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LFT President: Reclaim the Promise!

Take back our schools!
A message from LFT President Steve Monaghan

 

Dear Colleague,

For the past few years, the debate about education has been a one-way conversation, with a lot of negative comments and misguided policies aimed at teachers and our schools. The voices of educators were largely ignored.

Teachers’ careers have been upended by a chaotic series of top down “reforms.” The Department of Education, more often known as Louisiana Believes, has made teacher evaluations a moving  target, changing scores and criteria so often that no one seems really sure what the rules are.

Between 1998 and 2011, just two testing companies, Data Recognition and Pacific Metrics, have reaped more than $280 million from Louisiana taxpayers, making certain that virtually every child has been tested and tested and tested again.

In 2014-15, it’s farewell LEAP, iLEAP, and End of Course and hello to the new “rigor” of Common Core and PARCC assessments. Tens of millions of new dollars will be spent for these new tests, which many fear will just continue the corporatization of public education.

We believe that our concerns are rational and justified. We submit that the history of No Child Left Behind, perhaps nobly conceived, will be remembered more as tool used to label and dismantle public education than to enhance student achievement.

Our public schools have been labeled with letter grades that all too often dismiss the hard work by teachers and students, while decision-makers have funneled tax dollars to schools exempt from high stakes testing and pejorative labels.

The hasty imposition of Common Core standards threatens to put more schools at risk of being seized by the state. That can happen even though most schools have improved dramatically because of the hard work by teachers in the classroom.

Public education has been seen as a vineyard ripe for the picking. From vouchers to “course choice,” taxpayer dollars have been redirected to the pockets of profiteers.

There are some hopeful signs for the future. LFT won an important case in the State Supreme Court, proving that money dedicated to public education cannot be diverted to non-public schools. Another lawsuit is pending that challenges the way teacher evaluations are used to determine salaries, tenure and employment decisions.

We also won some significant battles in the 2013 legislative session, and there are signs that the tide against public education is turning. We still have to convince elected leaders that public education is the best choice for educating our children and that the overwhelming majority of parents stand with us in support of public education.

In fact, a scientific poll, recently commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers, clearly illustrated that parents do not support the “silver bullet” political misadventures that have been forced upon our profession, our schools, and our communities.

That’s why we are asking you to visit the LFT Web site at and click on “Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education.”

Our public schools represent our nation’s commitment to helping all children dream their dreams and achieve them. A high-quality public education for all children is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy, a moral imperative and a fundamental civil right, without which none of our other rights can be fully realized.

It’s time to reclaim the promise of public education to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed.

Reclaiming the promise is about fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning.

Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that teachers are well-prepared, are supported and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.

Reclaiming the promise is about making sure our children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and the sciences.

Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that children have access to wraparound services to meet their emotional, social and health needs.

The promise is under attack by those who demand and pursue austerity, polarization, privatization and de-professionalization.

By uniting our voices with parents and the community, we can reclaim the promise.

Sincerely yours,
Steve Monaghan