Content tagged “Education”

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.

Business, school and civic groups urge lawmakers not to delay Common Core

A coalition of major business, civic and education groups in Louisiana delivered a letter to the Legislature today reaffirming its support of the controversial Common Core academic standards. The letter—which is signed by 33 organizations and companies, including BRAC, LABI, The Council for a Better Louisiana, Stand for Children, ExxonMobil and Cajun Industries—urges lawmakers not to further delay the implemention of the Common Core standards or the use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam. "We are worried that delaying or eliminating PARCC will send a message to prospective businesses, investors and workers that Louisiana is not committed to improving its low education rankings or meeting the workforce demands of our growing, diverse economy," reads the letter. The controversy over Common Core has escalated in recent weeks as...

Baton Rouge Music Studios to double space with move to Burbank Crossing

Baton Rouge Music Studios—a music performance and entertainment technology academy located off of Hillary Court across from the Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library—has filed a plan review application with the city-parish Department of Public Works to remodel its future location in the Burbank Crossing shopping center next to Hibbett Sports. At approximately 4,000 square feet, BRMS' new Burbank location is double the size of its current studio and will provide the academy the space to further develop its Young Band Nation program—a collaboration between BRMS and Southwest Louisiana Music Studios in Lake Charles that promotes music education and community-building among Louisiana youth—as 225 magazine reported earlier this month. "I knew we had to grow gradually, but there was always this nagging desire to have a community center, a haven for misfits—the...

Survey: 9 of 10 La. parents 'satisfied' with scholarship program

The results of a new survey released by a pair of pro-school choice groups says that approximately 92% of Louisiana parents with children participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the statewide voucher program. The results of the 2014 Parental Satisfaction Survey were released today by the Louisiana Federation for Children and the Black Alliance for Educational Options. The survey, which included 1,779 respondents—or roughly 27% of parents of the 6,490 students enrolled in the program as of April—says that just 3% of parents say they're "unsatisfied" or "very unsatisfied" with the program. Meanwhile, 92% of respondents also say they're happy with their child's performance at their scholarship school; 99% of parents feel their child is safe at the scholarship school; and 98% of parents feel they and their children are welcome at the school. The Louisiana Scholarship Program is a state-funded tuition program for approved...

La. public high schools ranked third-worst in US

Louisiana's public high schools are collectively ranked No. 49 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 Best High Schools, ahead of just Mississippi and North Dakota in the report that includes all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The magazine, which is well known for its rankings of U.S. colleges and universities, ranks each state's high schools based on how many of its eligible schools have earned a gold or silver medal. The gold and silver awards reflect which schools are most successfully preparing students for college, based on students participating in and achieving passing scores on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests, the publication says. The ranking included 301 Louisiana high schools that were eligible. Maine is said to have the best high schools in the nation, with roughly 22% having received gold or silver medals. Louisiana has no gold medal schools, and just three—all in New Orleans—have received a silver medal. North Dakota...

National group: EBR students on par with or outscoring peers

East Baton Rouge Parish School System students are on par with, or outscoring, students in 21 large urban school districts across the country, according to standardized test results analyzed by the Washington, D.C.-based Council of the Great City Schools. Put simply, CGCS translated EBR's 2013 LEAP scores so that the scores are comparable to National Assessment of Education Progress results of other urban districts. Districts compared included Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Detroit. EBR Superintendent Bernard Taylor says the study was needed to see how local students, who do not participate in NAEP testing, stack up to their peers in other large urban districts. "The test results clearly demonstrate that EBRPSS students are performing on par or better than other school districts in the area and their national counterparts on state standardized assessments," CGCS Executive Director Michael Casserly says. The study shows that, for example, white EBR students...

Education chief: Testing critics don't have plan

Continued efforts to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers, Superintendent of Education John White says. Gov. Bobby Jindal supports legislation—so far defeated—that would jettison Louisiana's use of standardized testing from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC, a consortium of states that developed the tests. Jindal said this week if lawmakers don't scrap the tests, he'd consider trying to remove Louisiana from the PARCC consortium himself. White tells The Associated Press that Jindal and other critics of PARCC don't have a viable option for what standardized tests they'd use instead. He says developing new tests would cost more money, adding there's no time with only a few weeks left in the school year. "This is when teachers historically are planning for next year. But without state and local leadership giving them...

