Content tagged “Education”

LSU, most of nation's top-tier college football programs fight shrinking student attendance

Average student attendance at college football games is down 7.1% since 2009, according to a new analysis by The Wall Street Journal of stadium turnstile records from about 50 public colleges with top-division football teams, including LSU. The decline was 5.6% at colleges in the five richest conferences. The decrease even at schools with entrenched football traditions and national championships stands in contrast to college football's overall popularity. The growing number of empty seats in student sections across the U.S. is a sign of soaring ticket prices, more lopsided games and fewer matchups against longtime rivals—not to mention the proliferation of televised games that make it easier than ever for students to keep tailgating long after kickoff. Colleges and athletic conferences are scrambling to lure students back, but it is a daunting challenge. "There are so many other things they can do that maybe going to the game that day isn't the most important thing on...

Pro-voucher group seeks to undo order in La. case

A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program. The Associated Press reports U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ordered the reports in April. He ruled that they are needed to make sure Louisiana complies with a 1975 desegregation order about state money going to private schools. The order requires that the state provide federal officials with lists of voucher applicants, information on schools in the voucher program, and enrollment and racial breakdowns on public schools and private schools in the voucher program. A group of voucher families, represented by the conservative Goldwater Institute, say the ruling resulted from a Justice Department effort to "stifle" the voucher program. Also involved in the appeal is the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, a pro-voucher group. State officials have said the ruling won't impede...

'Business Report': Are short stints by EBR schools superintendents hurting classroom outcomes?

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in 2012 unanimously hired Bernard Taylor to be the system's next superintendent. In 2014 the board voted 10-1 not to extend his contract, which means Taylor, like his predecessor, John Dilworth, likely won't serve more than three years. Dennis Dearden, associate executive director with the American Association of School Administrators tells Business Report that a brief term at the top is pretty much the norm for an urban schools leader. He says the average tenure at an urban district is about 2.5 or 2.6 years, compared to roughly six years at smaller districts. But just because a brief tenure is typical doesn't mean it isn't worrisome, Dearden says. "There's a definite correlation between superintendent tenure and student achievement," agrees Dana Bickmore, an assistant professor at the LSU School of Education. "It's a pretty direct line." Of course, correlation doesn't prove causation. And Bickmore says some research shows the...

Jindal suing feds over Common Core

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit this morning against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. The U.S. Department of Education has used a $4.3 billion grant program and federal policy waivers to encourage states to adopt uniform education standards and testing. Jindal says that "effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The legal challenge puts Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, at the forefront of a dispute between conservatives and President Barack Obama, bolstering the governor's profile on the issue as he's trying to court conservative voters nationwide. "The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal says in a statement. More than 40 states,...

LSU president continues to push for national college scorecard

LSU President F. King Alexander is among higher education leaders in the country who are backing President Barack Obama's proposed scorecard for U.S. colleges in the hope it will steer more federal aid to them and away from underperforming for-profit institutions. "Student aid won't be around in 10 years if we don't do something to distinguish the good guys from bad guys," Alexander tells Bloomberg. While a cross-section of college presidents have voiced opposition to the concept, leaders of some public schools are emerging as advocates. They say the measure will showcase the value they offer while stemming the distribution of federal loans and grants to so-called diploma mills that saddle students with debt and poor job prospects. The Education Department is preparing to release a draft ratings plan this year and a final version next year that could bolster better-performing public colleges that charge less than their private counterparts. Federal officials say the scorecard will...

Editor: Lessons from the Roberts scandal

Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel says there are several lessons to take away from the recent scandal involving Charlie Roberts, the longtime president and CEO of the LSU Alumni Association who resigned earlier this month after being hit with a salacious lawsuit by a former employee/ex-girlfriend. "Among them: Unchecked power is never a good thing," writes Riegel in her latest column. "Neither is dating your employee. Organizations need regular turnover at the top. Discretion is still the better part of valor, and neither that—nor wisdom—necessarily comes with age." Riegel says that in resigning, Roberts, 78, did the only thing that he could under the circumstances. "His ex-girlfriend Kay Heath, 63, alleges in her suit that he and the association owe her $21,000 in back payments—money she says she was promised if she would quit her job as a contract employee at the association once her relationship with Roberts began to raise eyebrows." Even though...

Feasibility study being conducted on school focused on low-income youth

New Schools for Baton Rouge, a nonprofit seeking to establish schools in low-income areas of the city, is hoping to bring in a Catholic organization that partners with local businesses in the cities it operates. The 28 schools in the Cristo Rey Network across the country pair students with businesses for hands-on job experience. Money that the students earn at those jobs goes toward their tuition. Because Cristo Rey hopes also to draw funding from the state's voucher program, the work-study system could cut down on costs to the state. New Schools CEO Chris Meyer says his organization is conducting a feasibility study to look into, among other factors, what businesses may be interested in such a partnership. From 6 to 7 p.m. tonight, a reception and informational meeting will be held at the Catholic Life Center, 1800 South Acadian Thruway, to kick off the feasibility study. Meyer says...

ACT analysis: Scores same or slightly lower in La.

Average composite ACT scores for students in Louisiana were the same or slightly down from 2013 to 2014, depending on the way they were calculated, state officials announced this morning, while also noting that more students are taking the college preparatory test and more are scoring well enough to qualify for state TOPS awards. Louisiana began requiring all public high school students to take the ACT test last year, regardless of whether they planned to attend college. ACT scores are now used in figuring accountability ratings for schools and school districts. The education department notes in its analysis that students can take the test more than once. When students' best scores are considered, the state average score is 19.1, unchanged from 2013; when the "most recent" scores are averaged, the average...

News alert: Judge rules against Jindal administration in Common Core suit

A state judge ruled late today in favor of a group of teachers and parents who support the Common Core education standards and want Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the standards invalidated. 19th Judicial District Court Judge Todd Hernandez granted the plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction against the Jindal administration, one day after a lengthy hearing on the matter. Hernandez's ruling prohibits from going into effect an executive order signed by Jindal earlier this summer and opposed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Jindal's order partially suspends the education department's contract with the company that provides testing based on the Common Core standards. In his ruling, Hernandez says, "The Louisiana Constitution is clear: … BESE is a constitutionally created entity with a mandate to supervise and control the public elementary, secondary and special schools in the state."

Stepping down

Embattled LSU Alumni Association head Charlie Roberts has resigned.

Lessons from a scandal

There are several lessons to take away from the recent scandal involving Charlie Roberts, the long-time president and CEO of the LSU Alumni Association who resigned earlier this month after being hit with a salacious lawsuit by a former employee/ex-girlfriend.


The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in 2012 unanimously hired Bernard Taylor to be the system's next superintendent. In 2014 the board voted 10-1 not to extend his contract, which means Taylor, like his predecessor, John Dilworth, likely won't serve more than three years.

LSU creating tech and cyber research center to pursue federal, commercial projects

The state and LSU are partnering to create a new technology and cyber research center at the state's flagship university that they hope will land at least $10 million in research contracts by the start of 2016. LSU President F. King Alexander and Gov. Bobby Jindal jointly announced the creation of the LSU Transformational Technology and Cyber Research Center today, saying the goal is for the center to have secured at least $30 million in contracts by July 1, 2017. The center will pursue major federal and commercial research projects in applied technology fields. Initially, it will be funded in part by the state and LSU in a challenge grant configuration by which the state will provide $1 and LSU $0.50 for every $10 in research funds the center attracts in its first three years. The LSU Board of Supervisors still needs to OK the center's creation and funding structure. The center is aiming to raise $34.5 million in funding over its first three years, with $3 million to come from the...

