We’d always heard they did things a little differently in Louisiana, and now we’re sure of it.
The school boards of three Louisiana school districts – East Baton Rouge, St. Martin and Vermilion – voted to cancel classes one day last week so their unionized teachers could descend upon the state capitol to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform legislation.
Even more surprising, the school boards have decided to classify the protests as a “professional development” day, so teachers won’t lose any wages or be cited for an unexcused absence. When Wisconsin teachers ditched school last year to engage in political protests, they at least went through the pretense of calling in sick to work, and many were eventually docked or punished.
That cozy board-union relationship helps explain why 44 percent of the state’s public schools are considered to be failing, and why 230,000 students were found to be below grade level.
The protests were designed to occur as Louisiana’s House and Senate held hearings on Gov. Jindal’s proposed reforms, which include changing teacher tenure laws, expanding charter schools and giving school vouchers to low- and moderate-income families.
Publicly, the unions say they only want bills taken off the “fast track” so more debate and discussion can occur. In reality, the unions want to bog the process down with debate and demonstrations, so lawmakers won’t be able to get the reforms passed during the 85-day legislative session.
“We don’t know what the rush is,” said Joyce Haynes, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.
The sad truth is, they probably don’t.
But Louisiana’s families surely do.