Monday, February 6, 2012

Legislative Update 2-6 | Reform Agendas Proposed

The Cowen Institute is pleased to share the latest in K-12 education policy at the local, state and federal levels. Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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This morning's update contained incorrect verbiage pertaining to the Governors proposed changes to state pension plans. The item has been corrected below.

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The Cowen Institute Welcomes Nolan Marshall

The Cowen Institute would like to welcome Nolan Marshall, our new Assistant Director of Policy and Advocacy. Nolan joined the Institute in January 2012. He is the former Associate Director of Common Good at Loyola University. Nolan received a Presidential Scholarship and graduated from the School of Business and Industry at Florida A&M University in 2001. In 2009 Nolan received the Fritz Wagner prize for academic achievement and community service in Graduate Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans. 

Click here for more information on Nolan.

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The Latest from the RSD

On January 23rd the Recovery School District (RSD) announced its plan for high schools and its final decisions regarding the assignment of charter operators to the transformation of direct-run schools.

Included in its plan for high scohols, the RSD will offer a variety of career and technical programs that lead to industry-based certifications, for which the RSD has identified several partners from industry and higher education. Also, the RSD will create four new options for struggling students: on-site academies, accelerated programs, intensive-accelerated programs, and an expulsion center. More information is available in the press release.

The RSD matched four schools with a new charter school operator. The Future is Now will take over John McDonogh High School, while Friends of King will take over Joseph Craig Elementary. The Choice Foundation will take over McDonogh 42 Elementary, which was previously operated by the Treme Charter Association. The Treme Charter Association’s charter was not renewed after their initial five year period. Collegiate Academies will start one grade at a time, starting with 9th grade, at the George Washington Carver building as Carver High School phases out. Additionally, the RSD discussed the options for students at Dr. Charles Drew Elementary school, which is in its final year of being phased out. More information is available in the press release. Click here for coverage of this announcement in the Times-Picayune.

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Legislative Auditor Report on the RSD

On January 18th the Louisiana Legislative Auditor released a report of their audit of the Recovery School District (RSD) for Fiscal Year 2011. Of the many findings, the audit found that the RSD reduced overpayments to employees compared to the previous year. The audit also found that the RSD has no written policy or control procedures for retaining equipment and records for schools that are closing or transforming. It found that the RSD had $553,385 in missing equipment, including hundreds of missing computers. To address this issue, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a model dissolution policy for schools that are closing or transforming in December (found here starting on page 242).

Click here for more information from the audit.

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The Latest from the OPSB

At their January 24th meeting, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) held leadership elections, made decisions regarding the approval of charter school applications, and passed a budget amendment for Phase II of the School Facilities Master Plan (SFMP), in addition to its regular agenda items.

The members of the Board voted to elect Thomas Robichaux as President, formerly Vice President and Lourdes Moran as Vice President, formerly President. 

The Board also voted to conditionally approve two charter school applicants: Encore Learning and Citizens’ Committee for Education. Encore Learning will be permitted to open a school for the 2012-13 school year contingent upon Superintendent Darryl Kilbert’s approval of a revised financial plan. Citizen’s Committee for Education, which applied to open the Homer A. Plessy Community School, will be permitted to open a school for the 2013-14 school year contingent upon the Superintendent’s approval of a revised organizational plan.

SFMP budget amendment totaling $105 million was approved by the Board. A focus during discussion of the amendment was the new budget for the Fortier High School site (Lusher High School), which has decreased by approximately $5 million. Click here for the amendment tables.

Click here for coverage of the meeting in the Times-Picayune.

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Jindal Proposes Changes to Teacher Retirement Plans

On January 25th Governor Jindal proposed many changes to Louisiana’s state pension programs, some of which would impact teachers. The Governor proposed merging the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) with the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System (LASERS). The Governor would also like to give teachers the option to switch to a defined-contribution plan, similar to a 401k (TRSL and LASERS are defined-benefit plans ). Under the proposed defined-contribution plan, the retirement age for teachers would  increase from 55 to 67 and the employee contribution would increase from 8 percent to 11 percent. For more details on the Governor’s proposals, click here.

Click here for coverage in the Times-Picayune.

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Education Summit in Baton Rouge

On January 31st, national education leaders spoke at a conference in Baton Rouge called Leadership for Change. Over eight hundred people attended the event including Louisiana legislators, superintendents, and other education professionals. The event was hosted by Louisiana Representative Stephen Carter. The speakers were former Governor of Florida John “Jeb” Bush; founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options Dr. Howard Fuller; Indiana State Superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett; Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; Former Chancellor of New York City Public Schools Joel L. Klein; Executive Director of Parent Revolution, California Ben Austin; Executive Director of KIPP Delta Schools, Arkansas Scott Shirley; Deputy Chancellor of New York City Public Schools Marc Sternberg; U.S. Senator for Louisiana Mary Landrieu; and Louisiana State Superintendent John White.

Click here for coverage of Senator Landrieu’s speech at the event in the Times-Picayune.

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Louisiana Association of Educators Announces Reform Agenda

The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) teachers union announced their education reform agenda. The LAE proposes making changes to the Louisiana’s current teacher evaluation system as prescribed by Act 54. The Union is also willing to adjust teacher tenure processes. Click here for more information on LAE’s reform agenda. Also, the LAE spoke out against Governor Jindal’s proposal to expand the Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence Program, Louisiana's voucher program.

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State of the Union and K-12 Education

In his State of the Union address on January 26th, President Obama made several statements relevant to K-12 education policy.  With a focus on teachers, the President’s vision included making it easier to dismiss poor performing teachers and to reward high performing ones, making colleges of education more selective, reshaping tenure, creating more leadership roles for teachers, and evaluating teachers based on multiple measures. Addressing poor graduation rates throughout the country, the President suggested a mandate under which states would require students to stay in school until they turn 18 years old. The President also mentioned the importance of increasing student performance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Presidents vision for public education was supported by the Republican response to the Address.

More information on the State of the Union Address can be found here.

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