OK, maybe we should have been clearer. We believe the governor's raft of K-12 education reform bills deserve a robust debate. But neither Rome nor reform was built in a day.
We appreciate the symbolism of the House Education Committee, on the third day of the session, getting the governor's three centerpiece reform bills into play. But lawmaking is more a distance race than a sprint, particularly when the measures before the Legislature are sweeping changes to expand charter schools, implement school-choice vouchers statewide, limit teacher tenure and increase accountability standards for early childhood education. Any one of those measures could easily occupy the committee for a day, and in fact, the charter/voucher measure, HB 976, did -- from early morning, through the afternoon and into the evening.
Because the education bills were among the last to be filed, followed by amendments, the rushed-up hearing meant that lawmakers, citizens and stakeholders had little time to fully digest the legislation.
Ironically, the hearing date was not only impractical but potentially counterproductive to education and accountability goals. A week before high-stakes testing begins, many teachers were concerned enough to leave their classrooms to descend on the Capitol. At least four south Louisiana districts closed all their schools for the day. How much final student preparation suffered with those absences?
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has offered some supportive words regarding the governor's efforts toward reform, was dialing up newspaper reporters across the state registering her outrage about the governor's unnecessary pace to ram his education package through committee and into the full House.
"If the goal here is true, systemic and long-lasting reform, not only does the Legislature need to buy in, but so do citizens in every parish and every region of our state," she stated through a separate email. "A good reform package will survive a thorough review, because it will survive on its merits."
There will be no rest for the weary today: the Senate Education Committee will consider Senate versions of the same bills.
It's a long session that extends to June. So, to adequately consider K-12 education reform -- the governor's centerpiece legislation -- you might ask, "What's the rush?"