Governor Bobby Jindal signed three historic education reform bills into law today, paving the way for the creation of one of the nation's largest school choice systems, a system where teachers are rewarded on performance and a coordinated early childhood development structure. The Governor signed HB 974 and HB 976 both by State Representative Steve Carter and SB 581 by Senator Conrad Appel -- at Redemptorist Elementary School in Baton Rouge, a private Catholic school expected to participate in the state's expanded scholarship program.
Governor Jindal said, "We have a moral imperative to improve the education system for our children, our state and our country, and these new laws will be a game-changer for Louisiana. Over the last four years, we've made incredible progress by revamping ethics law, cutting taxes, and growing Louisiana's economy even during a national recession -- but the single most important thing we can do to ensure the continued prosperity of our state and our people is to make sure that every child gets a great education.
"If we truly want to improve economic development, if we truly want to improve health care outcomes and lower our incarceration rates, it all comes back to providing our children with a better education. I'm proud of the fact that Louisiana has outperformed the national and regional economies for the last four years, but if we want to continue to outperform the national and southern economies we've got to make sure we continue to improve education for our children.
"Education reform is important for Louisiana and it's also important for America. We live in an aspirational society and the opportunity to receive a quality education is part of the American Dream. Every child isn't receiving an equal opportunity to a quality education today. For our country to continue to lead the world, we have to right this wrong. That's exactly what these new laws will do.
"If we want to preserve the American dream for our children, if we want them to do better than we did, it is important that they get a great education. We know that in a global economy they are going to be competing with kids not only from Texas, Georgia, and other states, but they're going to be competing for jobs with kids in China and other countries around the world. That is why it is so important we give every child in Louisiana a great education."
HB 974 by Rep. Carter empowers effective teachers, supports ineffective teachers who want to improve, and rethinks district management to prioritize kids not adults:
Under this law, more specific performance targets that consider student achievement and recruiting and retaining effective teachers would be required in the contracts of superintendents in C, D, and F districts.
The law also requires school boards to delegate to the superintendent and principals hiring, firing, and teacher placement power and authority to make reductions in force (RIFs) primarily based on effectiveness.
Additionally, this law gives districts the ability to construct their own salary schedules for new employees based on what they need--such as math teachers, teachers to work at high poverty schools, and performance. Under this law, districts can start rewarding current teachers based on performance and demand.
The law says layoffs and compensation will now be done based on merit rather than longevity alone.
The law also makes clear that tenure should be earned and not given automatically. Under this law, teachers would earn tenure after five years of highly effective ratings.
HB 976 by Rep. Carter expands choices and empowers parents in four key ways:
First, this law gives parents more levers to affect change by allowing a school to become eligible for Recovery School District (RSD) intervention after three years of failing if at least 51 percent of parents at the school sign a petition to do so.
Second, this law creates three additional pathways to become a charter school and this legislation streamlines and improves the charter application process for all charter authorizers.
Third, this law gives students access to more courses regardless of zip code. Under current law, students are generally funded on a per pupil basis to attend one school full time. If the school they attend does not have the courses they need or want, the student doesn't have many options for accessing these courses. This law creates a new type of entity that can offer individual courses to students. All students at public and private schools have access to these courses, but only certain students are funded.
Fourth, this law expands access to the Scholarship Program to students in C, D, and F schools or who are entering Kindergarten statewide whose parents make up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty level.
SB 581 by Sen. Appel creates a coordinated early childhood system framework focused on Kindergarten readiness:
There are many full time and part time early childhood educational and health programs that receive a total of $1.4 billion in state and federal funds per year, plus an additional $150 million for Head Start. The system is regulatory and focused on inputs, making it difficult for early childhood providers--public and private-- to navigate. There is no measure of quality that gives parents actionable information.
Under this law, BESE would create a coordinated early childhood system by July 1, 2013 by doing four things:
Establishing a definition of Kindergarten readiness and setting performance targets for children ages 0-2 and academic standards for children ages 3-4 based on Kindergarten readiness and aligned to the Common Core Standards for K-12.
Creating a uniform assessment and accountability system for publicly funded programs that includes letter grades as clear actionable information for parents.
Coordinating with DCFS and DHH to align licensing standards for childcare priorities--specifically those receiving CCAP public funds -- and align the Tiered Quality Improvement Rating System with this new accountability system. This will streamline and reduce red tape for providers so that dollars flow more easily and the system is easier to navigate according to a set of aligned program standards.
Including Head Start programs, which would have to participate in this new system and improve the quality of their programs as a condition of their licensing.
CABL President Barry Erwin said, "CABL is extremely excited about the passage of this legislation. The reforms in Gov. Jindal's education package represent many of the types of policy changes CABL has promoted for a number of years. It's hard to overestimate the substance of these policies which will have a major impact on public education and benefit countless Louisiana school children for years to come."
LABI President Dan Juneau said, "LABI has worked for decades to improve public education, provide a quality teacher in every classroom, and expand parental and student choice in the delivery of education. With the passage of these bills, we will go a long way toward finally accomplishing those goals. We now have the framework to achieve success, and our state has already begun to experience the benefits associated with the new identity that we gained as a result of the passage of the education reform package: a student-centered, reform-oriented location that is ready and able to do business."
Blueprint Louisiana Chairman Jimmy Maurin said, "Blueprint Louisiana is supportive of the governor's efforts to improve all aspects of our educational system, from better operational control for superintendents and principals to improving teacher quality and student achievement," said Blueprint Louisiana Chairman Jimmy Maurin of Covington. "Evidence shows teachers are one of the most important factors in student achievement, and good teachers should have nothing to fear from evaluations that consider student performance and educational gains."
