However, there’s still much more work to do. Student achievement indicators continue to lag behind the rest of the nation, while over $100 billion in new and expanded projects have been announced for the state. In order for our citizens to be able to participate in this economic boom, we need to have a trained, ready workforce. Workforce development is a top priority for LABI. It will only be achieved by defending high standards in K-12; supporting the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s efforts to revamp the ways in which they provide training; and aligning higher education institutions’ missions with regional economic needs.
Of course, in order to maintain what we’ve already achieved, LABI will continue to play strong defense as attacks on reform by the defenders of the status quo come at us. We will give no ground. The future of the state literally depends on it.
The Issue: Currently, school systems collect and remit dues through automatic payroll deduction for unions that engage in political activities, such as elections and lobbying. They are mandated to provide this service in state law.
LABI Position: Support Paycheck Protection legislation that would reform or eliminate taxpayer-funded bodies (such as local school districts) from collecting membership dues or other monies for organizations that engage in political activities (such as teacher unions) through automatic payroll deduction.
Reasoning: Teacher unions are receiving a steady stream of dollars through automatic payroll deductions. Often, members are unaware of what their dues are paying for, how much they are paying, and when their dues are being increased. Under this structure, union dues are being collected and remitted at taxpayer expense to engage in what many believe to be anti-taxpayer activities, such as opposition to education reform initiatives. Prohibiting automatic payroll deduction would eliminate this. Once it is eliminated, teacher unions would have to sustain their work the way other membership supported organizations, such as LABI, do.
The Issue: More than $100 billion in new and expanded projects have been announced. Louisiana businesses will need approximately 86,300 new, skilled construction crafts workers alone, and over 250,000 workers overall will be needed to support this economic explosion.
LABI Position: Support and assist the proper implementation of recent legislative reforms, as well as any additional necessary ancillary reforms, designed to transform Louisiana’s workforce development system to become market driven and employer connected by delegating to local workforce investment boards’ decision making and administration relative to training and employment programs while reserving oversight and funding responsibilities to a state commission. Advocate for additional training and recruitment of skilled trades men and women to combat the workforce shortage in critical sectors such as construction and manufacturing. LABI also supports rational and effective re-entry programs for ex-offenders that will enhance workforce development efforts.
Reasoning: The state can potentially recruit an estimated 50,000 current residents (who could be trained or re-trained) into these new jobs. The state currently has the capacity to train 64,000 workers. Clearly, we have an urgent need for workforce development, with both private and public sectors working collaboratively to address the most urgent need facing the state.
The Issue: Legislation was passed in 2012 to eliminate Louisiana’s antiquated school system employment practices that prohibit school leaders from building teams of their choice; make dismissal of employees for any reason difficult; pay teachers based on degrees awarded and length of service without consideration of merit (such as how well teachers help their students achieve); and lay off employees during reduction-in-force actions based on the “Last In/First Out” (LIFO) philosophy rather than on how well teachers are performing in the classroom. (Act 1, 2012 Regular Legislative Session.) The legislation was challenged in court. The 19th JDC ruled the law invalid due to multiple objects. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a ruling on Act 1, finding it constitutional, and allowing progressive school boards and superintendents to continue to factor into their personnel decisions a teacher’s ability to move a student forward.
LABI Position: Support legislation to repeal tenure for new teachers. Oppose legislation that would expand tenure, sabbatical and extended leave benefits for all school employees, including post-secondary institutions. Oppose any legislation that would repeal or damage Act 1 of 2012.
Reasoning: Louisiana must undertake and defend bold, brave measures that reform an entrenched system that is in place primarily to protect jobs. Bureaucratic, status quo apologists for years have cited the “Failure Mantra” of high poverty, lack of parental involvement, insufficient funding, too much accountability, or the latest trendy “blame” indicator, and they are now at a loss to explain how some high poverty schools perform at high levels with the same student populations as some schools that chronically fail. If Louisiana wants to continue to draw and retain investment that creates jobs, it must build a workforce that makes locating here attractive.