Judge hearing arguments in Common Core lawsuit today

A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards. District Judge Todd Hernandez is hearing arguments today in the preliminary injunction request. The hearing is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. in 19th Judicial District Court. The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. Seven parents and two teachers, along with a charter school organization, sued Jindal after he suspended contracts the education department planned to use to buy testing material aligned with Common Core. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education joined in suing Jindal. They allege that the governor violated constitutional provisions that establish authority over education policy in the state. Jindal's lawyer says the Republican governor exercised his statutory authority over state contracting and did nothing improper. In a...

News Alert: LSU Alumni Association dropped from lawsuit

The LSU Alumni Association has been dropped from a lawsuit filed earlier this month against the organization and its former president and CEO, Charlie Roberts, by a one-time employee and former girlfriend of Roberts. In a motion filed late today in 19th Judicial District Court, Kay Heath asks the court to dismiss her claims against the association, though the suit against Roberts will move forward. Heath had vowed in a public statement last week she would drop her suit against the association if it would disassociate itself from Roberts or pressure him to resign. Roberts submitted his resignation letter Wednesday. In her suit, Heath claims Roberts owes her $21,000—money that she was promised if she would resign from her position at the association after her relationship with Roberts began raising eyebrows. —Stephanie Riegel

BR among US metros with largest share of students attending private schools

Nationally, about 10% of students in grades kindergarten through 12 attend a private school. In Baton Rouge, private school attendance is nearly twice that—at 19.1%—which ranks it No. 4 nationally for private school attendance by percentage among the country's 100 largest metro areas. And according to a new analysis of enrollment figures by, a website of The Atlantic, New Orleans has the highest concentration of private school students in the U.S., at 25.1%. Honolulu is said to have the second-highest share at 20.7%, followed by San Francisco, at 19.9%. Among smaller U.S. metro areas, says Lafayette also stands out for its high share of students enrolled in private school, but a specific figure is not provided. The website notes the cost of private schools is high across the country, averaging nearly $11,000 per student per year, not counting discounts or scholarships. "This ranges from $7,000 for Catholic schools and $9,000 for other...

News Alert: Roberts resigns as LSU Alumni Association president and CEO

Charlie Roberts, the embattled head of the LSU Alumni Association, submitted a letter of resignation to the association's legal counsel this afternoon. The association immediately accepted the resignation, according to a statement from acting CEO Cliff Vannoy. Roberts had taken annual leave after a former employee filed suit against him personally and against the Alumni Association, a non-profit organization independent of LSU, alleging that he had reneged on an agreement to pay her a monthly stipend to compensate her after she was let go by Roberts. The employee, Kay Heath, alleged that she and Roberts had maintained a long-term sexual affair. In the letter, Roberts maintains his innocence and says he is confident he will prevail in the lawsuit Heath has filed against him. “However, I cannot stand by and let my continued active employment be a magnet for her obvious determination to destroy the association,” reads the letter.

La. teachers get more support to teach Common Core standards

While legal battles continue in court over whether Common Core will remain the state's standards for reading, writing and math, the Department of Education is moving forward with a package to help teachers use it in their classrooms. As The Shreveport Times reports, Superintendent of Education John White and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer maintain that until they are forced to change, Common Core will remain in public schools. "As we enter the fifth year of our state's transition to higher expectations, it is essential that we continue to provide teachers with every resource we can, so that they can help their students reach new heights," says White, who announced today new training opportunities and new sample test questions to assist teachers. A Baton Rouge judge is considering whether Gov. Bobby Jindal abused his constitutional authority when he blocked the education department's effort to purchase test questions aligned with Common Core.

Judge to rule on Common Core suit involving Jindal

Attorneys for Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration claim that the parents, teachers and charter school operator who filed suit against the governor for blocking state testing of Common Core standards have no authority to do so, Gannett Louisiana reports. But just in case 19th Judicial District Judge Todd Hernandez rules against the governor's position, his attorneys argued in court today that Jindal, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and two of her employees cannot be forced to testify in court or give depositions prior to a court hearing. "They cannot take testimony from a sitting governor," argued Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal's attorney hired to defend him in the case. He says state law makes clear that, "You can't depose a governor … Gov. Jindal is not personally a defendant. He is a defendant in his official capacity." Stephen Kupperman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in court today that Jindal "does raise the specter of privilege," arguing that his...

First hearing today on Common Core suit against Jindal

The politically-heated dispute over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards is scheduled for its first hearing before a state district judge. Today's hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., involves a lawsuit filed by parents and teachers who support Common Core and accuse the governor of violating the Louisiana Constitution in his actions against the multi-state standards. Jindal, who opposes Common Core, is asking Judge Todd Hernandez to dismiss much of the lawsuit. His lawyer also wants the judge to forbid depositions of the governor, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and other administration officials. Most members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education support Common Core, and the board has joined the lawsuit against Jindal. The lawsuit claims the governor overstepped his authority in suspending testing contracts to stop the...

NAACP lawsuit challenges EBR school board change

Members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board are keeping mum about a suit filed Thursday against them by the local chapter of the NAACP challenging the board's July decision to shrink the number of seats on the board from 11 to nine. The suit asks the court to immediately block the reapportionment from going into effect and also seeks a permanent injunction against the measure, arguing that it violates numerous state laws. The suit was not unexpected. "We did everything that we could to keep them from doing this because they knew at the time it was not in compliance with Louisiana law, but they did it anyway," says Alfreda Bester, attorney for the NAACP Louisiana state conference. "The outcry was just overwhelmingly opposed to it but they, for whatever reason, elected to move forward, and we told them if they did we would be forced to file this suit." Domoine Rutledge, an attorney for the EBR school system, says he cannot comment on the matter because the board has yet to be...

LSU and alumni association working jointly on inquiry into lawsuit allegations

In a statement issued earlier today, LSU administration officials announced that Cliff Vannoy, chief operating officer of the LSU Alumni Association, will serve as the association's acting CEO while President and CEO Charlie Roberts is on annual leave. Roberts announced this morning he would take leave so as not to be a distraction to the university while a lawsuit filed earlier this week against him and the association makes it way through the court system. The suit, filed by former association employee Kay Heath, alleges that Roberts and the association owe her money as part of a deal they made with her to end her employment following a long-term sexual relationship with Roberts. In its statement, LSU seeks to underscore the seriousness with which the administration is taking the allegations, saying the university has taken "an immediate inquiry in cooperation with the Alumni...

Legislators to explore Common Core alternatives on Oklahoma trip

A delegation of six Louisiana state representatives will travel to Oklahoma on Aug. 22 to meet with legislators and explore options for replacing Common Core with educational standards that are state-controlled. In June, Oklahoma became the third state to withdraw from Common Core. The delegation will meet with Oklahoma legislators and grassroots education leaders who authored and passed the legislation to reassert state control over standards and assessments, according to a statement released by the Louisiana legislators involved. The delegation will be meeting with, among others, the authors of HB 3399, which repealed Oklahoma's incorporation of Common Core and directed the state to develop new academic standards. The bill passed both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. The Louisiana legislators will integrate their findings from Oklahoma into their ongoing efforts to craft solutions for replacing Common Core in Louisiana,...

Embattled LSU Alumni Association leader takes leave

Officials with LSU and with the university's alumni association are expected to release a joint statement later today regarding the association's embattled president and CEO, Charlie Roberts, who has taken annual leave from his position in the wake of a lawsuit and alleged sex scandal. Roberts filed for leave this morning, just one day after his attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, said he would not be resigning from the position he has held for decades. Today, Pierson says Roberts decided to take leave after recognizing the lawsuit would be a distraction for the university. Alumni Association Board Chairman Dr. Fred Rew also says the decision to take leave was Roberts' choice. "He requested this and I accepted it," Rew says. "I am in support of it." But pressure was clearly mounting on Roberts to step down. In a previous conversation late Thursday, Rew said the association was prepared to...