Pelican Institute President Kevin Kane said, "Although these two bills contain a number of important provisions, what they ultimately do is allow schools to hire the best teachers and parents to choose the best schools. These are goals that everyone should support and we are pleased that Governor Jindal was resolute in his commitment to improving schools and expanding opportunity."
Committee of 100 CEO Michael Olivier said, "The Committee of 100 for Economic Development Inc. congratulates the Governor and legislators making meaningful education reform legislation in Louisiana a reality."
Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops Executive Director Danny Loar said, "The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops looks forward to helping the Governor implement the Scholarship program statewide. We have had great success with it in New Orleans these past four years."
Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills said, "The Governor's Educational-choice package has been a long time coming in Louisiana. We are proud to stand with Governor as he signs this historic legislation. Louisiana Family Forum celebrates the right and responsibility of parents to direct the education of their children. Many parents have felt the anguish of being adrift on a sea of despair with limited choices, inequality of opportunity and inability to provide their children a hope. This reform is a lifeline to parents and children and rescues many from the sea of educational despair. I believe history will remember what we do here today- finally empowering parents to turn the tide and move our state forward in educating our most important resource, our children."
BAEO State Director Eric Lewis said, "Today sets the stage for generational changes for the Louisiana families we serve. We applaud Governor Jindal and Legislature for their leadership on this all important issue."
Louisiana Federation for Children Chairman Eddie Rispone said, "This is an extraordinary moment for Louisiana, and we commend Governor Jindal, Superintendent White, and the state legislators for their bold leadership to ensure families are provided with the quality educational options they have long awaited. Today marks the beginning of a bright future for our state, but, more importantly, the beginning of a brighter future for thousands of children who will now be given the opportunity to succeed through a high-quality education."
Stand for Children Louisiana Executive Director Rayne Martin said, "This legislation is unparalleled in terms of teacher and leader effectiveness. It will go far in empowering and valuing educators who shape our most precious resource, our children. We're excited that the state of Louisiana is sending a strong message that it values performance in the classroom and supports teachers in improving in their craft. Stand for Children looks forward to supporting the implementation by continuing to engage and inform educators, parents and the public at large on these landmark reforms."
Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools Executive Director Caroline Shirley Roemer said, "What a monumental day for Louisiana students and families. LAPCS is excited about the Governor and Legislature's forward-thinking, bold strategies for empowering principals, teachers and parents, which will go a long way towards building upon the successes we have already seen and catalyzing improvements both inside and outside the classroom. The more we can do to ensure autonomy for school leaders in their daily operations, while rewarding high performing teachers and providing high quality education options for parents, the faster we can reach the goal of a world class education for all Louisiana students."
BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp said, "These are gutsy reforms that will improve student achievement in the Baton Rouge area and across the state. BRAC was pleased to dedicate its resources to help in the bills' passage, and our business leaders applaud Governor Jindal, the Legislature, Superintendent White, the business community, and all of those who played a part in these reforms. This is a victory for children."
Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce Chairman Woody Schick and President Dick Bremer said, "The Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce is pleased to have been a part of the team in support of K-12 educational reform in Louisiana. We applaud the Governor's leadership and the courage of those legislators who voted to provide incentives for teachers who excel in the classroom and to give parents a choice for quality schools! We're moving in the right direction! We thank you!"
GNO Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht said, "GNO, Inc. is pleased by the passage of this legislation," said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. "We believe such critical reforms are necessary and will go a long way toward improving public education in Louisiana, and ultimately lead to a better prepared workforce for our region and state."
Lafayette Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rob Guidry said, "The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce is pleased to contribute to the successful effort to reform public education. There is much remaining to do, but the foundation is laid."
Education's Next Horizon CEO John Warner Smith said, "Needless to say, we are pleased that the Governor's education reform package passed. We commend him, the Legislature, BESE, and departmental leaders for putting children first. We now stand ready to support efforts that will ensure effective implementation of these measures at the state, district, and classroom levels."
BESE Member Jim Garvey said, "These two bills will go a long way towards improving the education system in Louisiana. HB 974 will help us identify those teachers who need extra help in perfecting their profession, and it will allow us to focus more resources on the hard to fill teaching positions in areas such as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes. HB 976 will give parents more choices in finding the education solutions that best fit the needs of their children. With the help of these bills, Louisiana can look forward to reclaiming its recognition as one of the best places to live, and one of the best places to run a business in the United States."
FreedomWorks Campaign Coordinate David J. Spielman said, "Today, the tireless weeks of ground work put in by our dedicated activists in Louisiana finally paid off. Governor Jindal made this reform package his number one priority this year, and we provided the constituent ground-support necessary to turn these bills into law. This is a great day for parents and families, who can finally begin to take back control over their children's educational futures."
Superintendent of Rapides Parish Schools Gary Jones said, "With the signing of this bill, we can move closer to the critical goal of having great teachers and school leaders in every classroom. This bill address what we all know is the most important factor for student success -- effective educators. It provides us with the necessary tools to identify and keep effective teachers and principals, and it recognizes and rewards teachers who are making a profound impact on our students. I applaud Gov. Jindal and the state Legislature for putting the needs of our children first with this important legislation."
Mentorship Academy in Baton Rouge Executive Director Dr. Brian Dixon said, "To help ensure a high quality education for all students, we need to provide multiple options. This legislation is a major step forward for the students of Louisiana."
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans Founder and Chairman Ruthie Frierson said, "Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans is in full support of Governor Jindal's bold education reform. These laws will have far reaching, positive impact on Louisiana's children, creating economic opportunity for our citizens and growth for our great state."