Call us:225.926.8414 | E-mail:staff@parlouisiana.org

PAR Outlines Policies to Improve Public Education

PAR Outlines Policies to Improve Public Education

Posted: 09/10/2003

“Reforming public education is key to building Louisiana’s reputation as a state worthy of corporate investment and economic development,” the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) said in its “White Paper on Elementary and Secondary Education” released today. “Maintaining a strong accountability program offers the best hope for continuing improvement, but other changes in programs, funding and governance are still needed,” said Jim Brandt, PAR president.

Stressing the need to fix the state’s failing schools, the report supported authorizing the state takeover of failing schools and a very limited private school voucher program for students in failing schools when no viable public school option is available.

The state faces a major challenge in meeting the recent federal No Child Left Behind Act requirement for a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom by 2005-06. The report suggests a number of changes including differential pay or bonuses for hard-to-fill jobs, expanded teacher-training program recruitment, improved support for novice teachers, extending the period for evaluation prior to awarding tenure and tying tenure to certification.

The white paper examined a variety of funding-related issues. While public school enrollments have been decreasing, the number of teachers and staff has been increasing. And, in spite of significant, recent increases in teacher salaries, Louisiana average teacher pay remains at the bottom of the southern states, and per-pupil spending remains below the southern average as well. In the 2000-01 school year, Louisiana would have had to spend another $328 million to match the southern per-pupil average.

The demands for teacher pay increases, continued and expanded pre-K programs, extra aid for failing schools and improved facilities will assure continued pressure for more state and local funding. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the state’s taxpayers already put more of their personal income into education than the U.S. or southern averages.

The report recommends that the School Finance Commission be re-energized to complete its evaluation of the Minimum Foundation Program, including the consideration of options for improving the formula to optimize equity and adequacy in school funding.
The report examines the state’s higher than average staffing in teachers and support staff. It suggests that the resulting lower pupil/teacher ratio may be helpful and that federal funding drives much of the added support staffing. Also, contrary to popular belief, Louisiana’s administrative staff is one-fifth smaller than in the average state.

The report recommends changes to improve the transition from high school to post-secondary education, workforce training or employment. Funding high schools on the basis of semester credit hours would allow the funding to follow the student into alternative senior-year programs. Alternative paths such as advanced placement, work experience and dual enrollment in post-secondary institutions would allow students to make better use of their senior year in high school.

Other recommendations of the report would make administrative changes at the school district level. The superintendent and school board would have full authority over how to provide student support services. The superintendent would have sole authority to hire, fire, promote, demote, transfer or suspend teachers. And, the process for dismissing tenured employee would be streamlined with an administrative law judge to hear cases.

“Public education will be competing for added resources in an era of very tight budgets,” Brandt said. “Tough choices will be required to define and provide an adequate level of funding that will allow the public schools to reach their student achievement goals.”

This is the third report in PAR’s four-part white paper series dealing with major issues facing the new administration and Legislature to be elected this fall. The first two reports addressed higher education and state finance and taxation, and the final one will cover governmental ethics and constitutional revision. The series focuses on the significant relationship between these issues and the state’s economic development.

PAR members will receive a free copy of the “White Paper on Elementary and Secondary Education.” Others may order copies for $3.50 each by writing PAR at P.O. Box 14776, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-4776 or, by calling (225) 926-8414. Special pricing is available for bulk orders. The series may also be viewed on PAR’s Web site at www.la-par.org.
For More Information Contact:
Jim Brandt – President
225 926-8414 Ext. 21

Tags:

Comments are currently closed.

Top