Content tagged “Education”

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 dj 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...

BESE delays vote on $3.5 billion school funding formula

Apparently acknowledging it will not meet a March 15 deadline to present state lawmakers with a $3.5 billion school funding formula, BESE members today said they need more time to tweak the proposal, The Associated Press reports. BESE indicated it will conduct a special meeting next week to hammer out a final version of the formula that tells the state's 69 public school districts how much state funding they can expect in the 2014-2015 school year. BESE previously announced it intends to recommend spending increases on technical training and special education. Disagreement on details of the spending formula forced the delay. The Associated Press notes lawmakers can give a thumbs up or down to the funding proposal BESE offers, but they cannot change it.

News alert: Knapp says BRAC's EBR schools proposal about 'local control'

BRAC President/CEO Adam Knapp tells Daily Report that BRAC's support of a restructuring of East Baton Rouge Parish School System governance, announced today, is not an endorsement of proposed legislation by Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Central, regarding establishment of a multiple-superintendent school system in East Baton Rouge Parish. Neither is it in support of a proposal recently outlined by EBRP Superintendent Bernard Taylor to create autonomous schools that operate as part of the parishwide school system. "It's different than both," Knapp says. BRAC issued a statement earlier today saying it is working to develop legislation for the session that begins Monday to outline a new governance structure for the EBR system. At the heart of BRAC's proposal, Knapp says, is the desire to increase local control at the school and community level. "And that has to be accomplished through legislation,"...

BESE backs overhaul of La. career-track diploma

Public high school students who aren't college-bound will soon need to obtain job skills certifications before they can receive a diploma, under plans that received support Thursday from the state education board. The Associated Press reports the redesign of Louisiana's career-track diploma, pushed by Superintendent of Education John White, emphasizes skills training for students who don't intend to go to a four-year university. White says the new program, called "Jump Start," will better prepare students for available jobs in a state where only 28% of residents have a degree from a four-year or two-year college. He says the remaining students need skills training to fill the jobs available to them. "Jump Start tries to address those kids, to give them a path to the middle class," White told a BESE committee today. The committee agreed to the plans without objection, with 10 of the board's 11 members present for the vote. A follow-up vote Friday will give the diploma redesign final...

Components of education reform 'relatively simple,' La. superintendent says

Although education reform is a gradual process that takes time, money and determination, Louisiana Education Superintendent John White told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge this afternoon that the basic concepts involve things that are "relatively simple to do." The three building blocks, as White sees it, are: early childhood education, high standards and options that lead either to college or to a career path. The Jindal Administration will be pushing all three in the upcoming legislative session, White said—adding he is not anticipating a cakewalk. "There is going to be so much noise, potential name-calling and newspaper articles filled with angst and anxiety," he predicted. "We have to stay strong and be true to our principles." And the guiding principle, he said, is equal educational opportunity that is not dependent on a family's wealth or ZIP code. The state should start with the assumption that "Louisiana kids are just as smart and as capable as any kids in America." If...

Annexation's new twist

LSU President F. King Alexander is mulling a request from unnamed parties to petition the city of Baton Rouge to annex two large tracts of university-owned property that are outside the city limits. Included in the targeted package is 2,269 acres of farmland on Ben Hur adjacent to L'Auberge Casino. As first reported in Daily Report, the potential annexation would clear the way for L'Auberge—one of the parish's biggest sources of sales tax revenue—to also apply for annexation. It would be a significant development in the battle over the proposed incorporation of a new city of St. George.

Jump Start

While Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White has been barnstorming the state to drum up support for Jump Start—which, if approved by the Legislature this spring, will revamp the way the state provides career and technical training to high school students who may not be interested in or ready for college—the Baton Rouge business community has quietly been doing its part to help get the program enacted and make sure it's a success.

Capital Region business community, delegation taking cautious approach to school sub-district bill

Business leaders and members of the Capital Region's legislative delegation are reacting cautiously to a bill filed late Friday that would create four sub-school districts in East Baton Rouge Parish. The proposed legislation by Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Central, would give sweeping autonomy to deputy superintendents in each district and is intended to help address chronic problems in EBR schools that have led to efforts to incorporate a new city of St. George from unincorporated portions of East Baton Rouge Parish. BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp declines to comment on the bill, saying he has not had time to study the measure. BRAF also declines to comment. Republican Rep. Steve Carter, who heads the Baton Rouge legislative delegation and chairs the House Education Committee, says he, too, needs to know more about the bill before taking a position on it. "But I applaud anybody who is trying to improve the school district," he says. "This may not be the solution … but maybe we...

