest committee room available, and restricting the flow those testifying. However, speakers for both sides were allowed to state their cases, causing the hearing to last about 16 hours, and postponing taking up another scheduled bill.
Not willing to give the truant teachers a hall pass, state Rep. Nancy Landry moved successfully to have asked of each testifier whether that had taken leave. Illustrating perfectly the lack of intellect and judgment coming from some local politicians in education, and why the reforms are desperately needed, John Smith, president of the Louisiana School Board Association, called that question “pure intimidation.” This dimwit needs to look in the mirror: unions encouraging teachers to ditch work (and just days before important standardized tests are to be given, no less) and having that facilitated by school boards was a bullying tactic of the highest order, designed to send a message that if these organizations don’t get their way, they will become derelict in their duties in order to disrupt the educational process in an attempt to turn the public against reform legislators, without any regard to children.
Of course, such vapidity comes from the top. Sen. Mary Landrieu, when asked to comment on the situation, started off with the wrong metaphor by saying “This is no way to run a railroad,” and went downhill from there. She said this process was too rushed, and concluded ludicrously with the statement, “This is a democracy, not a dictatorship.”
Given this rhetoric, one might be surprised that Landrieu actually once served in the Legislature, for it appears that if she ever knew how things worked there, she has forgotten. The content of and procedure for introducing the bills followed all applicable constitutional strictures and appropriate chamber rules. This content, as Jindal pointed out, has been talked about for months, becoming part of the fall campaigns for the Legislature and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In that time span, research groups have published opinions for and against some of these changes. The exact contents of the bills have been known for nearly two weeks, leaving plenty of time for deliberation on them. As big changes, there’s a whole session ahead to deal with them on the floors of their respective chambers. In no way does this describe a rushed process.
Of course, these remarks also might lead one to wonder whether Landrieu even knows anything at all about basic government. The process has allowed for plenty of popular input, it is being dealt with according to a democratically-decided Constitution, under laws and rules made by democratically-elected officials, and by officials voted into office by democratic procedures. Only a blithering idiot could mistake all of this for “dictatorship,” perhaps by one who defines the term as meaningful only when her side loses the battle of ideas, whereas it’s described as “democracy” only when she and her minions have majorities.
Naturally, Landrieu has a track record of using and defining terms in hypocritical fashion. She seemed entirely unconcerned when a rogue Congress imposed a soon-to-be-found unconstitutional government giga-regulation of health care on a public solidly against it, assisting in the effort by being the crucial vote, with such a rule by force and fiat being closer (if also hyperbolically) to “dictatorship” than what is happening with educational reform in Louisiana.
But she’s not the only dim bulb on the opponents’ side who doesn’t seem to know the basics of government. One union mandarin, Carnell Washington, gave as a reason to object to one of the bills that its provisions amounted to state government meddling in local affairs.
Perhaps Washington should take the time to read the Louisiana Constitution. Art. VIII Sec. 1 states it succinctly: “The legislature shall provide for the education of the people of the state and shall establish and maintain a public educational system.” Sec. 3 further elaborates that BESE will “supervise and control the public elementary and secondary schools and special schools under its jurisdiction.” Just what part of the idea that local school districts are agents to the state being the principal in education does Washington not understand?
Finally, another union hack, Louisiana Association of Educators Executive Director Michael “If I'm a parent in poverty I have no clue” Walker-Jones argued that changes to teacher tenure law, which would make it more difficult to obtain and easier to revoke, would make teachers little more than “at-will” employees. This stupid statement therefore equates the ability of a policy-maker who can fire without demonstrated cause those hired without any merit qualifications with teachers who face merit qualifications to be hired and who have merit protections to prevent arbitrary firing, even without tenure changes. The law, before and after any of these changes, would remain that merit is the only consideration in these kinds of personnel actions. Is Walker-Jones just as ignorant about this subject as he is about what families in poverty face?
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 09:40