News alert: Roberts taking leave

LSU Alumni Association President and CEO Charlie Roberts is taking annual leave from the position he has held for decades. The move comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed earlier this week against Roberts and the association by a former employee over money she claims she is owed as part of an arrangement to end her employment following a long-term sexual relationship with Roberts. Roberts submitted paperwork to the association earlier this morning, according to his attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, who says the decision to take annual leave was his alone. "He is taking leave so we can defend this lawsuit and get our ducks in a row," Pierson says. "He felt this would become a distraction at the university, and he didn't want that to happen." Read more in Daily Report AM. —Stephanie Riegel

LSU prez: Obama higher education scorecard would end era of misleading prospective students

In a podcast with the London weekly magazine Times Higher Education, LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander praises President Barack Obama's proposal to create a scorecard to rate colleges on graduation rates, affordability and graduate earnings, saying it will bring an end to the practice of mis-selling the benefits of higher education to students and parents. Alexander says that some institutions fear the new ratings system because they have been misleading prospective students and charging tuition fees that are too high. "The era of universities saying 'trust us, we're worth it', is over," he says. "I hear concern from my colleagues at many institutions that really do not want to provide this information to parents, because they are concerned they have overcharged." But given the cost of higher education in the U.S., Alexander says, it is right that such information be shared. "[LSU is] saying look at what our graduates can do, look at what they are doing," he says.

Jindal amends Common Core suit, arguing PARCC violates federal law

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed an amended petition today asking a judge to prohibit state education leaders from using testing material tied to the Common Core standards in Louisiana's public schools. Jindal's lawsuit, originally filed July 29, is now seeking an injunction that would keep the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education from administering any standardized tests developed through the testing consortium aligned with Common Core known as PARCC. The injunction request was filed in state district court. Jindal's new argument is that the testing consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, “is the implementation platform for a carefully orchestrated federal scheme to supervise, direct and control educational curriculum, programs of instruction and instructional materials in direct violation of federal law. And the scheme is being perpetrated on the pretext of higher standards promised by Common...

Former employee sues LSU Alumni Association over payoff arrangement for sexual affair

Kay Heath, a former volunteer and contract employee of the LSU Alumni Association, is suing the association and Charlie Roberts, its president and CEO, over money she claims she is owed as part of an arrangement to end her employment following a long-term sexual relationship with Roberts. The alumni association is an independent, nonprofit organization with close ties to the university but operates as a separate agency, and LSU is not named as a defendant. Heath claims Roberts offered her a job at the alumni association to "entice" her to continue a sexual relationship that she and Roberts started while she was still married. The suit alleges Roberts told Heath in April 2012 he had been advised by "certain members of the Association Board" that the relationship was illicit and one of them would have to resign. Roberts told Heath she should be the one to go, the suit alleges. Heath claims that at Roberts' direction, he or the alumni association paid her approximately $83,200 between...

LSU named 'best value' college by 'Forbes'

LSU is among the top "best value" colleges in the nation, according to a new annual ranking issued by Forbes. By looking at a school's quality score—calculated for Forbes' overall annual rankings—divided by the school's published in-state tuition and fees, the magazine identified 25 best value schools—top colleges and universities that deliver the goods without picking your pocket. With an overall rank of 190 out of 650 and an in-state tuition of $7,873, LSU ranked 23rd on the best value list and was accompanied by several other schools in the south, including the University of Florida (9th), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (10th), New College of Florida (12th), Florida State University (13th), the University of Texas at Austin (19th), Texas A&M University (22nd) and North Carolina State University (25th). See the complete...

White says small overpayments found in voucher program have been recouped

Auditors looking at state payments to private schools through Louisiana's $35 million voucher program found about $52,000 in overpayments during the last school year, The Associated Press reports. Education Superintendent John White says the money has been recouped from the schools, by backing the dollars out of the last round of tuition payments. White praised the audit findings in a prepared release, saying they show the program is humming along with no significant problems. "Once again, scholarship schools demonstrated compliance with state laws on the findings in the audits," White says. "The Department worked with legislators to enhance accounting procedures of the non-public schools participating in the Scholarship Program to ensure funding was distinguishable. All funding from audit findings have been recouped." He...

Vitter describes his strong support for Common Core

Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter offered definitive support today for the Common Core education standards, a position that puts him at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal but that could bolster business community backing as the senator fundraises for the 2015 governor's race. "I support the strong standards Louisiana now has in place and think Gov. Jindal's attempt to start from scratch right before the new school year is very disruptive," the senator says in a statement to The Associated Press. Common Core standards are grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math, adopted by more than 40 states. Vitter's statement follows his description of the standards as "very strong, significant, positive standards" in an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, set to air Sunday. The comments were the first time Vitter has taken a position on the standards. His backing of Common Core also comes as Jindal is taking steps to undermine the standards and remove them...

More La. high school students earning college credits

The number of college credits Louisiana high school students earned this school year through Advanced Placement exams was nearly 25% higher than the previous year, the Louisiana Department of Education announced today. That means more than 1,250 additional college credits were earned by students, compared to 2013, which pushed total credits earned to an all-time high, the department says. Students scored high enough on AP exams to earn 6,410 college credits in 2014, compared to 5,144 in 2013 and 4,112 in 2012. The data released today also show more high school students are taking AP courses and exams, with 28,009 course enrollments in 2014, compared to 23,485 enrollments in 2013. The department says studies show that students who take AP courses and exams are better prepared for college-level courses, more likely to graduate college within four to five years and are more competitive in qualifying for scholarships. The department has

Hearing dates set in Common Core lawsuits

Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools. The Associated Press reports Judge Tim Kelley will hear arguments Aug. 15 in a lawsuit filed by 17 state lawmakers who are seeking an immediate suspension of the multi-state English and math standards in schools. The lawsuit alleges the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the education department did not follow state law to enact Common Core. On Aug. 18, Judge Todd Hernandez will consider arguments in a separate lawsuit filed by parents and teachers who have sued Gov. Bobby Jindal. Their lawsuit alleges Jindal violated the Louisiana Constitution by issuing a series of executive orders aimed at undermining Common Core. BESE on Tuesday voted to join in the effort against the governor, who in turn filed his own lawsuit in an attempt to...

LSU to host its first-ever hackathon next month

For the first time in the university's history, LSU will host a 24-hour hackathon event. To be held on campus Aug. 30-31, GeauxHack was created by a group of undergraduates. "We wanted to organize a student hackathon here because unlike competitive programming competitions, hackathons are more product oriented," event organizer Howard Wang tells Silicon Bayou. "Being students ourselves, we feel that hackathons help turn computer science students into developers." GeauxHack is expecting at least 150 people to register for the event, which is free. All currently enrolled college or university students are eligible to compete, as well as some high school students on a case-by-case basis. GeauxHack is not only the first hackathon for LSU, it's the first such event to take place in Louisiana that is being sanctioned by Major League Hacking, which powers the official student...

BESE to join Common Core suit against Jindal; governor files his own suit

Shortly after Louisiana's state school board voted this afternoon to join a lawsuit filed to challenge Gov. Bobby Jindal's efforts to block implementation of the Common Core education standards, the Jindal administration announced the governor has filed his own lawsuit to block the use of a test affiliated with the controversial education standards. Jindal opposes the multi-state standards, while Education Superintendent John White and most members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education continue to support them. The board voted 6-4 at a special meeting in Baton Rouge today to join the suit filed on behalf of several parents, educators and charter school managers in the state. That suit was one of two filed over Common Core last week; another came from lawmakers who are also seeking to block implementation. The lawsuit BESE is joining accuses Jindal of illegally meddling...