La. education department proposes 2.75% increase in MFP funding

The Louisiana Department of Education is proposing BESE alter the formula for the 2014-2015 Minimum Foundation Program to increase funding for schools statewide by 2.75%. The department laid out its proposal for the MFP earlier today via a press release, saying it would like to see BESE approve additional state funds for career education courses, state funding for districts to provide early college and other coursework outside of high schools, and an increase in state funding for students whose disabilities require costly services. The proposed increase of approximately $69 million in state funds for the MFP comes with a recommendation that BESE not restrict use of the funds, allowing districts to best accommodate their diverse needs. All of the recommendations made by the department today come from a MFP Task Force commissioned by BESE one year ago, the department says. The state education department has

'225': LSU grad boosting teenage self-esteem in B.R.

When Sarah Brown was crowned Miss Jackson State University, she turned her back on a lucrative career in astrophysics and discovered a hidden passion for public service. At Jackson State, she started a youth outreach program and continued to do so even as she came to Baton Rouge to pursue a master's degree in public administration at LSU. Though she is only one semester into the program, Brown has already decided to complete an optional master's degree project, focusing on young girls in public high schools, and her work is the subject of a profile piece in the March issue of 225. Her Baton Rouge project focuses on building self-esteem in the young women enrolled at Career Academy High School, where assistant principal Mandy LaCerte cites low self-esteem as the most common hindrance in the school's female students. The first time LaCerte saw Brown in action was a wake-up call, and the assistant principal says she has already seen a difference in the girls. "I think what...

News alert: White pre-files bill to create four independent school districts in EBR

State Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Central, says he is pre-filing legislation today that would create four independent school districts in East Baton Rouge Parish, one of which would be the southeast district already created by the 2013 Legislature. As envisioned, the districts would remain under the umbrella of EBR Schools but would have their own deputy superintendents empowered to make a broad range of financial, administrative and educational decisions. The measure is intended to help reform a troubled school system and could, potentially, appease supporters of the city of St. George incorporation movement, though White says the bill is not about derailing the effort. "This is not about St. George," White says. "We have to fix education. We're going to get one shot at this in history. This is the time." Read more about this story in Daily Report PM today. —Stephanie Riegel

White named dean of LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business

Richard White Jr., who has served as interim dean of the E.J. Ourso College of Business on LSU's flagship campus since June 2012, has been named dean of the business school, effective April 1 and pending approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors. "Richard White has served admirably in the role as interim dean, and we are pleased to name him dean of the E. J. Ourso College of Business," says LSU President F. King Alexander in a prepared release issued this afternoon. "White is well respected among the faculty and staff in the college and across campus. With economic and workforce development being such an important issue across the state, Dean White and the faculty, staff and students of the business college will play an ever important role in meeting those needs and helping to make Louisiana a better place to live and work." LSU selected White after conducting a national search for the business college's next leader.

BRAC to back increased TOPS standards this legislative session

BRAC says it will back efforts during the legislative session that starts on March 10 to increase standards for students to utilize the TOPS scholarship program. "The TOPS program is an important tool as we work to retain our talented students in the region and prepare them to enter our workforce. BRAC recognizes that changes must be made in order to sustain this program," says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp in a press release issued this morning. BRAC says it will also support legislative efforts to increase the amount of need-based aid made available through Go Grants in the state, and will also continue to support the stabilization of state funding and the transfer of tuition and fee autonomy for the state's higher education institutions. "TOPS has disproportionately been awarded to the state's most affluent students since the program's income cap removal in 1997, and almost eight out of ten recipients are Caucasian," reads the BRAC press release. "To prevent causing a...

LSU confirms it has been approached about annexation into B.R.

LSU officials have been approached about petitioning the city of Baton Rouge to annex two large tracts of university-owned property that are outside the city limits—including 2,269 acres of farmland on Ben Hur that are adjacent to L'Auberge Casino. LSU interim vice president for communications Jason Droddy tells Daily Report "the suggestion has been brought forward to LSU President King Alexander and we are considering it." Droddy was unable to say who floated the suggestion or whether the request was made by phone or in person. The potential annexation of the LSU property—which also includes the 120-acre Innovation Park near Gardere—would be extremely significant in the battle over the proposed incorporation of a new city of St. George. That's because it would clear the way for L'Auberge—which is not in the city and is one of the biggest sources of sales tax revenue in the parish—to also apply for annexation. A property outside the city limits...

Poll is first step toward business push for career diploma program

Business leaders around the state are coming together to help fund a marketing campaign designed to change negative perceptions about career-training programs and high school students who do not pursue four-year college degrees. As previously reported by Daily Report, the Louisiana Workforce Education Initiative was created last month by several local business executives to raise money to drum up support for the state's new proposed career diploma program, Jump Start. Part of the group's initial focus will be to raise $75,000 to fund a statewide poll to determine existing attitudes about job-training programs and post-secondary education. "There is still a stigma attached to programs and students who do not choose a path to a four-year college degree," says Christel Slaughter, principal of SSA Consultants, which is involved with the initiative and overseeing the campaign.