Study: 2012 LSU football games generated nearly $400M in added revenue for BR businesses

The seven home football games played by the LSU Tigers in 2012 generated more than $397 million in additional revenues for Baton Rouge area businesses and nearly $120 million in local household earnings, according to a report released today on the economic impact of LSU Athletics. The study, produced by economist Loren Scott for the LSU Athletic Department and Tiger Athletic Foundation, also shows that during the 2012 season LSU football generated nearly 4,000 jobs, $2.8 million in local sales tax revenues and $8 million in state sales tax revenues. "It's amazing what seven days of football does for the state and the city," says Ret. Gen. Ron Richard, chairman of TAF. "It's not just football. It's an economic engine that is generating jobs and revenues." The study, which is the first of its kind to be conducted in more than a decade, also looked at the impact more than $400 million in athletics construction projects over the past 14 years have had on the local economy. Those...

Negotiations continue over Tulane scholarships

State senators got bogged down on Tuesday over what restrictions they're willing to add to lawmakers' annual Tulane University scholarships. The Associated Press reports that Baton Rouge Sen. Dan Claitor is proposing to prohibit lawmakers from giving scholarships to their relatives, relatives of other elected officials and relatives of people who donate to their campaigns. Members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee say they understand what Claitor wants to do. But they questioned if his bill went too far. Claitor, a Republican, delayed a committee vote until next week, trying to reach a compromise. The Tulane scholarship program lets each state lawmaker give one student annually a scholarship to the private university. It has been criticized as a way for lawmakers to help friends and contributors. As lawmakers are debating the issue, the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana has also released its recommendations for the scholarship program, including a new...

Court rules La. must report school voucher data

The Department of Justice has prevailed—at least in part—in a long-running and politically charged battle with Louisiana over the state's private school voucher program, Politico reports. Starting this fall, Louisiana must provide the agency with timely information about the racial background of participating students each year so the Justice Department can monitor the program's effect on school segregation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday night. The department could use that information to try to challenge some voucher awards. "We welcome the court's order, as it rejects the state's bid to resist providing even the most basic information about how Louisiana's voucher program will affect school desegregation efforts," was Attorney General Eric Holder's response to the ruling. "This ruling ought to resolve, once and for all, the unnecessary dispute initiated by the state's refusal to provide data." Gov. Bobby Jindal—who has been strenuously resisting the Obama...

SU System begins search for BR campus chancellor

The Southern University System has started the search process for a new chancellor for its Baton Rouge campus. System President Ronald Mason Jr. says in a news release that he appointed a 17-member search committee last week that consists of the university board as well as faculty and staff, a student, alumni and members of the local community. The committee will be chaired by Murphy F. Bell Jr., chair of the SU System Board of Supervisors' personnel committee, and Monique Guillory-Winfield, the system's vice president for academic and student affairs. Mason says the system will hire a consulting firm to help with a nationwide search to fill the position. Southern's board voted in February against renewing Chancellor James Llorens' contract, which ends June 30. Llorens has led the campus for three years.

Alexander: LSU expects its impact on state's economic outlook to increase

Louisiana has undergone a boom in business attraction over the last several years, and LSU President F. King Alexander says in a new Daily Report guest column that LSU has played a significant role in many of the state's crucial wins—adding the university expects its impact on the state to "significantly increase and multiply" going forward. "Vital public-private partnerships connecting industry and higher education, with successful examples including industry giants IBM and EA Sports, have not only injected dollars and jobs into our state, but made Louisiana more visible to others looking to relocate or open new branches in locations conducive to expansion," writes Alexander. "With LSU's high-performing faculty, world-renowned research and a talented graduate pool of more than 8,700 students annually, we are playing a major role in driving Louisiana and our regional economies. But we don't stop there." LSU also provides workforce solutions to keep its graduates in...

LSU expects its impact on state's economic outlook to increase

Editor's note: This column was provided to Daily Report by the LSU Office of Communications & University Relations.

Capitol Views: House panel hears bill to replace Common Core

After long public discussion of the pros and cons of Common Core, the House Education Committee spent today hearing a bill to set up a commission to develop the state's own standards and assessments. HB 381 by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, drew impassioned testimony from backers of the bill and defenders of Common Core. Working with the governor's office, Geymann drew up an amendment that would maintain Common Core standards for the current school year while a new commission considers if alternative standards should be developed and how. The amendment would give final approval of any new standards to BESE, leaving the Legislature with an advisory role. House Education Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, organized the testimony to allot equal time to the authors and school superintendents who support the bill and to members of BESE and representatives of public interest groups and the business community who oppose it. Still to come today are parents and citizens on both sides.

