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20.12.12

Useless change shows what holds back LA education


One jilted politician went out with a flourish, reminding those who wish to rebuild Louisiana’s elementary and secondary education that the disease that has kept it back can be difficult to eradicate, and its effects may linger.



The rump Orleans Parish School Board, unlike all other districts in the state that have their elections in off-presidential election years, have its conducted during presidential election years. One casualty was outgoing president Thomas Robichaux, in a landslide. It had partly to do with race, since the district he had won in the post-Hurricane Katrina aftermath political chaos was majority black and he is white who faced black opponents, but was exacerbated by the board’s decision earlier this year to raise taxes, which was opposed largely by black residents.



So, Robichaux decided to manufacture an issue out of nothing as a parting gift. No stranger to giving the citizenry a Bronx salute, on the issue of ethics, he gave it another when he spearheaded a move to for the half-dozen schools the district still controls to prohibit the teaching of “creationism” or “intelligent design” in science classes or to allow teachers to use textbooks that in the Board’s opinion did that.

18.12.12

Hope fading for establishment to negate education reform


The fellow travelers of the educrat empire took a TKO with 19th District Judge Michael Caldwell’s ruling that most of Act 1 of 2012, which overhauled teacher evaluation and employment practices, was constitutional. But they stayed on their feet with the striking of one section of the law that without will make it marginally more difficult to realize the full effectiveness of the law.



In essence, the law requires demonstrated and consistent competence in order for teachers not to be discharged. State teachers’ unions have invested themselves with the rearguard strategy the left has tried to perpetrate to stop democratic majorities from making and implementing reforms, as it does not have the ability to persuade majorities to give it a majority as policy-makers, employing a series of court challenges. This one complained that the law had too many objects to, as the Constitution states there shall be but one object in a bill.



Which Caldwell correctly noted in this case was dealing with matters of teacher evaluation for continued job performance. However, he also decided that the part about school district superintendent matters, which included personnel matters dealing with teachers but also included personnel matters dealing with the superintendents’ jobs, did stray beyond that object.

To protect Louisianans, end pretend "gun-free" zones



A tragic mass shooting in a public school need not act as the only trigger to reevaluate security measures in Louisiana. But we must recognize that, until gun control restrictions are relaxed in Louisiana, these measures do little to prevent these kinds of tragedies.



School districts around the Baton Rouge area report increased vigilance and are taking another look at their school security policies in the wake of the recent incident in Connecticut where a mentally ill individual, after killing his mother, shot up a school. The semi-automatic weapon used is available in most states for carry as a concealed weapon for qualified users, where no state allows permitting of concealed carry by somebody with a history of mental illness.



The districts report increased visitation of security officers at schools and a review of emergency review plans. There is talk about increasing officer presence. Unfortunately, while these measures are better than nothing to reduce the possibility of a horrific event occurring, they are next to nothing in effectively dealing with the situation.

17.12.12

Even dramatic changes won't stop UAL bomb explosion

Another day, another discouraging reminder of the obvious: a report highlighting the precarious state of a Louisiana pension system, in this case the state’s largest Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. And while it’s never too often to be told that TRSL has astronomically-high unfunded accrued liabilities – at the recent $10.8 billion this will cost every Louisiana resident nearly $2,400 and that mark makes the entirely unrealistic assumption that the UAL will go no higher – it’s another matter whether the state will do anything meaningful about this very soon, if ever.



 That Louisiana ranks 11th worst-funded in dollar terms, 11th worst in per capita terms, and fifth worst in funded ratio, and that given the constitutional imperative that the unfunded status of this and all statewide systems must end by 2029 it means – again, making the entirely unrealistic assumption that the UAL will go no higher – an average annual cost of $636 million extra to the state, you would think there might be some policy-maker urgency to address the conditions creating over half of the state’s entire UAL, if not all of it.



Think again. Last year, exactly nothing was done about this except for the relatively small portion of TRSL that constitutes coverage of university instructors, where beginning July 1 new hires go into a cash balance program (already some higher education employees can participate in a related defined contribution program). This only prevents future hires from adding to the UAL and does not address the current crisis.