LSU President King tells national press he likes Obama's college rating plan

The Washington Post reported Friday that unlike many of his peers across the nation, LSU President F. King Alexander finds a lot to like in President Obama's plan to have federal ratings for how well colleges do their jobs. Such rankings could serve to “counterbalance” private rankings from prominent magazines. “I think it's a good idea,” Alexander told the Post. “We're saying, 'Let's help the federal government measure value-added. . . . We need to start differentiating the good players from the bad.” Alexander added that institutes of higher learning need to “get real” about the price of an education and what it is worth in today's market.

Publisher: LSU flagship leading La. into brighter future

Business Report Publisher and LSU Board of Supervisors member Rolfe McCollister says in his latest column that "the flagship university in any state is important to the future and should be the leader—and announcements by LSU in January and February show why." Among those announcements: LSU's six-year graduation rate has increased to an all-time high for the third consecutive year—this time moving to 69.1%, up from 66.7% last year. Meanwhile, the LSU College of Engineering Breaking New Ground campaign—a public-private partnership that began in January last year—was completed three months ahead of schedule. With more than 450 individual and corporate donors pledging $52.5 million in private funds, McCollister says, it was the most successful, short-term fundraising effort in the history of the university. Also this year, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center announced the Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program and the opening of a newly...

Alexander reflects on White House visit, discusses higher education reforms

In a wide-ranging Q&A with the Dallas Morning News, LSU President F. King Alexander reflects on his recent visit to the White House—where he advocated for greater accessibility—urges states to keep their financial commitments to higher education and touches on the challenges all parents face in motivating their children to go to college. "We've got a growing problem in social mobility. We did talk about that in the White House. If you're born in the lowest 20th percentile, you've got about a 5% chance of going to college, despite the fact that we're putting $170 billion in federal aid into trying to rectify that situation," Alexander says at one point in the interview. "It's worse now than it's been in who knows how long. I think we're increasingly moving into an area where if we don't do something that addresses these issues, if we don't stop pointing fingers, if we don't work more diligently to tackle these issues together, then higher education may not end up...

The LSU flagship leads off 2014

The flagship university in any state is important to the future and should be the leader—and announcements by LSU in January and February show why.

Delgado chancellor selected to succeed May as LCTCS president

Monty Sullivan, the current chancellor of Delgado Community College, has been selected to be the next president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. The LCTCS Board of Supervisors approved Sullivan's nomination today, effective Thursday, Feb. 27, and also voted to have board chairman Michael Murphy begin contract negotiations with Sullivan. The board selected him from four finalists who were interviewed Friday. He would take over as president from Joe May, who is leaving to become chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas. May is set to start in his new position on Feb. 26. Sullivan previously served as the executive vice president for the LCTCS. See Sullivan's complete bio. —Staff report

Investing in the Louisiana Economic Renaissance

Editor's note: This is a guest column provided to Daily Report by the Office of Governor Bobby Jindal.

Louisiana Digital Media Center dedicated on LSU campus

More than three years after ground was broken on the $29.3 million, 94,000-square-foot Louisiana Digital Media Center at the LSU campus, officials from the university, state and Electronic Arts Inc. convened today to formally dedicate the facility. The center serves as the permanent home of the EA North American Test Center—which occupies about 30,000 square feet in the building—as well as the LSU Center for Computation and Technology, which will encompass about 50,000 square feet. The LSU CCT's Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research initiative—or AVATAR—is also based in the center, which includes instructional space with audio/visual capabilities to support LSU's academic research efforts related to digital media and software development. In total, about 190 LSU CCT faculty, staff and students will be located in the center, and another roughly 200 students are expected to use the center's facilities and classrooms each week. "Such companies...

January jobs report shows wave of recent college grads found jobs

The jobs report for January issued by the government this morning—which showed the U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 6.6% in January from 6.7% the month previous—revealed that recent college graduates flooded the job market, and most found work. The Associated Press reports among workers older than 25, 668,000 college graduates began looking for jobs last month, citing the Labor Department report. And a nearly equal number of college graduates—663,000—were hired. Their influx illustrates that U.S. workers, as a group, continue to become better educated. Employers have hired an average of 136,333 college graduates each month over the past year. This has contributed to a decline in the unemployment rate among those with higher educations to 3.2% from 3.7% in January 2013. Not every social group benefited from the unemployment rate's decline to its lowest level since October 2008. The rate rose for African-Americans, Hispanics and workers younger than 24. Some...