The Issue: For a number of years, the United States has ranked about 20th of 34 industrialized nations that participate in international assessments. (The U.S. ranks 14th in reading; 17th in science; and 25th in math.) An American College Test (“ACT”) study found that three-fourths of students entering college “were not adequately prepared academically for first year college courses.” And, 25 years ago, the U.S. led the world in high school and college graduation rates. Today, the nation ranks 20th and 16th, respectively.
As alarming as those statistics are, Louisiana’s are worse. In spite of tremendous effort and years of accountability and other reform efforts, Louisiana student performance remains at the bottom on most national indicators. The state comes in at 48th or 49th in almost every ranking. Our 4-year college graduation rate is only 19%. The stats are alarming. They lead not only to the inevitability of losing any competitive edge the nation has retained in the global marketplace; it indicates that, without a major shift in learning, we’re facing a serious threat to our national security.
LABI Position: Support the continued implementation of high standards in mathematics and English Language Arts (“ELA”). Oppose any legislation or policy proposal that would halt, delay, or stop implementation.
Reasoning: In 2007, conservative members of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers met to put together a plan to address the decline of the United States in education and economic competitiveness. They put into action a movement to create higher standards in core subject areas which states could voluntarily adopt. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the CCSS in 2010 without objection.
As the implementation continues, and the standards are being received by committees of Louisiana citizens, there will continue to be questions and concerns. All of those questions and concerns should be addressed, but we need to keep higher standards in place or risk the morass of never-ending poverty, mediocrity and failure.
The Issue: Does the state need to continue funding all of the four-year universities, as well as community and technical colleges, that currently exist? Is there too much bureaucracy? Are there too many management boards, sites/campuses and duplicative programming? Are streamlining and consolidation possible, particularly in areas where educational opportunities outnumber students? Do we have an overrepresentation of students in 4-year universities, and an underrepresentation of students in two-year institutions?
LABI Position: Support recommendations that call for defining the role, scope and mission of each higher education institution, including the adoption and full implementation of higher admission standards for 4-year universities; discontinuing low-enrollment programs; reducing remediation; improving articulation and dual enrollments; encouraging electronic distance learning; addressing the issue of duplicative programs among institutions; implementing performance-based funding, restructuring governance to maximize efficiency; and reorganize campuses to support their missions and align them to regional economic development priorities.
Support full implementation of the WISE Fund to ensure the development of private sector and higher education partnerships committed to addressing critical workforce needs. Support tuition and fee autonomy.
Reasoning: The Board of Regents and the Legislature should continue to examine all institutions of higher education and make recommendations for closing and/or consolidating programs and institutions. Geographical proximity, enrollment, graduation rates, students’ performance on professional examinations, job placement and retention, duplication of programs and accreditation warnings or difficulties are good starting points for consideration. Shared facilities, faculty and supplies for technical training (secondary, technical college and four-year universities) should be part of the effort to consolidate and improve efficiency. Studies should include the role of higher education in management of the state’s charity hospital system.
The Issue: It is very important that the Louisiana business community continue to support, monitor, defend and strengthen the K-12 public school accountability program. There will be continued attacks on accountability and standards from the education bureaucracy; we must defend against all attacks on education reform. The heat will continue and escalate as Louisiana implements common core standards and assessments that will be more rigorous than the state’s current content standards and testing program.
LABI Position: Support, protect and strengthen the K-12 accountability program. Stop efforts to eliminate or suspend accountability components such as high stakes testing or passing the Graduation Exit Exam (or End of Course or performance on ACT exams) to earn a high school diploma, as well as any attempts to weaken high school graduation standards or other accountability measures such as the assignment of letter grades to schools.