BESE sets another special meeting to discuss possible Common Core lawsuit

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday will hold its second special meeting this month to discuss a possible lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over the ongoing Common Core controversy. The meeting will take place at 11 a.m. in the Louisiana Purchase Room of the Claiborne Building, 1201 N. 3rd St. In a brief news release issued today, BESE says it will "receive updates and discuss possible additional actions related to standardized testing for the 2014-15 school year" at the special meeting. At a special meeting on July 1, BESE authorized hiring special legal counsel, without charge, to consider a legal challenge of the Jindal administration's suspension of contracts for tests associated with Common Core. BESE also directed Superintendent of Education John White to try to reach a compromise with the governor. The two have since met, but no compromise was reached. In the meantime,

Faculty and staff at LSU's flagship campus get pay raise second year in a row

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander's announcement today that faculty and staff at the flagship campus will get a 3% merit raise in the coming 2014-15 academic year is getting high marks from those inside and outside the university. "This is really good news," says Barry Erwin, president of the Council for A Better Louisiana. "After so long, with universities feeling beat up, morale has been very low at LSU in particular. This will certainly help with morale and retention." Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope cautions that LSU still won't be as competitive as it needs to be on faculty salaries, even with the raise. But he says it's another good step that builds on the momentum created by last year's pay bump, which was a 4% merit increase. "We had already fallen further behind in terms of rewards and compensation than would be made up by this pair of raises," Cope says. "But it is now absolutely clear that the first raise was not a fluke." He adds that he hopes and expects...

CABL says Common Core saga represents "disturbing" use of gubernatorial power

In commentary released today by Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, residents of Louisiana are urged to understand that the Common Core debate has gone far beyond a difference of opinion on how Louisiana's children should be educated and has "morphed into a new debate that should prompt everyone who believes in some semblance of the democratic process to raise serious questions about how state government is supposed to work." The real question, CABL says, is "do we want a governor—any governor—to wield authority in such a way that it usurps the processes on which most people believe our country was founded." CABL acknowledges that Gov. Bobby Jindal is well within his rights to change his mind on the subject of academic standards, "but it is not right to then seek to impose that will on the entire state, despite the overwhelming votes of the constitutionally created Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Legislature to the contrary."

News alert: Faculty and staff at LSU's flagship campus get 3% pay raise; second in a year

In a letter to faculty and staff at LSU's main campus, the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and the LSU AgCenter, President and Chancellor F. King Alexander announced this afternoon that they will receive an average 3% merit pay increase for the 2014-15 academic year. "After having one of our strongest legislative sessions in many years and what appears to be another enrollment boost this fall, we felt that it is imperative to recognize your hard work and dedication while continuing to build on the momentum we created with last year's 4% merit increase," the letter says. That previous increase was announced July 26, 2013, just under a year to the day from the current pay raise. Alexander says the raises, along with pension reform measures approved during the latest legislative session, help LSU be more competitive nationally in recruiting and retaining faculty and staff. "Please know that we greatly appreciate your efforts and dedication to LSU," King told employees. Read the full story...

Double up on tax exemptions for school supplies during state sales tax holiday, LDR says

Many back-to-school expenses are eligible for state income tax deductions, according to a release by the Louisiana Department of Revenue. The three income tax breaks under Louisiana School Tuition and Expense Deductions include deductions for elementary and secondary school tuition, public school uniforms, textbooks and school supplies required by schools, and home-school expenses. In addition to these deductions—for which year-round school expenses qualify—school supply purchases during the state's annual sales tax holiday will also benefit from a state sales tax exemption. The tax holiday will be Aug. 1 and 2, when most retail purchases are exempt from the 4% state sales tax. Read the LDR's full release.

BESE effort to hire lawyer draws questions from Jindal administration

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration says it needs further details before deciding whether to sign off on the state school board's plan to hire a law firm that would pursue a possible lawsuit against the governor. As The Associated Press reports, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Jindal for his efforts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, whose office reviews state agency contracts, requested more information today from BESE about its contract with a law firm that has agreed to represent the education board for free. In a letter sent to Education Superintendent John White, BESE Executive Director Heather Cope and BESE President Chas Roemer, Nichols says that while her agency "encourages BESE in its efforts to follow the law and comply with procurement code, there are some concerns that must be addressed before the...

Jindal outlines his reasons for fighting Common Core

In his latest guest column, Gov. Bobby Jindal outlines why he's fighting against Common Core in a battle that has frayed the governor's relationship with Superintendent of Education John White, as well as the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education—and resulted this week in the filing of two lawsuits in as many days regarding the national education standards. "We believe parents and teachers are our best educators, not government bureaucrats," Jindal says in the column. "To use a football analogy, we think the best strategy on education reform is to hand the ball off to parents and teachers and empower them to improve education quality for our children." The governor cites rising graduation rates in the state, a reduction in the number of failing schools and

Why I fight for local control of education

People often ask, what do I think is the most important issue facing Louisiana? Or, if I could accomplish just one thing as Governor what would it be?

Lawsuit filed to stop Common Core use in La.

Seventeen state lawmakers are heading to court to try to stop Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools. Rep. Brett Geymann, a Republican who opposes the standards, tells The Associated Press the lawsuit was filed today. He says the state education board didn't follow Louisiana's administrative procedures law for rolling out new standards in classrooms. The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter, now opposes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education. But he and other Common Core critics have been unable to persuade BESE to change course. Lawmakers also upheld use of the standards.

Supporters of smaller school board push back against opposition

A smaller East Baton Rouge Parish School Board could be more efficient and effective with less discord, says Baton Rouge Area Chamber Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness Michael DiResto, citing research from the Georgia-based Commission for School Board Excellence, the Council for the Great City Schools in Washington, D.C., the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University and other sources. Large school systems nationally tend to have boards with seven to nine members, he says, compared to EBR's 11. DiResto says he wouldn't expect running for school board to become significantly more expensive. The Parish Executive Committee of the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish voted 13-1 on Sunday to oppose the reduction. Party chairman Woody Jenkins issued a statement saying the move "would allow BRAC to pour money into the campaigns of its hand-picked candidates and attempt to control the school board," adding that BRAC is "pushing for the school board to reapportion...

New Common Core procurement process not an attempt to reopen broader policy debate, Jindal aide says

Gov. Bobby Jindal still wants Louisiana out of Common Core, says Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin. But beginning a new procurement process for student tests is not an opportunity for Jindal to make that policy argument once again, Plotkin says. "All [an RFP] does is ensure that the Department of Education is taking part in a competitive bid process that's in accordance with the law," he says. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters that the Procurement Support Team, an advisory group including representatives of the Attorney General's Office, the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Division of Administration and the House and Senate, must be brought in to help the Department of Education ensure that any new RFP complies with the law. When asked if the team would engage in a policy debate about the content of the tests, she answered, "Yes, that's the statutory framework for PST." The RFP sets out contractual terms and the state's rights,...

$300M in borrowing for La. community colleges approved

Louisiana's community colleges are about to start a construction boom. The State Bond Commission agreed Thursday to let the Louisiana Community and Technical College System borrow $300 million to pay for a list of 29 construction projects. State lawmakers approved a bill in 2013 that allows LCTCS to sidestep the traditional construction budget process for the projects, over the opposition of Louisiana's then-higher education commissioner. Supporters say the projects will beef up worker training to meet industry job demands and aid economic development efforts. The Associated Press reports the state will pay off the borrowing, done through bond sales to investors, with interest over 25 years. At least 12% of a project's cost has to be matched with private dollars before construction begins. Repayment costs for the state will be $22 million a year.

ULL shuts down after device found near campus

Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette were told to stay in their on-campus apartments and commuters were sent home this morning after police found a suspicious device in a park next to the campus. Lafayette police spokesman Kyle Soriez tells The Associated Press police received a phoned-in threat shortly after 5:35 a.m. that a bomb had been placed at the 33-acre Girard Park, a public recreational facility next to the sprawling, 1,500-acre university campus. Soriez says police and firefighters sent to the scene located what they believed was a suspicious device in a trash can. He says authorities had not yet attempted to remove the device. Soriez did not have a description of the device. State police say they are sending a hazardous materials team to the park. The area around the park, including the university, was blocked off as a precaution. The university has cancelled classes on the campus today and moved other scheduled events off campus. It has told staff and...

