For decades, LABI has fought to ensure students have access to a high-quality education that produces the skills needed to thrive in the workforce. LABI has consistently advocated for students, parents, taxpayers, and employers alike and will continue to champion an education system that prepares students for high-wage, high-demand jobs and invests in life-long learners. While Louisiana has made real progress, much work remains. LABI will continue to emphasize educational excellence as essential for improving the attractiveness of Louisiana as a destination for families, and to prepare the state’s future workforce.
Issue:Louisiana’s workforce crisis is due to a shortage of qualified workers who are drug-free and possess both the soft and technical skills required in our rapidly changing economy. In particular, the state continues to have a sizeable “middle skills” gap where available jobs require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.
LABI Position: Support the transformation of Louisiana’s workforce development system to encourage partnerships across early childhood education programs, K-12 schools, universities, community and technical colleges and employers to create and fill high-demand, high-wage jobs. Encourage the coordinated and streamlined utilization of public funds and programs — federal, state and local — toward data-driven workforce development goals. IT and manufacturing. Overall, the voice and perspective of Louisiana employers must be included in all efforts from top-to-bottom in workforce development.
Reasoning:Louisiana has an urgent need for a skilled workforce that requires strong partnerships across the private and public sectors.
Talent Supply & Development: Support the creation of a cabinet-level office to oversee and coordinate workforce development programs and their funding streams across state agencies in order to achieve strategic alignment between state and local efforts to establish a talent supply chain that properly serves Louisiana employer needs.
Career and Technical Education: Support legislation and policies to expand and improve the delivery of skills training in partnership with Louisiana employers, community colleges and K-12 schools. LABI supports improvements to the JumpStart program to incentivize training and certification for students in fields with high-demand, high-wage jobs.
Post-Secondary Alignment: 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 and 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, two-year associate degrees and advanced degrees, and to provide a rapid response to changes in 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. LABI encourages the state to adopt and fully implement higher admission standards for four-year universities, discontinue low-enrollment or duplicative programs, and improve articulation and transfer agreements from two-year to four-year schools.
Public School K-12 Accountability System
Issue:It is critically important that the Louisiana business community continues to strengthen the K-12 public school accountability program and requires high standards for all students.
LABI Position: Strengthen the K-12 accountability program. Oppose efforts to eliminate or suspend accountability components such as a rigorous curriculum, statewide testing, or the assignment of letter grades to schools.
Reasoning: The foundation of a strong public-school system must include academically rigorous curriculum, tests to measure progress, and a plan to improve schools and districts with low student achievement.
High Standards: Support high standards and rigorous curriculum in mathematics, science, and English Language Arts (“ELA”). Support “Mastery” as the minimum student proficiency level in assessments (as opposed to the current “Basic”), which would put Louisiana students on par with students in other states for comparative purposes. Support policies ensuring every student is at or above grade level in reading and math upon completion of third grade. Oppose “hold harmless” policies, curving of school letter grades, or other attempts to artificially inflate performance statistics.
Post-Secondary 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 as well as separate LCTCS board to govern the state’s community and technical college system, recognizing the unique mission of two-year institutions and their significant role in workforce development. Support recommendations to better define the role, scope and mission of each higher education institution, restructure governance to maximize efficiency, and reorganize campuses to support their missions and align them to regional economic development priorities where relevant.
Regional workforce needs, geographical proximity, enrollment, graduation rates, students’ performance on professional examinations, job placement and retention, duplication of programs and accreditation difficulties are starting points for consideration. Shared facilities, faculty, administrative systems and services, and supplies for technical training (secondary, technical college and four-year universities) should be part of the effort to consolidate and improve efficiency.
Post-Secondary Reform: LABI recognizes the economic imperative to improve retention rates on college campuses and graduate many more students every year in both two and four-year institutions. LABI supports removing barriers to smooth the path for adults to re-enter college as well as campus-level innovations such as mentoring, mapping and stacking credentials, decreasing the time-to-degree, putting textbooks online, and reforming remedial coursework. LABI supports efforts to ensure students can access the training they need for high-quality jobs in their communities.