BESE president blasts backroom dealing on Common Core bill

BESE President Chas Roemer says he's disappointed with school superintendents who have been negotiating behind closed doors with sponsors of a bill that he and others believe is designed to kill Common Core in Louisiana—but he predicts a win at the Capitol tomorrow when the bill is taken up by a House committee. "It's disappointing that they'd do something like this … we've got some adults who are making political deals for their own personal political reasons," Roemer says. Recent emails from Louisiana Association of School Superintendents President Patrice Pujol to her colleagues across the state, obtained by Daily Report, confirm that the association's leaders have been meeting with Reps. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, "to influence a bill that we can all support." Geymann and Pope are the authors of House Bill 381,...

Entergy pledges $1 million to LSU College of Engineering

Though it has been nearly two months since LSU officials announced that they've met and exceeded the $50 million fundraising goal set for the renovation and expansion of Patrick F. Taylor Hall, the donations keep coming in. Entergy Louisiana announced today that it's pledging $1 million to provide a research lab and classroom complex within the expanded Taylor Hall, with the donation to be matched by the state under its public-private agreement for the project. Entergy says its gift will fund a first-of-its-kind research complex on the campus, specifically designed to focus on the application of how energy resources impact energy supply on a national scale. "Louisiana is experiencing an industrial renaissance that is spurring jobs and economic growth throughout the region" says Phillip May, Entergy Louisiana president and CEO, in a

Survey: Majority in La. support sales tax increase for higher ed

Louisianans may be known for their hearty appetites, but when it comes to tax increases their stomachs have been historically weak. And yet, nearly 3 out of 4 Louisianans—72%—who recently participated in the LSU Public Policy Research Lab's Louisiana Survey say they would support a small sales tax increase if the funds were dedicated to higher education. As Daily Report first reported last week, the Louisiana Survey conducted in early February showed for the first time in the survey's six-year history that Louisianans are increasingly viewing education as the state's most pressing issue. Over the past year, the share of survey participants identifying education as the most important issue rose 9 points, from 20% to 29%. Over that same time frame, the share of Louisianans who said the economy was the most pressing issue fell from 25% to 23%. When asked a general...

Truth is stranger than fiction

It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction. Lately I have seen some examples that defy explanation. I wish they were April Fool's pranks, but the news notes below are true—though they make no sense to me. What do you think?

Who's afraid of Common Core?

Short of a federal subpoena, nothing gets politicians in a tizzy quicker than seeing the whites of eyes of angry parents, like those descending upon the State Capitol to demand that legislators scrap Common Core, a set of more rigorous education standards being adopted in Louisiana schools and in 44 other states.

Business, civic groups: ‘No political deals’ on Common Core

As the Louisiana Legislature begins considering bills that could roll back the controversial Common Core initiative, a coalition of Common Core backers is urging lawmakers not to make "political deals" that could threaten the new education standards. "There is no need for legislators to make any more 'deals' with unions and associations of school boards, superintendents and narrow political interests who have made it clear through their support of various bills that their true desire is to scrap Common Core altogether; create a new set of standards that say nothing about rigorous content, international benchmarking or expert validation; and create student assessments that will not show us how students, schools or districts perform compared to their peers in other states," reads a statement released today by LABI, the Council for a Better Louisiana and Stand for Children. Other entities that...

Capitol Views: TOPS bills may be dead for session

Attempts to limit TOPS awards, which are heard every year, got nowhere in the House Education Committee today. More than likely, that means the issue could be dead for the session. The panel voted to defer HB 385 by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, which would have raised the eligibility standards from 20 to 22 for ACT scores. It would have also capped awards at $1,600 per semester and required partial repayment for students who lose eligibility. Calling his measure the "Lazarus bill"—since he brings it back from the dead each year—Harrison told the committee: "We talk about rigor. We want rigor in everything else but this." Currently budgeted at $235 million for the coming year and projected to increase to $375 million in five years, the program is unsustainable, he said. Barry Erwin of the Council for a Better Louisiana spoke in support. "While we are raising the standards for K-12, it is not unreasonable to raise standards for a lucrative program as this," he said.

LSU officials working to address increased traffic due to Tiger Stadium expansion

While three crews have been working around-the-clock shifts to complete the $87 million south end zone expansion at Tiger Stadium in time for LSU's first home game of the season on Sept. 6, LSU officials have been working on a different project—namely, how to deal with gameday traffic, which was already a problem and will now be a bigger one with some 8,000 additional seats. "It's a problem—the elephant in the room—I'm not going to sugarcoat it," says Ret. Gen. Ronald Richard, president and CEO of the Tiger Athletic Foundation. "Ingress, egress and parking are all an issue." A potential solution for the upcoming season is already in the works, however. TAF recently commissioned a study that addresses parking and gameday traffic. On April 10, it will unveil the results and present a new traffic and parking plan for the upcoming season. "It's going to be the same system, but other things will be involved," says Richard, who declines to disclose details yet. "It's not...