Reasoning: The foundation of a strong public school system must include academically rigorous standardized tests and a plan to determine what to do about schools and school systems with poor student achievement results. We must defend the high stakes testing program for students in grades 4 and 8 to measure how well students are learning and to curb social promotion. We should support a single diploma with two options, college-ready and career-ready. Both should include rigor and job-ready components such as apprenticeships and industry-based certifications. We must continue to support high performance standards on PARCC, ACT and other exams as requirements for high school graduation and key components in the accountability formula. We should continue to support the state’s literacy initiative and the use of an individualized reading test to be given in the early grades with continued reading remediation in the upper grades if necessary. We should further support the state’s math initiative to address Louisiana’s chronically poor performance on standardized math tests. Support and additional assistance should be provided for struggling readers at every grade. And, we must oppose efforts to create a diploma that would allow students to graduate from high school without passing a rigorous exam. We must monitor and strengthen the state’s dropout prevention programs. Finally, we should support the value-added teacher evaluation system (Compass), sanctions or rewards for school personnel based upon student academic achievement through Compass, the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) or other merit pay for performance programs.
The Issue: School systems are being redesigned with student achievement as the top priority. Most of the schools in Orleans Parish have been taken over by the State Board of Education (BESE), and have been chartered. The charter school movement in Orleans has garnered national attention and is becoming a model for the redesign of urban education. Charter schools are also growing in number throughout the state, and the scholarship program, Jump Start, and Course Access are presenting new educational options that make Louisiana a national model for student-directed operations.
LABI Position: Support the efforts of the RSD, particularly its efforts to provide choice for parents through charter schools. Encourage the replication of successful models throughout the state, beginning with failed and failing schools in other school districts. Work with the public and private sectors to create quality educational opportunities for every student, including progressive public schools, increased skills and technical training in high schools, charter schools and the use of vouchers or scholarships to participating nonpublic schools. Prior to returning any schools to local school boards, BESE should review capacity, performance, and gain input from the students and parents at each school being considered for return to the local district governance structure. Oppose all efforts to mandate the return of RSD schools to local school boards. Work with officials to ensure that proposed new governance models support all choice options and include the desires of parents with children in the affected schools.
Reasoning: The state is in the process of building student-focused, quality education. Louisiana has a unique opportunity to envision and implement a world class education system, kindergarten through post-secondary, that is worthy of being replicated. We must seize this opportunity with the knowledge that: 1) Louisiana’s students are owed a meaningful educational opportunity; 2) the human and economic future of the state is entirely dependent upon it; and 3) the world is watching.
Pro-Taxpayer Reform: Support legislation that would prohibit employees of local school systems from serving on BESE.
Local School Board Reform: Act 1 of the 2012 legislative session included local school board reforms, namely prohibiting school board members from making personnel decisions. Support additional legislation and policy that would encourage the focus of local school boards to be on improving failing schools and raising student academic achievement. Examine bureaucratic impediments to reform at the local school board level and support legislation that would require local school boards to be more accountable for the academic achievement of the students in their districts.
Workforce Development/Vocational Education: Continue to support LCTCS efforts to improve the delivery of training in vocational education and community colleges. LABI will encourage the continued development of a post-secondary education system (adult education, technical colleges, community colleges and university systems) that will be efficiently coordinated to provide shared resources, shared facilities, non-duplicated offerings and articulation agreements. This system should be tailored in each region of the state to address the proper mix of special workforce training programs, vocational and technical training, industry-based certifications 2-year associate degrees and advanced degrees, and to provide a rapid response to changes in the business. Development and direction of these systems should include input from the business community and include systems designed to measure the progress of each educational component, holding accountable those responsible for the success of their students. The business community should expect coordination of money and resources among the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the Incumbent Worker Training Program, and training funds from Louisiana Economic Development, as well as other agencies. LABI also supports rational and effective re-entry programs for ex-offenders that will enhance workforce development efforts.
Adult Education/GED Programs: Support legislation and long-range public policy decisions to reorganize and improve the high school equivalency diploma and other training options.
School Choice: Act 2 of the 2012 legislative session expanded school choice statewide for qualifying students. Other avenues to increase choice, such as tax credits or deductions for tuition to attend nonpublic schools, should also continue to be supported.