LCTCS preparing to build a number of new campuses

Although funding for construction of $250 million in structures won't be available for almost 18 months, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System is taking preliminary steps to be ready when the money can be used. "Funding from state doesn't start flowing until July 1, 2015," Joe May, president of the LCTCS system, tells The Advertiser. "We're doing all the work getting ready for it. We're employing project managers, identifying site locations, and we'll soon start with architects and design work to get that ready." The Legislature in 2013 approved Act 360, which supplies money to build new campuses in Alexandria, Ruston and Jennings and a total of 29 structures across much of the state. The projects will be funded with bonds supported by $250 million from legislation authored by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton. May, who is leaving the LCTCS on Feb. 26 to head the Dallas-area community college system, says it will take about a year to "determine locations and...

Alexander: LSU presents unified front on Capitol Hill

LSU President F. King Alexander makes frequent visits to the nation's capital to discuss higher education issues. But a 36-hour trip to Capitol Hill earlier this week was particularly significant: It was the first time Alexander went there accompanied by chancellors from the other universities in the LSU system. Together they lobbied with a unified voice for funding and federal support for LSU. "It is very important that we have a unified front and that one LSU shows up to talk to our delegation and work with our delegation and prioritizes the things that we need to work on," says Alexander, who, with the other chancellors, met with the state's Congressional delegation. "That is exactly what they told us. They said it's great to know LSU prioritizes and speaks with one voice." In the past, leaders of the various schools in the LSU system—to say nothing of the leaders of schools in the state's other higher ed systems—have traveled individually to Washington to lobby for...

3 out of 4 La. schools meeting minimum technology standards, state says

Since July of last year, another 108 Louisiana schools and nine school districts have added enough computers, laptops or tablets to meet the state's minimum technology standards, the Louisiana Department of Education announced today. In its latest semi-annual update on its efforts to increase student technology access statewide, the department says there are now 906 schools and 47 districts meeting the minimum standards—which call for at least one computing device for every seven students. Nine school districts in the state are currently meeting a more ambitious goal of providing one computing device for every three students, while three districts have at least one device for every student. "While we still have a ways to go, it's encouraging to see technology no longer thought of as a privilege but a right for our students," says Superintendent John White in a

Common Core backers in La. go on the offensive

Louisiana proponents of Common Core, a set of higher learning standards for each grade, have launched a website to provide what they call "the truth about Common Core." Carrie Griffin Monica, marketing and communications director for Stand for Children, tells Gannett Louisiana that the website was created because "really, there's not a place on the Internet for parents, educators and business leaders to get information. This site is to provide resources and the truth about Common Core." The most common misinterpretations, proponents say, are that it is a national curriculum and that the federal government is using it as a tool to take over local schools. Instead, it was developed by the National Governor's Association with input from education experts and states, they argue. Several legislators are proposing bills to take Louisiana out of Common Core and to develop Louisiana standards. State Superintendent of Education John White has pointed out that Louisiana standards are now in...

LCTCS to name new president as early as next week

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System could have a new president as early as next week. LCTCS Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Murphy tells Gannett Louisiana the plan is to make a selection one week from today, choosing one of the four "excessively impressive" candidates interviewed by the full board last Friday. He says he'd like the new president to be seated by or before Feb. 26 when current system President Joe May departs. "We've got a whole lot of information on each candidate, and we need some time to digest it," Murphy says. Tim Hardy of Baton Rouge, who headed the board's search committee, says it won't be easy to make a selection, but "we hope at that time [Feb. 12] to reach a consensus." May, president for the past seven years, is leaving to take a similar job in Dallas, near where several members of his family reside. May's salary is about $271,000 a year. Finalists for his replacement are: Deborah Blue, chancellor of the State Center Community College...

The president goes to Washington

It's nothing new for LSU President F. King Alexander to visit the Washington, D.C., to discuss higher education policy.

Mid City Studio

The empty lot on North Boulevard that once held Romano's Pack & Save neighborhood grocery could one day host a fresh foods retailer and caf run by the homeless. Architecture students from LSU and Southern University spent the fall 2013 semester drafting versions of this Utopian vision for landowner, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

LSU exceeds $50 million fundraising goal for engineering college expansion

Not only has the LSU College of Engineering met and exceeded its $50 million fundraising goal for the renovation and expansion of Patrick F. Taylor Hall, but Gov. Bobby Jindal also announced today that the state will be matching, dollar-for-dollar, all private funding that exceeds the $50 million match already pledged. The $100 million public-private partnership was first announced in October 2012, and the private fundraising effort began in January last year. It's completion, announced today by Jindal and LSU officials, comes three months ahead of schedule. In total, more than 450 individual and corporate donors pledged $52.5 million in private funds. The largest single donation was a $15 million gift from Phyllis Taylor, co-chair of the LSU College of Engineering Breaking New Ground campaign and widow of Patrick Taylor, the LSU grad and Taylor Energy Company founder for whom the engineering building is named. Twenty-two companies, including Dow, RoyOMartin, Entergy, BASF, Turner...