BESE offers up compromise on Common Core controversy

Leaders of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have proposed a compromise that could help bridge the growing divide between BESE and Gov. Bobby Jindal over Common Core educational standards and associated tests. BESE President Chas Roemer, Vice President Jim Garvey and Secretary-Treasurer Holly Boffy outlined their proposal in a four-page letter to Jindal earlier today. It calls for using a hybrid test during the upcoming school year that combines science and social studies questions from the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP test, as well as English and math questions from the tests used in the Common Core program. While the proposal may not satisfy the governor's stated goal of getting Louisiana out of the Common Core program, Roemer says his plan would allow educators to begin preparing for the upcoming school year, which starts in less than four weeks. He believes it will also satisfy the technical arguments the Jindal administration has tried to use...

BR business leaders outraged over Jindal's latest Common Core move

Business leaders are outraged by the latest salvo in the escalating battle between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Department of Education over the Common Core education standards. In a letter Wednesday, the Division of Administration restricted Superintendent of Education John White's authority to execute contracts. While he previously had the authority to execute contracts of up to $20,000, the letter says he now must get approval from the Office of Contractual Review for any contract exceeding $2,000. "I cannot be more disappointed in the leadership of the state," says Lane Grigsby, who opposed Jindal's efforts in the recent legislative session to dismantle Common Core. "They scream when Obama uses his executive authority to do what he wants, but no one stands up and tells our local little emperor he's got no clothes." Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says her...

News alert: Jindal restricts White's authority to approve contracts exceeding $2K

The Jindal administration has restricted Superintendent of Education John White's authority to execute contracts of more than $2,000. Previously, White had the authority to execute contracts of up to $20,000. White was notified of the decision by the Division of Administration in a letter dated Wednesday. "Any professional, personal, consulting or social services contracts exceeding $2,000 which your agency enters into from this date forward will require the approval of the Office of Contractual Review," reads the letter. The move comes amidst escalating tensions between White and the governor over the implementation of Common Core education standards in public schools. On Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to seek outside lawyers for guidance in the growing dispute over Jindal's efforts to undermine Common Core. Read Daily Report PM for more...

Education board still considering next move on Common Core

As of 3 p.m., Louisiana's education board was still considering its next move in a fight with Gov. Bobby Jindal over the Common Core education standards in public schools, which the governor once supported and now is trying to derail. Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education convened a special meeting around noon today to consider responses to Jindal's efforts, including whether to file a lawsuit. Among those addressing the board today were Education Superintendent John White and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols. The current fight centers on who has the authority to determine what standardized tests are used in the state's schools. The Republican governor has suspended a state contract to keep the education department from buying testing material for third-graders through eighth-graders that is tied to Common Core. Jindal says the department didn't follow state procurement law in choosing the standardized test it would use. BESE President Chas Roemer and...

Coalition including BRAC, LABI want BESE to sue Jindal over Common Core

Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is holding a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. today to consider responses to Gov. Bobby Jindal's efforts to derail the Common Core education standards in public schools. The education board is expected to discuss what happens next, including whether or not to file a lawsuit against Jindal over who has the authority to determine the standardized tests used in Louisiana's schools. A half hour before the meeting starts, a coalition of 40 business leaders, education advocacy organizations, parents and educators is slated to gather in Baton Rouge to publicly reaffirm their commitment to Common Core. In a prepared statement, the coalition—which includes local representatives such as the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Louisiana Association of Business & Industry and Cajun Industries, among others—says it believes Jindal "is challenging the legal authority of BESE to do its job" with his actions. The Republican governor has...

La. 'still moving forward' with Common Core standards, CABL president says

Barry Erwin, president and CEO of the Council for a Better Louisiana, says Gov. Bobby Jindal's executive order to pull Louisiana out of tests associated with the Common Core education standards ultimately will not keep Common Core standards out of Louisiana schools. Erwin, guest speaker at the Baton Rouge Press Club today, notes that Jindal's request to withdraw Louisiana from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers requires the signatures of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's president and the Superintendent of Education. "The bottom line is … BESE hasn't changed its mind and the superintendent hasn't changed his mind. [So] we're still moving forward," Erwin says, meaning schools will once again be teaching according to Common Core standards for the 2014-2015 school year. BESE meets on Tuesday to consider initiating litigation against...

Feud between White, Jindal over Common Core heats up

The simmering feud between Superintendent of Education John White and Gov. Bobby Jindal over Common Core appears to be nearing a boiling point. In an interview with Politico published Wednesday evening, White—who was hand-picked by Jindal to lead the department in January 2012 and has been a long-time ally—accuses the governor of violating the civil rights of poor children with his decision last week to renounce the Common Core academic standards. Jindal "breached a constitutional line and broke the law in suspending assessments in Louisiana for reasons that defy the civil rights of our state's citizens," White says. He goes on to tell Politico that "it is high irony that people who support the civil right to choose a school don't support the civil right to have all students take the same test," adding: "Lowering expectations comes in many forms." Jindal spokesman Mike Reed dismisses White's allegations and says it's the education department that's violating...

Flip-flop fallout

Gov. Bobby Jindal finally has completed his slow-motion flip-flop on Common Core, from supporter to skeptic to outright opponent.

'America's Educator' Ron Clark to deliver keynote at Dream Teachers event in BR

Known to many as "America's Educator," Ron Clark—the 2000 Disney American Teacher of the Year, New York Times best-selling author and founder of the Ron Clark Academy—will return to Baton Rouge on Saturday, July 12, to deliver the keynote address at the 8th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration. Clark also delivered the keynote address last year at the event, which includes a full day of professional development sessions for educators and culminates with the announcement of the 2015 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year winners. Dream Teachers, a nonprofit organization, annually partners with the Louisiana Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to honor the state's top teachers. Both of the Louisiana winners named at the symposium's awards gala will travel to Washington, D.C., later this year to compete at the national level. Among the 15 semifinalists vying for the principal of...

'Business Report': Local financial advisers offer tips for making college affordable

High school graduation season typically has parents bursting with pride over their children's achievements, but as Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, for many families this is also a time when the financial realities of the future begin to hit home. The cost of a college education at U.S. public, four-year institutions increased 40% during the past decade, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average cost for four years of higher education today ranges from about $67,000 at public to $135,000 at private institutions. Families with a high net worth and those who have prepared well for the day when a child embarks on a college education can focus during high school graduation on the opportunities that lie ahead. But for parents who delayed planning how they will pay a college tab, the cap and gown can produce anxiety. "The biggest mistake people make in saving for college is not starting early enough," says Jason Windham,...

Legal showdown looks likely over Common Core tests as Jindal, White dig in heels

It appears a legal battle is brewing in Louisiana over the state's participation in the Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Career tests affiliated with the controversial Common Core education standards. Both Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White today cited several legal reasons why the state must either pull out of the tests and standards—as Jindal contends—or continue implementing them, as White is pledging to do. After weeks of speculation on what he'd do about the PARCC tests and Common Core standards—which Jindal originally supported before reversing his stance in recent months—the governor called a press conference this afternoon to say he has taken steps to remove Louisiana from its participation in Common Core-affiliated tests. Among them, Jindal has sent a letter to the PARCC organization asking it to...

News alert: Jindal will try to pull La. out of Common Core test

After weeks of speculation, Gov. Bobby Jindal has officially announced that he will use his executive authority to try to pull Louisiana out of tests associated with the Common Core education standards. The governor held a news conference just after 1:10 p.m. today to make the announcement, saying Common Core is a "one-size-fits-all program that simply does not make sense for our state." Jindal, who once supported Common Core but has in recent weeks reversed his stance, equated the standards to an attempted federal takeover of education. Jindal said he sent a letter to the Partnership of Assessments for College and Career Readiness, which is an assessment associated with Common Core, asking the organization to immediately withdraw from Louisiana. Jindal also issued an executive order that instructs the Louisiana Department of Education to begin a competitive process to purchase a new assessment and called on the education department and the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education...