Charter Schools: Facilitate the expansion of charter schools, which have played a significant role in the building of a quality public education system both in hurricane-impacted areas and in districts with schools being taken over by the state, as well as non-takeover schools. Explore other states’ charter school authorizing authorities (state boards of education, local school boards, universities, etc.) to determine if Louisiana could improve the charter school approval process, making it more streamlined while maintaining full transparency and taxpayer accountability. Support efforts of the Louisiana Public Charter School Association to improve public education utilizing innovative methods and the chartering process.
Teacher Quality: Support efforts to improve teacher quality in Louisiana. The classroom teacher is the single most important factor in and influence on students’ educational success, and LABI will work to strengthen the state’s professional teaching corps. Support models such as TAP which rewards teaching excellence based on student performance. Support other merit pay models that could benefit Louisiana’s top teaching professionals. Continue to work with BESE and the State Department of Education to support the state Teacher and Principal of the Year programs (Dream Teachers). These events recognize and reward Louisiana’s best educators and elevate the profession.
Leadership Development: Support efforts to identify and recruit outstanding individuals with records of success into school leadership positions, especially principals and superintendents. Support alternative certification paths for principals that allow and encourage professionals and leaders in fields outside of education to consider becoming principals.
8(g): Support the integrity of the 8(g) fund and oppose any attempts to use those funds to supplant general fund revenues for education.
Classroom Funding: Re-examine the state’s school finance funding formula, the MFP, to determine how to get more money into the classroom, ensure that tax dollars follow the student, and determine the actual cost of delivering quality educational services. Local districts should begin to consolidate schools, school districts and bus routes, engage in cooperative agreements to serve students and maximize financial efficiency, privatize services (if found to be cost effective), and undergo teacher retirement system reform. Support the funding of classroom instruction and financial accountability in all areas, including category-specific financial reporting, as top priorities in K-12 education funding.
School Discipline: Support efforts to address the issue of school discipline and work to identify solutions to classroom management problems while keeping disruptive students in learning environments.
TOPS: Support efforts to strengthen the academic requirements to receive the merit-based Tuition Opportunity Program for Students scholarship and oppose efforts to weaken current requirements. Support the substitution of ACT WorkKeys assessments (silver or higher level attainment) as an alternative eligibility requirement to the ACT score for TOPS-Tech scholarships, and support other TOPS-Tech revisions that contribute to building a trained, ready workforce. Support a funding floor for TOPS to ensure its long-term survival.
High School Redesign/Dropouts: Support efforts to reduce Louisiana’s public school dropout rate and draw recent dropouts back into school or training, including the creation and expansion of courses that emphasize technical training. Continue to work to create viable educational opportunities for all students, including those who have not successfully passed the Graduation Exit Exam (or End of Course exams), or the 8th grade LEAP test. Partner with local businesses to design skills-based courses and training, and expand dual enrollments to allow students to earn both high school and post-secondary course credits simultaneously.
Higher Education Governance: Support the creation of a single board for post-secondary education to manage and oversee the state’s four-year post-secondary education institutions. Additionally, recognizing the unique mission of two-year institutions and their significant role in workforce development, support a separate LCTCS board to govern the state’s community and technical college system.
Early Childhood Education: Support providing a quality academic program in pre-K and the first three years of elementary school to lay the proper foundation for later learning, and support diverse delivery when providing quality academic programming.
Alternative Schools: Support efforts to create effective alternative schools for students who do not perform well in traditional school settings.
Parent/Teacher/Citizen Empowerment: Support efforts to provide parents, citizens and educators with factual information about education issues at all levels and teach them how to get involved and make the education system work for them and their children.
Collective Bargaining: Oppose legislation mandating collective bargaining and/or binding arbitration by any public body.
Brigitte Nieland serves as Director of the Education & Workforce Development Council. In this capacity she coordinates business' involvement in education reform issues, including workforce development.
Director, Education and Workforce Development Council, LABI
Cajun Industries, LLC
Chairman, Education & Workforce Development Council