Common Core spawning political battles across America

The debate over Common Core is shaping up to be one of the biggest battles of the ongoing legislative session in Baton Rouge, but Louisiana is just one of many states grappling with the political ramifications of the new standards for American schools. As The Associated Press reports in a new feature on the Common Core controversy, it has been more than five years since U.S. governors began a bipartisan effort to set new standards in American schools. Now, the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads establishment voices—such as possible presidential contender Jeb Bush—who hail the standards as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers. Many archconservatives—tea party heroes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz among them—decry the system as a top-down takeover of local schools. The standards were developed and are being...

Boosting enrollment a top priority for new LSUA chancellor

Just three weeks into the job, new Louisiana State University of Alexandria Chancellor Daniel Howard is already moving forward with initiatives designed to boost the school's enrollment, The Town Talk reports, and he expects to see results just as quickly. "I can assure you [enrollment] will be up this fall," says Howard, who has been visiting government meetings and civic clubs recently to raise awareness about LSUA in the community. LSUA started the fall with just over 2,000 undergraduate students, and officials say increasing that number is especially important given cuts in state appropriations to public universities in recent years. Howard's initiatives include plans to offer more scholarships, increase the number of transfer students and add new degrees in high-demand but low-cost fields such as hospitality management and social work. Howard also plans to improve LSUA's correspondence with prospective students and restore the school's honors program, which he hopes will...

Editor: Arts deserve more appreciation at LSU

Several years ago, Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel had a small public relations contract with the LSU College of Art and Design, which comprises the schools of art, architecture, landscape architecture and interior design. "From a PR perspective, it was a veritable orchard of low-hanging fruit—an endless supply of positive stories about talented faculty and students whose designs and creations won national awards and earned prestige for the college and, by extension, the university," Riegel recalls in her latest column. "Which made it all the more troubling to learn, recently, that the School of Art—which is housed in the historically significant but crumbling Old Engineering Shops—has, once again, been bypassed for a desperately needed renovation." Riegel says the 80-year-old building is, "quite literally, falling apart around those who must toil there, without air conditioning or even heat." It's been slated for renovation since the early 2000s.

EBRPSS to open two new middle schools in the fall

Come summertime, East Baton Rouge Parish School System remodeling projects costing $6.25 million will pave the way for two new middle schools to open in the fall of 2014. Brookstown Middle Magnet School will occupy 4375 E. Brookstown Drive, while North Banks Middle School will fill the vacant school building at 5959 Cadillac St. The future Brookstown campus is currently home to The Career Academy—a charter school operated by The Louisiana Resource Center for Educators—and the former location of Brookstown Elementary School, says EBRPSS communications director Keith Bromery. Nancy Roberts, executive director and CEO at LRCE, says that while her group has leases on the career and tech-ed labs housed at Capitol High, the future of The Career Academy is uncertain. “We are hopeful that the state will find a way to help us co-locate at Capitol High, but that has not been decided,” Roberts said. Brookstown's remodel will cost $3.75 million, according to permit...

Publisher: For our children to compete globally, Louisiana needs Common Core

As the Louisiana Legislature kicks off today what is sure to be a lively discussion on the controversial Common Core education standards, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister—who has closely observed education reform issues for more than 25 years—says that Louisiana needs Common Core. "I was experiencing a bit of déjà vu when I heard Chas Roemer, president of BESE, talk about our students having to compete with children around the nation and around the globe," McCollister writes in his latest column. "Roemer, like his father, former Gov. Buddy Roemer, is well-educated and sees the future and the need to prepare our children for global competition." McCollister notes that the elder Roemer fought for reform 26 years ago and warned Louisiana parents then of the global competition their children would soon face. "Most ignored the call for raising the bar and stuck their heads in the sand, choosing to believe their children's and grandchildren's future would be...

No art appreciation

I had a small public relations contract several years ago with the LSU College of Art and Design, which comprises the schools of art, architecture, landscape architecture and interior design.

Speaking of education...

I am a product of Louisiana public schools, through and through. After two years of church-affiliated kindergarten, I did the requisite 12 years in Shreveport public schools and then four years (plus some bonus semesters) at LSU.

Dueling fixes

In East Baton Rouge Parish, few issues are as charged as public education. While poor performance—or perceived poor performance—is part of the problem, the education conversation also is about race.

Louisiana needs Common Core

It is said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That's another way of saying history repeats itself.

