In an address to Louisiana business leaders today, Governor Bobby Jindal announced that he is pursuing legislation in the upcoming legislative session that will empower businesses to partner with new charter schools.
Modeled after Florida's "charter schools-in-the-workplace" initiative, this legislation will enable businesses to provide a facility or land to a charter school--as well as partner with a school on career counseling, technical education, and mentoring--in exchange for a minority percentage of the school's board seats and preferred enrollment for children of company employees. Governor Jindal made the announcement today at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry's (LABI) Annual Meeting.
Governor Jindal said, "This new business-charter school partnership legislation will help feed the pipeline of qualified workers for Louisiana businesses while creating important career opportunities for students. Ensuring that every Louisiana student has a great education is the critical foundation to helping our children pursue the career of their dreams."
The Governor said that his administration has already started reaching out to Louisiana companies, including CenturyLink in Monroe, for feedback on the new initiative.
CenturyLink CEO and President Glen Post said, "This is a great innovation for expanding educational opportunities for our children and helping businesses succeed here in Louisiana. Companies like CenturyLink should benefit as programs such as this one help create a more qualified workforce in the future."
Florida originally enabled their businesses to partner with community organizations and educational providers to open charter schools that would not only meet the educational needs of businesses' employees, but also the educational needs of their communities, several years ago. The Florida initiative resulted in five unique partnerships, as of today, and similar partnerships are now underway in 14 other states.
Under the new business-charter school legislation in Louisiana, fifty percent of a school's enrollment capacity would be reserved for children of the partnering businesses, with a lottery held if the number of eligible children exceeds the number of available seats. The remaining fifty percent of seats would be reserved for students who reside in the geographical area where the school is located.
Businesses will be able to partner with schools in additional ways, at the schools' discretion, to tailor the mission of the schools to the mission of the business. For example, a school might choose to offer a specialized curriculum or focus on information technology, telecommunications, shipbuilding, automotive technology, or other fields consistent with the company's regional workforce needs. Schools would also have access to professionals who can assist students with career exploration, provide job shadowing and internship opportunities, and even participate in customized training programs. The school might also choose to involve the partnering business in its leadership.
The Governor also stressed that while the state has made key achievements in K-12 education over the last three years, there is still much more work to do to ensure all students graduate, reach high achievement levels and no student is trapped in a failing school. The Governor said the state's current 67 percent graduation rate is unacceptable and must be improved.
Education accomplishments since the beginning of the Jindal administration include:
* Protecting the MFP K-12 funding formula from cuts during tough budget cycles. The protection of the MFP formula marks an upward trend from FY 05 to FY 11, as funding has increased by more than $700 million, even as the student population decreased by around 38,000 students.
* Improving poor graduation rates by working to replace the GED Options program, which had a dismal 8 percent success rate, with the JAG program, which has a 96 percent success rate and has been nationally recognized for its achievements.
* Providing additional flexibilities to help grow the number of charter schools from 65 to more than 90 schools in the last few years, now serving more than 10,000 additional students. A total of 100 charters will open next fall.
* Reducing the number of "unacceptable" schools. From 2009 to 2010 alone, the number of "unacceptable" schools decreased by 22 percent -- from 55 schools to 43 schools in just one year. The number has decreased by 75 percent over five years.