La. education officials working on student privacy changes

The state education board intends to steer up to $1 million to an education department effort to create a new identification system for public school students that doesn't use social security numbers. The Associated Press reports the use of unique student identification numbers is required under a recently passed bill seeking more protections for student data and limits on how the information can be used. A financial committee of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed without objection Tuesday to pay either $1 million or 75% of the total cost for the Louisiana Department of Education to develop the new system, whichever is less. The full board is expected to give final approval today. "This goes to the benefit of every single family and every single student of this state," says BESE President Chas Roemer. "I've never heard a single issue that was so unanimously supported." Parents had pressed for more protections of the information collected on students, raising...

Former La. education chief returning to state, opening consulting firm

Paul Pastorek, who left the Louisiana superintendent of education post in 2011 for a corporate job in Washington, D.C., has stepped down as chief administrative officer of Airbus Group Inc. and plans to work again in education policy. Pastorek tells The Associated Press that he left Airbus effective May 31, adding that he is returning to his hometown of New Orleans and has begun work to establish a company that will advise people working in the education field. As a member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in the 1990s, Pastorek was an architect of school accountability measures implemented under then-Gov. Mike Foster. Those included high-stakes testing with minimum standards for promotions and graduation, report cards for schools and, later, a protocol for state takeovers of failing schools. He became education superintendent in 2007. Pastorek says he decided to leave Airbus Group, the U.S. subsidiary of the European manufacturer of aircraft and defense...

Editor: What we learned from failed bills to reform EBR schools

Going into the 2014 legislative session, Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel says, it might have seemed that school reform legislation—supported by Rep. Steve Carter, a moderate Republican from south Baton Rouge; Rep. Dalton Honoré, a moderate Democrat from north Baton Rouge; and Sen. Bodi White, a conservative Republican from Central—stood at least a halfway decent shot at passing. "After all, SB 636 and the companion HB 1177 had something for everyone in East Baton Rouge Parish," Riegel writes in her latest column. "Principals would have gotten more power to make budgetary and hiring decisions that supporters said would make for better schools. Students would have gotten better run schools with more qualified teachers, which has been the experience of other school districts that have adopted such measures. Supporters of the St. George movement would have gotten a glimmer of hope that Baton Rouge is finally trying to reform its troubled public schools." But...

Feds say La. improving its use of Race to the Top grant award

Louisiana has made "great progress" in its use of more than $17 million in federal money for improving education in grades K-12, the U.S. Department of Education says in a report released this morning. As The Associated Press reports, The assessment of how Louisiana and other states are using "Race to the Top" grant money notes growth in proficiency in English Language Arts among students in grades three through eight and grade 10, and improvements in math proficiency in grades five and eight. The report highlights support teams formed by Louisiana to help districts implement Common Core academic standards and new teacher evaluation tools. It also outlines areas needing improvement. For instance, it says Louisiana reported that 31% of state schools offered one or more advanced placement courses for 2012-2013, short of its target of 45%. The report says the support teams put in place by the Louisiana Department of Education have served as liaisons between the department and local...

Publisher: EBR school system will never change from within

Shortly after the legislative session ended last week, BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp told Daily Report that since Senate Bill 636—which would have reformed EBR schools by empowering school principals with broader authority—had failed, the only remaining option is reform from within the school system. "While I applaud their effort, I have bad news," says Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. in his latest column. "Superintendent Bernard Taylor is arguing that they needn't bother, because he is trying to make many of the changes that these outside groups were pushing in the legislation. Beware of false prophets. That will never happen." McCollister says that after 25 years of being involved in education reform, he knows that "policy change benefiting children will never come from within the traditional government-run school system." That's because the system is the problem, McCollister says. "And do you really believe a mediocre monopoly with a...

Educators, business leaders poised for showdown with Jindal on Common Core

Educators and business leaders appear to be gearing up for a showdown with Gov. Bobby Jindal in the wake of public statements the governor has made in recent days saying he wants the state to pull out of the current Common Core standards. In a strongly worded statement issued this morning, the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL)—a nonpartisan, non-union teacher advocacy group—warns that if Jindal tries to remove Common Core in the middle of the summer many teachers will start the school year without a plan or a goal for their teaching. "These calculating politics have to stop," the letter says. "Teachers deserve leadership, not presidential politics." A+PEL Executive Director Keith Courville says his group is not taking a position on Common Core per se, but is urging educators and BESE to insist that the standards not be scrapped in the middle of the summer.

The failure of SB 636

SB 636 and the companion HB 1177 had something for everyone in East Baton Rouge Parish.

College is closer than you think

High school graduation season typically has parents bursting with pride over their children's achievements, but for many families this is also a time when the financial realities of the future begin to hit home.

LSU leads nation in chemistry Ph.D.'s for women, minorities

A new study published in the Journal of Chemical Education identifies LSU as the nation's leading university when it comes to granting doctorate degrees in chemistry to women and underrepresented minority students, LSU announced this morning. The study also highlights LSU's growth in conferring such degrees between 2005 and 2009, pointing to a 49% growth among women and an 11% increase among minorities. "This shows that LSU is not only recruiting students from all populations at both the undergraduate and graduate level, but strives to retain and see those students complete their degree programs," says LSU President F. King Alexander in a prepared statement. The study, "Trends in Ph.D. Productivity and Diversity in Top-50 U.S. Chemistry Departments: An Institutional Analysis," describes trends in chemistry Ph.D.'s granted over the past two decades at universities across the nation. LSU has been the top university in awarding chemistry Ph.D.'s to black students for more than 10...

Southern board to discuss interim chancellor for BR campus

The Southern University Board of Supervisors on Friday will discuss naming an interim chancellor for the flagship campus. The meeting agenda does not list any names of people the board is considering for the interim post, but a system spokesman says the board is expected to discuss at least one candidate and perhaps multiple candidates at the meeting before making an appointment. In two separate meetings in February, a sharply divided board declined to extend the contract of current Chancellor James Llorens. His contract runs out at the end of the month. Also Friday, the board will consider naming an interim band director, hear a summary of Southern's compliance with the state's GRAD Act accountability measures, and discuss "the value of being in the SWAC" for Southern's athletic teams, among other items. —Staff report

Knapp says reform must now come from within EBR school system

What's next for school reform in East Baton Rouge Parish? In the final weeks of the session, the Legislature shot down bills that would have decreased the size of the school board and increased the authority of school principals to make budgetary and hiring decisions. Both measures were crafted with the support of business and civic leaders after months of meetings and planning, and both reforms were heavily promoted by BRAC. "We're going to have conversations over the next few weeks with the supporters of the legislation who we relied on during the planning and preparation before the session," says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. "It will take a whole lot of others, too, coming to the table, but what is important to know is that this issue doesn't go away. Our sense of urgency doesn't go away." Knapp says since legislative reform didn't work, the only remaining option is reform within the school system. EBR Superintendent Bernard Taylor has argued he is trying to make many of the...

Lipsey on failed EBR schools bills: 'We're not quitting'

With sine die just a couple of hours away, business leaders in Baton Rouge are nursing wounds from one of the most disappointing losses of the three-month legislative session: the defeat of a bill intended to help reform East Baton Rouge Parish schools by empowering school principals with broader authority. But the 60-31 defeat last Wednesday of Senate Bill 636, which had a racially and politically diverse group of co-sponsors from both chambers, is only a temporary setback, says Richard Lipsey, president of the Committee for Progress, a group of business leaders that lobbied hard for the measure. "We're very disappointed the Legislature didn't support our bill," Lipsey says. "But this is not defeat. We have other programs that we think are as good or better, and we are going to bring them to the school board and to [EBR Superintendent] Bernard Taylor." The Committee for Progress has worked behind the scenes over the past few months, letting BRAC and local Republican Rep.