Study: LSU economic impact on La. totaled $3.9 billion, 36,757 jobs in FY2013

LSU's nine campuses across Louisiana supported nearly $3.9 billion in sales during fiscal year 2013, as well as $1.5 billion in new statewide earnings and an estimated 36,757 direct and indirect annualized jobs. The figures come from a study by the LSU Division of Economic Development at the E.J. Ourso College of Business that was presented by LSU President F. King Alexander to the LSU Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting today. "These numbers demonstrate how invaluable LSU is to our state from a variety of angles, whether it's through jobs created, sales generated or drawing nonresidents into Louisiana," says the study's author, Stephen Barnes, assistant professor of economics and director of the economic development division. "LSU is most definitely a critical economic driver for the state of Louisiana." For every operating and capital dollar provided by the state to LSU during the past fiscal year, the study says, LSU provided a return of $5.08 of economic activity. The...

La. gets B for teacher effectiveness policies

The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that advocates for tougher teacher evaluations, has given Louisiana the second-highest overall grade among all states—a B—in its latest report on each state's policies on teacher effectiveness, released today. Only Florida got a better overall grade than Louisiana, with a B+. Tennessee and Rhode Island also received overall B grades. The overall grades are compiled from the results of each state's performance over five specific grading areas, the metrics for which are based on a set of more than 30 policy goals established by the NCTQ. Louisiana received its best grade, an A-, in the Identifying Effective Teachers category. It also received the following category grades: Delivering Well Prepared Teachers, C-; Expanding the Pool of Teachers, C+; Retaining Effective Teachers, B+; Exiting Ineffective Teachers, C. The NCTQ releases its report every other year. In the report published in 2012,...

La. leads U.S. for low-income fourth graders not reading proficiently, study says

In nearly every state, fourth graders from low-income families are less likely to be reading proficiently than those from higher-income families, and Louisiana is no different. And according to a new Kids Count data snapshot by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, low-income students across the nation are increasingly falling behind their higher-income peers. In Louisiana, for example, 85% of low-income fourth graders are not reading proficiently, compared to 58% of high-income students, the report says. Both figures are higher than the average among all U.S. fourth graders, among which 80% of low-income students are not reading proficiently and 49% of higher-income are not. As The Washington Post reports, Louisiana's 85% rate of low-income students who are not proficient in reading is tied for the highest in the nation with Arizona, Alaska, California, Mississippi and New Mexico. The fourth-grade benchmark is a significant one, the report finds, as it marks a shift when reading...

LSUS adopts purple, gold as school colors in rebranding

Purple and gold will replace blue and gold in LSUS logos this summer. The Shreveport Times reports the change is part of a rebranding campaign as the LSU system moves to a common identity. LSU System President F. King Alexander touched on the issue and others during a speech to LSUS Foundation members on Monday night. "As the 'one LSU' discussion continues around the state, a lot is happening," Alexander said, noting that he expects more collaboration among campuses. Other system changes include merging the LSU AgCenter—a separate entity since 1972—with the College of Agriculture. "Quite honestly, Baton Rouge wasn't very helpful" in promoting a unified system in the past, Alexander said. LSUS administrators announced the rebranding to students Monday. While the school colors will change, no decision has been made about the Pilots sports team name or Pete the Pelican. LSUS' logo looks similar to that at LSU Alexandria, which already adopted the colors and the same...

Potential donors hear pitch for innovative private scholarship program

Industry leaders, private fund managers and wealthy individuals got their first glimpse today of an innovative private scholarship program that is preparing a statewide rollout in Louisiana. Georgia-based Arete Scholars Fund met potential donors at a private luncheon at Juban's to unveil a program for underprivileged children that even proponents acknowledge sounds too good to be true. Executive Director Derek Monjure said that recent legislation approved in Louisiana makes it possible for anyone or any organization to make a donation into the Arete Scholars Fund and then, at the end of the next school year, get a rebate check from the State of Louisiana for 95% of the donated amount. The remaining 5% is available as a deduction off of state and federal income taxes. The amount made available as scholarships is limited to 80% of what the state would otherwise have paid in Minimum Foundation Program funds, so the money for the rebates is available from what the state didn't pay to...