Paycheck Protection: Support legislation to 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.
Teacher Tenure: 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.
Conflicts of Interest: 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.
Adult Education: Support legislation and policy to reorganize and improve the high school equivalency diploma, to provide “soft skills” or “employability” training. Support initiatives to bring adult learners back into the workforce, including rational and effective re-entry programs and policies for ex-offenders. Support efforts to offer targeted reskilling and upskilling training to workers who have been out of the workforce or need upgraded skills to meet workforce demands.
School Choice: Support expanded school choice for students. Other avenues to increase choice, such as education savings accounts, tax credits or deductions for tuition to attend nonpublic schools, should also be supported.
Charter Schools: Support the expansion of high-quality charter schools.
Teacher Quality: Support efforts to improve teacher quality, including policy changes to improve teacher preparation, 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.
Teacher Recruitment & Retention: Advocate for policies that address the teacher workforce shortage. Support efforts to offer a competitive salary—including dynamic compensation schedules to reward and retain highly-effective educators and incentivize educators to work in high-need subject areas, high-need areas of the state, and low-performing schools. Support legislation that incentivizes districts to offer maternity leave for educators. Strengthen efforts to reduce barriers to entry into the profession while maintaining teacher quality.
School Leadership: 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.
TOPS: Support efforts to redesign the merit-based Tuition Opportunity Program for Students scholarship with a dynamic funding model, placing greater value on students pursuing education for jobs in high-demand industries. Maximize TOPS’ return on investment by supporting efforts to allocate funding in alignment with state workforce needs and consideration of financial need. Support efforts to strengthen the academic requirements to receive the TOPS scholarship and oppose efforts to weaken current requirements. Protect 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 Advocate for accountability measures and incentives for universities to support student degree completions.
High School Dropouts: Support efforts to reduce Louisiana’s public school dropout rate and draw recent dropouts back into school or training.
High School Redesign: Support efforts to ensure all high school students demonstrate true college or career readiness through completion of extensive college-level courses, earning an associate degree, or earning an industry-valued credential before graduation.
School-to-Work Transition: Support programs in high school that offer dual enrollment, college credit, industry-based certifications, and skills training, including work-based learning opportunities to empower students to succeed in the workforce upon graduation. Support increased access to postsecondary advisors and career-exploration to support students in finding their path. Advocate for initiatives focused on career awareness, workplace exposure and real work experience for young people, including internships, apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeships.
Education Flexibility: Support flexibility in education delivery models and learning modalities. In today’s fluid environment, it is important to acknowledge the need for educational flexibility in order to best meet a child’s learning needs inside and outside the classroom.
Freedom to Work: Over time, a number of state entities have created artificial barriers to work in the form of occupational licensing. Unless a license is necessary for public health and safety, individuals should be “free to work.” LABI supports efforts to review occupational licensing and remove costly and time-consuming barriers when possible.
Early Childhood Education: Support high-quality childcare and early childhood learning from birth to age three to ensure all children in Louisiana enter kindergarten ready to learn. Support efforts to ensure quality, affordable childcare availability in every community, including expanded access to licensed home-based family childcare and tax incentives for employer-sponsored childcare. Support efforts to provide the early childhood community with a voice at the governance table. LABI will continue to advocate for students, parents, taxpayers and employers to connect a more skilled workforce with high-wage, high-demand jobs in a 21st century economy and will support high-quality daycare and early childhood learning.
School Safety: LABI acknowledges the direct link between students’ mental and behavioral wellness and positive student achievement and supports the early identification of and mental health supports for students in distress, detection of emerging threats, and promotion of a supportive school climate in reducing the prevalence of school violence. LABI will promote efforts to identify and prioritize resources available to improve the safety of Louisiana schools, including the fortification of school building infrastructure, and increased access to comprehensive school-based mental health services.
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. 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.
Mary Beth Hughes serves as Education and Workforce Development Council Director. In this capacity, she coordinates business involvement in education issues, ranging from early childhood to workforce development.
Mary Beth Hughes
Director, Education & Workforce Development Council
Chair, Education & Workforce Development Council