Publisher: Poor public schools continue to hinder population growth in EBR

According to recently released U.S. Census figures, Baton Rouge lost 580 people from 2012 to 2013, while the unincorporated area of the parish gained 940—a net gain of just 360 for the city-parish. In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister suggests a recalculation of the figures—by which changes due to births and deaths are discounted—would show a much larger drop in adult population. "This was happening in 2000, over a decade ago—and then, as now, good schools were the issue. Why have we not learned?" McCollister writes. "It baffles me that our community, business and local elected leaders have, for the most part, avoided tough decisions and left the schools issue up to our school boards, the unions and the numerous superintendents for many years." In short, McCollister says, the parish's poor public schools will continue to impede population growth until the school system is improved. That will require better leaders,...

Battle lines drawn as EBR schools overhaul bill up for final vote today

Supporters and opponents of a bill that would overhaul management of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System—and that some claim is also designed to deal a blow to the city of St. George incorporation movement—will likely be out in force at the Capitol this afternoon as the full House considers giving final approval to the measure. Senate Bill 636 by Sen. Bodi White, R-Central—which BRAC played a key role in developing—is set to be taken up after 1 p.m. today. If it's passed, the bill would head to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature. If it's amended on the House floor, it will head back to the full Senate for concurrence, at which point White could agree to the amendments and send the bill to the governor or reject them, sending it to a conference committee that would be tasked with hammering out a compromise. In the runup to today's vote, supporters and opponents have sent...

Grigsby and his lobbyists target EBR school board

While most voters won't start thinking about the fall campaigns and elections until after Labor Day, business executive and political activist Lane Grigsby is already knee-deep in school board elections. Specifically, Grigsby and the lobbyists who have gone to work with him in recent months—including former LABI executives Dan Juneau and Ginger Sawyer—are trying to help get reform candidates elected to school boards around the state, and they have the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board firmly in their crosshairs. "We're looking to get at least six new candidates on the board," says Grigsby, founder and chairman of Cajun Contractors. "We're especially looking to replace three members that we thought were good guys but turned out not to be. How stupid were we?" Grigsby declines to discuss which of the 11 members on the board he is targeting, but says it is important that voters elect true reform candidates—something that is easier said than done. "You need someone...

Schools still drive population growth

The new census figures were released, and The Advocate reported that from 2012 to 2013 our city lost 580 people and the unincorporated area of EBR gained 940.

Proposals being accepted for new LSU program aimed at bringing faculty inventions to market

The LSU system has begun accepting proposals from faculty members for the pilot phase of its new LSU LIFT2 program, which will provide grants of up to $50,000 to explore and validate the market potential of faculty inventions. Applications are due by June 20, with awards to be made in mid-July. The LSU Board of Supervisors approved launching the LIFT2 (Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer) Fund in late January, with initial grant funding coming from $2 million in funds generated by previously licensed LSU inventions. The board also approved allocating 5% of all future licensing income to sustain the fund, which is part of a broader attempt to improve technology transfer and commercialization for the system. The LIFT2 Fund initiative was among several proposed in a report by the President's Committee on Technology Transfer, convened by LSU President F. King Alexander.

LCTCS president says 20,000 additional graduates in key fields needed

In 2006, Louisiana's community and technical colleges awarded degrees and certificates to less than 5,000 graduates. This year, that number tops 25,000, says Monty Sullivan, who recently replaced Joe May as president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Roughly 9,200 of those 25,000 are graduating in what Sullivan refers to as "tier one" fields—which include both fields for which there is the highest demand and those which pay the highest wages. Still, as Sullivan told the Baton Rouge Press Club today, Louisiana needs approximately 20,000 additional annual graduates in those fields—specifically in construction crafts, industrial production, welding and electrical—to meet the workforce needs of the state's economic growth. House Bill 1033 by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles—

Tipton departing Teach For America; will help search for new south La. director

After seven years of serving as executive director of Teach For America's south Louisiana district, Baton Rouge-native and LSU alum Michael Tipton has announced that he will be leaving the nonprofit organization. However, Tipton says that he is not departing anytime soon, adding that he will be "deeply involved" in the search for his successor. "As for what is next for me, I'm looking forward to learning more about the exciting things happening throughout our community before deciding on the right next step," Tipton says in a statement sent to Daily Report. "Baton Rouge is and will continue to be home for me, and I look forward to finding a way to have a new impact in the years to come all while setting up Teach For America to continue to expand our impact in the months and years to come." Tipton says he will be assisting Teach For America as it and the regional board of directors conduct the search for his replacement, which will begin soon.

LSU 2014 class expected to be largest, most diverse in history

LSU officials say the 2014 graduating class is shaping up to be a record-breaker on a couple of fronts. Not only is the class projected to be the largest overall in the university's history, but it also will be the most diverse, with the greatest number of black, Hispanic and female students receiving degrees. There are 6,367 students expected to receive degrees, compared to the previous record high of 6,251 graduates in 2012. Among them, 570 black students will earn a diploma, up from the previous high of 516 in last year's class—or a 10.5% increase. "This year also saw our highest enrollment of African-American students ever," says LSU President F. King ALexander in a prepared statement. "Additionally, in our most recent graduation rate report, LSU's African-American graduation rates reached the highest level in our history—60%, nearly double the national average." The class also includes 240 Hispanic students, up from the previous high of 218 in 2012—a roughly...

Beer sales at major universities show mixed results regarding profits, public safety

Looking beyond the ongoing $87 million south end zone expansion at Tiger Stadium that's on schedule to be completed in August, LSU officials are considering a number of options for enhancing the experience for the more than 100,000 fans that will now be able to watch football games in person on Saturdays. As LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva told the Baton Rouge Press Club earlier this week, that could include larger, more comfortable seats, as well as expanded and improved restrooms, among other ideas. And then there's the possibility of beer sales inside the stadium. "I think at some point—I don't know if it will be five years from now, 10 years from now—but I think at some point, I think it's going to happen," Alleva told the Press Club when asked about the possibility. He added that "it's something that we have to study and look at in the future." LSU wouldn't be the...

Why I take a stand

When I accepted induction into the Business Report Hall of Fame recently, I took the occasion to reflect on the opportunity gap between myself, a child of privilege, and the thousands of young people—predominantly African-American—who will grow up sensing that because they live in a certain ZIP code, the doors of opportunity may never open for them.

Alleva says Tiger Stadium expansion going to be 'worth every penny'

LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva acknowledged today that the ongoing $87 million south end zone expansion at Tiger Stadium is a "huge investment," but he predicts "it's going to be worth every penny." And while the new seats at the very top of the addition—which will take total stadium capacity from 92,600 to a little over 100,000—will be reserved for visiting teams' fans, Alleva says they could also be made available as "very discounted" seats for LSU fans if opposing teams don't fill them. The expansion project is on schedule to be completed by late August, just in time for the first home game on Sept. 6, says Alleva—who was the guest speaker of the Baton Rouge Press Club today. Along with the expanded seating, the project includes two new high-definition video boards—with a total value of $3.4 million—in each corner of the south end zone to show replays on. Looking ahead to potential future improvements to the stadium, Alleva says he doubts further...

LSU flagship campus could go tobacco-free as early as August

A policy committee at LSU is finalizing its proposal to make the flagship campus in Baton Rouge tobacco-free as of Aug. 1, a university spokesman says, and the policy could be approved soon. Although there has been some question as to whether or not the policy will be tobacco-free or smoke-free—which would still allow for smokeless forms of tobacco to be used on campus—LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard says it is his understanding that the policy committee is looking at a tobacco-free policy. As a campus policy change, it will fall under the authority of LSU President F. King Alexander to sign off on the proposal. Alexander made mention of the policy at Friday's LSU Board of Supervisors meeting, but no action was taken. Ballard says it's his understanding that Alexander is in support of the policy. Though the policy being finalized now will only apply to the Baton Rouge campus, Ballard says other LSU System campuses are also creating and implementing their own tobacco- and...