4 finalists named for top spot at LCTCS

The names of four finalists vying to become the next president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System were released by a search committee this morning. The finalists—all of whom have been invited to participate in interviews with the college system's full board in a public meeting on Wednesday next week—are: Deborah Blue, chancellor of the State Center Community College District in California; Marie F. Gnage, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg in West Virginia; James Henderson, chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana; Monty Sullivan, chancellor of Delgado Community College in Louisiana. The four finalists named today were culled down from a list of seven candidates who were interviewed publicly on Tuesday. The next system president will replace Joe May, who left to lead the Dallas County Community College District. —Staff report

LSU biz school tops 'U.S. News' list of MBAs with best value

U.S. News & World Report has placed the E.J. Ourso College of Business at LSU at the top of its ranking of the 10 MBA programs in the country providing the most financial value at graduation, released today. "Business school graduates often have a starting salary that's barely higher than the debt they owe. But there are several institutions where students make three or four times their debt following graduation, making loans easier to pay off. Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge is one of them," the magazine reports. "At the school's E.J. Ourso College of Business, the average starting salary for full-time 2012 graduates three months after graduation was $59,762; the average debt for full-time 2012 graduates was $8,181. With graduates on average making about 7.3 times their student debt, Ourso offers the best financial value after graduation, according to data submitted to U.S. News by 99 ranked schools." Trailing E.J. Ourso on the list are Auburn University,...

Jindal budget includes $141.5 million increase for higher ed

After six years of cuts, Louisiana's public colleges stand to gain $141.5 million in increased funding under Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget proposal to be unveiled later this week. Jindal this afternoon announced his recommendations for financing Louisiana's colleges in the fiscal year that begins July 1, saying his proposed budget for higher education represents a 6.6% increase over budgeted funding for the current fiscal year. At today's press conference at LSU, the governor was surrounded by higher education leaders from throughout the state, who applauded the news. Much of the new money would come from increased tuition costs on students. The Associated Press reports that, unlike in past years, Jindal won't recommend that the new tuition dollars replace state funding. Instead, he is proposing that the campuses get a stable base of state funding, with the new tuition income on top of that. He's also recommending a new $40 million state funding pool to help campuses with initiatives...

News alert: Jindal proposes $141.5 million increase in higher ed funding

Gov. Bobby Jindal joined leaders from higher education systems across Louisiana today to announce a proposed funding increase of $141.5 million for higher education institutions for the next fiscal year. The funding hike represents a more than 6% increase over the higher education budget for the current fiscal year. This funding includes a new higher education workforce incentive initiative of $40 million called the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy plan, which will be a collaborative effort of LED, the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the University of Louisiana System, the LSU System, the Southern University System and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Read Daily Report PM for more details. —Staff report

TEDxLSU announces speakers

TEDxLSU returns this March for its second go-round and organizers announced today six of the 16 speakers slated to give "the talk of their lives" in Baton Rouge.

Faces of Old South

A Day of Service event Monday at Expressway Park helped introduce Baton Rougeans to a neighborhood project that partners residents of Old South Baton Rouge with the Arts Council, Center for Planning Excellence, BREC and others.

LCTCS releases names of those interviewing for system president

The list of names of those who will interview to be the next Louisiana Community and Technical College System president was released this afternoon by the LCTCS Board of Supervisors search committee. The list of candidates, who will conduct public interviews on Tuesday, includes: Deborah Blue, chancellor of the State Center Community College District in California; Marshall Drummond, former chief operating officer and provost of Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates; Marie Gnage, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg; James Henderson, chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College; Joan Smith, chancellor of the Yosemite Community College District in California; David Steele, dean of the College of Business for San Jose State University in California; and Monty Sullivan, chancellor of Delgado Community College. The next system president will replace Joe May, who left to lead the Dallas County Community College District. —Staff...

BESE member Walter Lee indicted on four counts

A member of the state education board once up for a national superintendent of the year award has been indicted on two counts of felony theft and one count each of public contract fraud and malfeasance in office. The Shreveport Times reports a DeSoto Parish grand jury, meeting in special session today, returned the four true bills against Walter C. Lee, of Shreveport, shortly before noon after meeting less than an hour. Arrest warrants are being prepared. No prior arrangements have been made for Lee to surrender to authorities, says District Attorney Richard Johnson, who noted the charges are "particularly disturbing because they concern public corruption." The charges stem from allegations outlined last month in a report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office. The information is in line with an investigation by The Times early last year on Lee's spending and financial decision-making over the last three years of his contracted employment with the DeSoto Parish...

LSU president invited to White House to discuss college access

LSU President F. King Alexander will be among the more than 100 college and university presidents from across the country who will partake in a discussion on higher education access hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House on Thursday. The event will focus on new actions universities can take to increase college opportunity, according to an LSU news release issued today. "Access to a college education has never been more important," says Alexander in a prepared statement. "If nothing changes, the United States will fall to 19th in college completion rates among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, countries." Inside Higher Ed quotes Obama as saying of the event: "I've got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life—nonprofits,...