St. Joseph's Academy acquires property to expand offices, parking

St. Joseph's Academy purchased a home at 2950 Kleinert Ave.—which is located directly behind the high school's Kleinert parking lot—to renovate into additional administrative offices and parking spaces, says Communications Director Mindy Averitt. The academy acquired the property as Broussard-Acadian Properties LLC for $435,000 on Wednesday, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court. Averitt says the home will serve as offices for five members of the finance department, which is currently located in Mother Alice Hall, an academic building also on Kleinert Avenue. Offices in St. Joseph's Hall, an academic building on Broussard Street, will subsequently relocate to Mother Alice Hall, making way for new classroom space in St. Joseph's Hall. "As our student body continues to grow, we need to find classroom space so we can continue to offer the very best in education," Averitt says, noting that St. Joseph's is expecting to increase from 1,044 students...

St. Paddy's trip to Ireland marks first overseas experience for most LSU band members

Of the 325 members of the LSU Tiger Marching Band who are leaving Baton Rouge today for Ireland—and will march in Dublin's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Monday—fewer than 40 of them have ever traveled overseas before. "This is really why the trip is so special," says LSU President F. King Alexander. "This will open so many of our students eyes to global issues, studies and travel." For 133 of the LSU band members, Alexander says, today's transatlantic flight is the first time they've ever been on an airplane. For 263 of them, the trip marks the first time they've had to apply for a passport, and for 291 it is the first time they'll make an overseas trip. LSU is one of just eight American bands marching in Dublin's famed parade Monday, according to the event website. Among others, they'll be joined by marching bands from Iowa, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Texas. The entire LSU band is making the trip to Ireland at an estimated cost of $700,000, paid for via private...

La. digital education policies ranked No. 7 in U.S.

Louisiana is home to the nation's seventh-best digital education opportunities, according to the 2013 Digital Learning Report Card, released today by Digital Learning Now!, a national initiative of Tallahassee, Fla.-based Foundation for Excellence in Education. The report card annually grades K-12 education policies in each state based on the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning developed by the foundation. Louisiana received an overall B- grade. The report card says Louisiana's ranking was bolstered by the implementation of the Course Choice program last year. "Several states are now providing students choices down to the individual level. These course choice programs give students flexibility in choosing individual course, providers, and course format," says former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, founder and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, in the report's preface. "Unheard of just four years ago, forward-thinking policymakers, teamed with diligent education...

BESE holds special meeting on $3.5 billion funding plan

BESE is set to decide today on a final proposal for next year's $3.5 billion annual school funding formula. BESE is holding a special meeting today at 1 p.m. so that it can get a recommendation to state lawmakers in time to meet this week's deadline for submission. The board discussed a version of the spending proposal last week, but stalled action amid ongoing conversations with school superintendents and local school board leaders over details of the formula. The financing plan would pay for the operations of 69 public school districts for the 2014-2015 school year. New dollars are expected for technical training and special education. BESE members also support including a $69 million increase that lawmakers approved this year in the permanent formula.

New citizens group says it will aggressively push for EBR school improvements

A new citizens group called The Committee for Progress, led by a group of local businessmen, announced today that it plans to play an active role in shaping the future of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Tim Johnson, spokesman for the group, declined to name the businessmen behind the effort, but says they will be actively engaged in raising funds, advertising and recruiting new members through social media platforms. While The Committee for Progress is against the city of St. George incorporation effort, Johnson says, it is in favor of bringing more local control to schools at the neighborhood level. On Friday, BRAC announced it will support legislatively changing the governance structure of the school system to allow for more school control at the local level. Johnson says the group hasn't officially taken a position on the BRAC proposal, nor has it taken a position...

Baker charter school finalizes purchase of Plank Road property

Charter Development Louisiana, an LLC run by Michigan-based National Heritage Academies, purchased an 8.4-acre tract of land at 14740 Plank Road in Baker for $1.25 million on Feb. 26, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court today. The seller in the deal was FR&W Baker LLC, represented by Larry B. Rabin. The property, which lies between Groom Road and Lake Mary Drive and includes a former Wal-Mart, will be the site of Advantage Charter Academy—a free public charter school opening in the fall of 2014. Construction on two thirds of the existing building will begin next week, according to a spokesperson for NHA, while the remaining space will be kept vacant for future expansion. Renovations will include a new HVAC system, a new roof, 28 classrooms, a media lab, a gymnasium, an art room, a music room, an office, and an outdoor play area. Advantage Charter Academy expects to occupy the building by mid-July. According to NHA's website, Advantage...