La. Senate to debate changes to TOPS program today

The Louisiana Senate today will take up the debate over whether or not to raise eligibility standards for the state's free college tuition program called TOPS. The Associated Press reports the price tag for the program is growing to $250 million next year, and lawmakers will discuss whether the state needs to trim its costs. Louisiana has among the most generous tuition aid programs in the nation. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue is proposing to raise the minimum grade point average and ACT score required to get a TOPS award. The Senate is scheduled to take up Donahue's proposal, SB 520, this afternoon. Supporters say the bill could control costs while encouraging students to reach higher standards. Opponents, who have been successful in killing proposed changes to the TOPS program in past legislative sessions, say the changes would disproportionately eliminate minority students from the program. Currently, the most basic TOPS award for attending a four-year institution...

Loftus joins growing BR startup that helps students prepare for ACT

When local entrepreneur Jared Loftus resigned last year from the Capital Area Transit System board after serving as president during one of the bus system's most tumultuous eras, he said he wanted to devote more time to his various business ventures, which include the online college merchandise store College District and the Taco de Paco food truck, among others. But since January, Loftus has had a new full-time gig as chief operating officer of ACT Mastery, a two-year-old company in the Louisiana Technology Park that helps students prepare for the ACT. The company is the brainchild of Craig Gehring, a 2004 graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, who scored a perfect ACT and parlayed his mastery of the test into a test-prep curriculum. Loftus joined the company early this year at Gehring's urging, he says, and is helping to grow the company, which is now in more than 60 school districts in Louisiana and also in six states around the country. "We have grown tremendously," says...

LAPCS director: La. charter movement is strong, but much work remains

The Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools has a lot to celebrate during this National Charter Schools Week, says LAPCS Director Caroline Roemer Shirley in a new guest column. "Louisiana now offers over 117 charter schools in 19 out of 64 parishes, hosting nearly 60,000 children, or about 10% of total public school enrollment. One of these 19 parishes, Orleans, has the greatest percentage of public school children enrolled in charter schools in the nation," Shirley says. "But much remains to be done." Per pupil spending in Louisiana is still below the national median, she says, and Louisiana's students still significantly underperform in math, science and reading skills when compared to national averages. "The good news is that charter schools are out-performing their traditional counterparts in Louisiana," Shirley says. Meanwhile, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says Louisiana has the third-strongest charter school laws in the nation, she notes. "It is...

Editor: At LSU, some things never change

During the course of Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel's recent interview on the LSU campus with clothing designer Travis Mamon—one of the six young entrepreneurs profiled in the magazine's current cover story—she lapsed into occasional reminiscences of her own days at LSU. "Forget about the technological advances. It goes without saying that smartphones, the Internet, and drones that buzz overhead digitally filming our public events are part of an entirely different reality from the one I knew in college," Riegel writes. "It's also true that, socially, we are living in a more tolerant, open and permissive society. Some say it's too open and tolerant. Others say we still have a long way to go. Either way, it is decidedly different." But that's about where the differences stop, Riegel says. "As I thought about the issues I covered as a student reporter for The Daily Reveille, I...

La. senators shelve BESE school financing proposal

Senators have rejected a $3.5 billion school financing plan that BESE has proposed for next year. The Associated Press reports the Senate Education Committee shelved the proposal without objection today. Committee Chairman Conrad Appel said he had a philosophical problem with the formula calculations, before he moved to defer the legislation. No senators objected. It was unclear if the committee will revisit the issue at another time. State Education Superintendent John White says he will continue talking with legislative leaders about whether a compromise can be reached. Lawmakers can approve or reject the formula submitted each year by BESE, but cannot change it. If BESE and lawmakers can't agree on a new formula, the state would continue using the current financing structure to pay for public schools next year. "The MFP formula submitted by BESE was developed through the input of a diverse group of education stakeholders and the careful consideration of local school district...

La. Workforce Education Initiative raising money to study, promote Jump Start

While a bill that addresses workforce readiness through a new career diploma program called Jump Start is making its way through the Legislature, a new nonprofit organization led by local business leaders to support and promote the program is getting down to business. The Louisiana Workforce Education Initiative says it has raised more than $45,000 since its creation and has hired Baton Rouge-based Southern Media & Opinion Research to begin doing field research that will form the basis of a three-year marketing campaign. Later this month, Southern Media will conduct a statewide poll of 800 residents to learn about the mostly negative perceptions of two-year degree programs and the craft and technical jobs associated with them. "This will be the basis for a statewide media effort to educate and overcome those barriers and stigmas," says Jeff Wright, who is working with the initiative. "Once we have a...

BRAC names local business leaders supporting bills to change EBR schools

Leaders from a wide range of local businesses, from real estate firms and auto dealerships to contractors and attorneys—and virtually everything in between—are backing three bills that BRAC is supporting to change the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. BRAC released the list of business leaders this morning, saying they all support shifting to more local control over schools, as well as granting greater principal autonomy and reducing the size of the school board. "The regional business community understands that our students are our future workforce," says BRAC President/CEO Adam Knapp in a prepared statement. "The East Baton Rouge Parish School System has taken steps in the right direction but continues to underperform. Now is the time to put these changes in place to set the system up for success." Among those who BRAC says are backing the bills are: David Bondy, CEO of LUBA Workers' Comp; Beau Box, president/CEO of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate; Scott Chenevert,...

LSU president gets high praise on Capitol Hill during education budget hearings

LSU President F. King Alexander was singled out by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a Massachusetts lawmaker on Tuesday during a budget hearing on the Department of Education's 2015 budget request. Speaking about memorandums of understanding that have been created between the federal government and state governments for higher education spending, Rep. John Tierney, a Democrat, said Alexander "has been very instrumental in helping us getting the ideas for that … and his research showed that they've been effective." Alexander first published research on the MOUs in 2010 in the Journal of Education Finance. An excerpt from the abstract of "Maintenance of Effort: An Evolving Federal-State Approach to Ensuring College Affordability," says that evidence suggests "federal incentives and disincentives can help assure that states maintain adequate financial support to public colleges and universities, and in so doing, can contribute to college affordability." On...

Caroline Samuels

Age: 17
School: Senior, Baton Rouge Magnet High School
Extracurriculars: President of the Jewish Cultural Association, soccer
Dream job: Performing in a major symphony orchestra
Inspiration: Yung-Chiao Wei, LSU associate professor of double bass

Josh Campesi

Age: 13
School: 8th grade, St. Aloysius Catholic School
Extracurriculars: St. Aloysius Spirit of Service organization, writing music
Dream job: Record label CEO
Inspiration: Doug Gay, Baton Rouge Music Studios

Jane Gressaffa

Age: 19
School: Freshman, LSU
Extracurriculars: Old movies, Japanese comics and music
Dream job: Brand owner and designer
Inspiration: My mom and her Coco Chanel-like sense of style

Samuel "Kidd LOS" Muyaka

Age: 18
School: Senior, Madison Preparatory Academy
Extracurriculars: Soccer and football
Dream job: Touring full-time and teaching music to children
Inspiration: Pharrell Williams

A sporting chance

Information technology director, Louisiana Racing Commission

In Conversation: Monty Sullivan

Monty Sullivan, former chancellor of Delgado Community College, recently replaced Joe May as president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. As Louisiana tries to meet workforce demands created by the anticipated industrial building boom, Sullivan and the schools he leads will be expected to do much of the heavy lifting.

In demand

As a giant wave of industrial expansion begins surging through the Baton Rouge area, its effects are already rippling through the LSU College of Engineering.

Making the difference

"Dominique absolutely would have made something of himself without our help," says Lucas Spielfogel, winter light flooding the windows of his office in an old two-story frame house at 611 North St.