BASF donating $1 million to LSU for College of Engineering expansion

LSU has received another sizeable donation for its $100 million renovation of Patrick F. Taylor Hall and expansion of the College of Engineering on its flagship campus in Baton Rouge. The university announced this morning that BASF Corp. is pledging $1 million toward the expansion. "The development and investment in the Louisiana workforce is critical to BASF's long-term success," says Tom Yura, senior vice president and manager of the company's Geismar site, in a prepared statement. "In addition to BASF's sustainability efforts, this project is part of our local activities to invest in students and help them be prepared for career opportunities in engineering and science while making a difference in the world today." Gov. Bobby Jindal allocated $50 million in capital outlay funding for the Taylor Hall renovation in his budget for fiscal year...

LSU graduation rate rises to all-time high of 69.1%

LSU reports its six-year graduation rate has once again increased to an all-time high—for the third year straight—this time moving to 69.1%, up from 66.7% last year. Last year marked the first time LSU surpassed the average graduation rate of its peers in the Southern Regional Education Board report, LSU says in a release issued today. This year's graduation rate would also surpass that latest SREB published figure, which was 65%, LSU says, noting the newest SREB report and peer average will be released later this year. "We also graduated the second largest class in LSU history, meaning we were more successful than we've ever been and with a larger number of students," LSU President F. King Alexander says in the release. LSU implemented its first admission requirements in 1988. In 1994, that incoming class had a reported six-year graduation rate of 44.2%. LSU has now...

Shirley: School choice empowers parents, demands results

"As we start another year, I challenge the parents and community leaders of this state to unite to overcome the obstacles that remain in the path of our children having access to the best possible public schools," says Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools Executive Director Caroline Roemer Shirley to open a new Daily Report guest column. "School choice options continue to expand across the state. There are traditional schools, charter schools that are completely 'virtual,' public military academies, language-immersion charters." In Louisiana, Shirley says nearly 60,000 students now attend one of 117 public charter schools across 19 parishes. "We have one of the strongest public charter school laws in the country, rated 6th best by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools," she says. Meanwhile, she says another 118 private schools now offer "scholarships" to low-income families across Louisiana, giving families a completely new choice about where to send their...

School choice empowers parents, demands results

Editor's note: This is a guest column provided to Daily Report by Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. Caroline Roemer Shirley is the Executive Director.

State to audit EBR schools due to complaints about graduation records

Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John White sent a letter to East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor today informing him that the state will audit school records due to "recently received detailed complaints of discrepancies among student graduation records" in the system. In interviews with several local media outlets, Taylor has said that to his knowledge the issue surrounds just one student's record, and that he welcomes a review of the system's records. The audit will include all "relevant records" from the system dating back to 2010, according to White's letter. Taylor took over as superintendent in July 2012. "The audit will necessitate that all relevant electronic and hard copy records be made available to Department [of Education] staff," reads White's letter. "It will also be necessary that East Baton Rouge Parish school and district administrators make themselves available for discussions with Department staff, as requested." Both White...

Ruling against teacher tenure law to be appealed to La. Supreme Court again

Gov. Bobby Jindal says his administration will once again appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court a ruling by a Baton Rouge judge against its revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws. State District Judge Michael Caldwell today ruled that the new laws, approved as Act 1 of the 2012 legislative session, are unconstitutional. It was the same ruling Caldwell issued in March last year, when he said the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision in May and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. Caldwell heard arguments in December, and came to the same conclusion today. "We believe it is constitutional and we are going to appeal to the Supreme Court," Jindal says in a prepared statement released shortly after the ruling was handed down this afternoon, adding, "The...

Challenges await next LSU of Alexandria chancellor

Louisiana State University of Alexandria needs a chancellor who can help the school boost enrollment and develop its identity in central Louisiana. At least that's the consensus view of some involved in the search for a chancellor, as well as some faculty members, The Town Talk of Alexandria reports. "I think LSUA needs a strong leader who can not only be comfortable with the community but who can help continue its reorganization and focus to increase enrollment and enhance our student population," says Alexandria attorney Charles Weems III, LSUA Foundation Board chairman and search committee co-chairman. Weems says he isn't sure there is a "magic number" for enrollment but that a population of more than 3,000 students—up from fall enrollment of about 2,236—would be beneficial for the university and community. "There's no reason why we can't do that," he says. LSU has named three finalists for the chancellor position: Luoluo Hong, vice chancellor for student...

