On January 16, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote on allowing school districts to choose poorly and continue the push to privatize public education in Louisiana.
BESE will consider another in a series of radical assaults on our schools and the teaching profession. It's time to say NO!
Proposed changes to Bulletin 741, the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators, will:
- Eliminate requirements for school counselors and librarians
- Allow students to earn Carnegie units without attending class
- Encourage school districts to privatize even more public education services.
The changes are touted as ways to enhance flexibility by local school districts. The truth is that they serve to mask the damage done by the continued underfunding of our schools.
Here are just a few of the few of the changes to be considered next Tuesday:
- CARNEGIE UNITS: Section 2314 allows schools to award
Carnegie units by alternative means when “proficiency” has been
demonstrated. Instead of attending a class taught by a teacher, a
student could earn Carnegie units by simply passing a “nationally
recognized” exam. The proposal does not identify the appropriate exams,
nor does it define “nationally recognized.” This proposal reduces the
need for certified public school teachers while further enriching the
companies that provide tests for the state.
- GUIDANCE COUNSELORS: Section 1256 eliminates all requirements that secondary schools have guidance counselors. This is an incredibly shortsighted effort to trim local school budgets at the expense of student well-being. Guidance counselors are the lead agents in the administration of standardized tests and maintenance of vital records associated with school improvement efforts. That is in addition to their traditional roles in identifying problems, assisting with college and career goals, and overseeing 504 accountability accommodations.
- LIBRARIES AND LIBRARIANS: Section 1705 eliminates all requirements that secondary schools have libraries and librarians. All references to media centers, library collections, and funding to ensure “a balanced and current library collection” are eliminated. The “varied services and activities for students” previously mandated by the bulletin will no longer be required. Librarians are more important than ever because they oversee the school’s technology and technology instruction, as well as maintain the school’s technology equipment. They are also responsible for instituting technological innovations and instructing teachers in their use.
- TEXTBOOKS: Section 1703 allows school systems to spend Minimum Foundation Program funds on textbooks that have not been approved by BESE. That creates yet another drain on education funds that have been frozen for the past four years. If BESE really believes that alternative, unapproved textbooks are desirable to provide flexibility for local districts, the board should make funds available for the purpose.
- PRIVATIZATION: Section 291 is all new language that allows school systems to farm out their alternative education programs to “education service providers.” It is just another tool to sell as much of public education as possible to education entrepreneurs. So far, that effort has been marked by an astonishing lack of transparency and accountability, as demonstrated by the incredible haste to pass the 2012 “reform” legislation and to approve marginal private and religious schools for the voucher program. It flies in the face of a recent court ruling that MFP funds must be reserved for public schools.
It’s time to urge BESE members to think more deeply about such dramatic changes in the name of "flexibility."