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Union decries innovation, supports continued mediocrity

You can make all of the procedural and administrative changes you like to how is delivered elementary and secondary education in Louisiana, but until reform comes to personnel and local administration only incremental improvement at best can be expected, as recent comments by a union representative claiming to represent teachers demonstrate.

Louisiana appears strongly to be in the running for funding from a federal government program, one of perhaps a dozen states that will split among them $4.4 billion that go to states that adopt standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace, turn around low-performing schools, build data systems that measure student success, and recruit and reward effective teachers and principals. State Superintendant Paul Pastorek has said as many as 500 schools could benefit from the estimated $200 million the state could receive.

Some notes of caution were expressed by a spokesman for state school boards, who wondered whether this could mean institution of programs initially paid for by the state but then costs shifted onto districts. Pastorek insisted that any planning in this regard would look at this question. While it would be unfair to give districts with schools needing help a complete pass on the extra costs of improvement – after all, in the final analysis they are problems of their own makings – the state should provide a mechanism by which to heavily subsidize whatever efforts get established past the start-up phase.

But the reaction by the Louisiana Association of Educators to the possible windfall was puerile, if not infantile. ““When you really get down to it, it is the privatization of public schools using public dollars,” said Tom Tate, a lobbyist for the union. “We are just opposed to that.”

So what? Of course, it’s not even really clear what this objection is all about. Spoken in the context of state takeovers of schools, it appears this refers to the frequent practice of the state taking possession of failing local schools and converting them into charter schools. But this is not privatization; the schools still remain public, except they are contracted to non-government entities to run.

And what does that matter anyway? If this method provides a better education to students (as it appears to do), what in the world is wrong with it? That a union brays against supporting initiatives to improve education yet again speaks volumes about the central truth concerning these collectivities: they care nothing about children’s education, only about transferring as much of taxpayers’ dollars as possible to presumed teacher clients encouraged to put forth the least amount of effort in doing their jobs, aiming everything towards the lowest common denominator. They fear charter schools because of these institutions’ increased accountability mechanisms that demand more from teachers, pay more according to ability than longevity, and provide less cover for lazy and incompetent teachers.

It’s this bad attitude that is allowed to fester among the aggregate of state public school teachers (even as many individually recognize it and object to it while maintaining their own pursuits of excellence) and is most responsible for the substandard education being delivered in Louisiana. Only by instituting programs such as rigorous and frequent testing of teachers for subject area competence can accountability be established to squash this thinking. In the meantime, Pastorek and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education need to ignore these defenders of privilege and mediocrity, by pressing on to procure this federal assistance, and to employ it in whatever way necessary to achieve the opposite of their opponents’ loathsome agenda.

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