Ruling to be issued on Jindal's teacher tenure law

A Baton Rouge judge is set to announce today whether he'll throw out his prior ruling declaring Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws unconstitutional. The Associated Press reports Judge Michael Caldwell is expected to issue a ruling at an 11 a.m. hearing in Baton Rouge. Caldwell ruled in March that the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision in May and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. Caldwell heard new arguments in December. The Louisiana Supreme Court says its opinion in a separate education case involving Jindal's statewide voucher program contains new case law for Caldwell to review. In that case, the high court rejected a similar argument that the voucher bill contained too many objectives. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit challenging the 2012 legislation.

Who's on the board?

Gary Laborde, New Orleans
President & CEO, Laborde Marine Lifts Inc.

LSU names new CFO of system and flagship campus

LSU President F. King Alexander announced today that Daniel T. Layzell has been tapped to fill a new position within the university system, in which he'll be chief financial officer of both LSU's statewide operations and the flagship campus in Baton Rouge. Layzell, who has been vice president for finance and planning at Illinois State University since 2009, will take over as LSU vice president for finance and administration on Feb. 25 should his appointment be approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors. His new role will include executive-level planning, implementation and assessment of financial and administrative strategies, policies and procedures, according to a news release LSU issued earlier today. In his new job, Layzell will report directly to Alexander, serving as chief adviser to the president and board of supervisors on all fiscal and administrative matters. "I'm excited...

Breaking new ground

Founder/president, Performance Contractors

Smart growth in the new year

The year behind us included several huge announcements for developments in Baton Rouge, and all of these projects look to improve the urban core of the city in 2014. We take a look at the stats on some of these projects below:

Leonela Guzmn

Occupation: Student, Public Relations Coordinator for Delta Literary Journal
Hometown: Lake Charles
Age: 22

Richard Koubek

Occupation: Dean, LSU College of Engineering
Hometown: Berwyn, Ill.
Age: 54

F. King Alexander

Occupation: President, LSU System; Chancellor of Louisiana State University and A&M College
Hometown: Louisville, Ky.
Age: 50

Judge to issue new ruling on challenge of teacher tenure law next month

Baton Rouge judge who is reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws said Friday that he'll issue his new ruling in January. Judge Michael Caldwell ruled in March that the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision in May and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. Caldwell heard new arguments today and said he will release his decision Jan. 8. The Supreme Court said its opinion in a separate education case involving Jindal's statewide voucher program contains new case law for Caldwell to review. In that case, the high court rejected a similar argument that the voucher bill contained too many objectives. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit challenging the 2012 legislation, known as Act 1. The law limited local school boards' authority over hiring and firing decisions, made it harder...

Task force supports revising Louisiana's MFP school funding formula

A task force comprised of business leaders and school superintendents formed earlier this year to consider revisions to Louisiana's Minimum Foundation Program formula for the 2014-15 school year has announced it is supporting a set of revisions proposed by Jay Gulliot, a BESE member and chair of the task force. The MFP is the mechanism by which school funding needs are assessed and the state’s contribution per student to school funding is determined. In particular, the task force supports making changes to the MFP formula to give greater priority to career and technical training in high schools, as well as to increased public-private partnerships. A press release issued Thursday evening by LABI—whose president Stephen Waguespack sits on the task force—says the task force supports language in the proposed MFP revisions that is "consistent with past subsidies provided by the state directly to [local education agencies] for courses taken beyond what schools are...

Judge revisiting challenge of La. teacher tenure law

A Baton Rouge judge is today reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws. The Associated Press reports Judge Michael Caldwell is set to begin a hearing at 9:30 this morning on the issue. He had previously ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. The Supreme Court said its opinion in a separate education case involving Jindal's statewide voucher program contains new case law for Caldwell to review. In that case, the high court rejected a similar argument that the voucher bill contained too many objectives. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit challenging the 2012 law, which limited local school boards' authority, made it harder for teachers to reach tenure and eliminated statewide teacher pay scales.

Task force suggests changes to tuition and TOPS

A study panel is recommending that lawmakers give up their authority to control college tuition costs and put limits on the state's free college tuition program called TOPS. The suggestions were approved today by a group of higher education leaders and students—called the Tuition Task Force—that has been looking at college tuition policy since October. As The Associated Press reports, the recommendations will be submitted to lawmakers for consideration in the next legislative session. But the ideas aren't new, and many of them have been rejected by the Legislature in prior years, so it's unclear if they'll get renewed traction. The task force says tuition control should be given to university boards rather than lawmakers, and says TOPS awards should be a flat amount not tied to the price of tuition.

St. George battle long in the making

There is a lot of debate, anger and finger-pointing regarding the proposal to create a new City of St. George. There are studies being commissioned and secret meetings to figure out the impact and how to stop the movement. But the breakaway effort is not the problem or the cause of the problem—it is just a symptom and inevitable reaction to a larger problem this community and its elected officials have failed to address for decades: poor schools.