Content tagged “School”

BR business executives bankrolling new media campaign for local school board races

A political action committee with ties to the local business community has launched a media campaign for the upcoming school board elections in East Baton Rouge Parish. Better Schools for Better Futures, a PAC formed in August by Lane Grigsby and three veteran business lobbyists who work with him, has spent about $40,000 on TV and radio ads that began airing last week. A print media campaign is still to come. The commercials do not promote or mention by name the nine individual candidates who were recently endorsed by the organization, but instead focus on the broad goals the PAC has outlined to improve the district. Those include hiring a reform-minded superintendent, giving principals more autonomy in the classroom, giving parents choice and promoting STEM programs. "The business community needs students who have been trained in STEM," says Josh Howard, a spokesman for the...

Auditor releases nonpartisan brief on Common Core

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office this morning released a nonpartisan overview about the English and math standards used in Louisiana's public school classrooms. The 30-page report describes development of the standards, gives a sample of the changed teaching and outlines other states' use of Common Core. The report also provides an overview of the Common Core lawsuits filed in Louisiana. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted Common Core, which describes what students should know after completing each grade. Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the standards, saying the Obama administration has manipulated use of Common Core to try to control local education policy and curriculum. Jindal issued a press release following the release of Purpera's report today, saying the report shows that Common Core standards are driving curriculum in the classroom. "We appreciate the Legislative Auditor's report as it confirms what parents, educators, legislators and the governor have...

National education assessment says La. lagging rest of US

Louisiana hasn't made much progress in the past seven years in a national assessment of educational achievement. As Gannett Louisiana reports, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in its recently released "Leaders and Laggards" report, ranks Louisiana as the second-worst laggard—placing it at the bottom of all 50 states but ahead of the District of Columbia. Louisiana has grades of F in 5 of 11 categories. "Student performance in Louisiana is very weak; the state ranks among the lowest in the nation," the report says. The most damning are Fs in academic achievement and academic achievement for low-income and minority students in its 2014 report. The state received a D for its efforts to improve overall academic achievement in 2007 and a B for its efforts to improve academic achievement for low-income and minority students. The academic scores are based on the National Assessment of Education Progress, a standardized exam administered across the nation on which Louisiana students...

St. Joseph's Academy Arts Center

Owner St. Joseph's Academy
Architect Post Architects
Contractor Cangelosi Ward
Cost $7.2 million
Year completed July 2012
Use The 29,000-square-foot facility houses the all-girls private school's visual and performing arts curriculum. The new two-story building includes a functioning black box theater complete with back-of-house spaces and control booth, a dance studio with changing rooms and equipment/costume closets, a chorus room with a music library and practice rooms, two fine arts classrooms, and an art room with sinks, kilns, and custom cabinetry.

With tech taking over in schools, bills arise across US to curtail data collection

This year alone, Louisiana was among 36 states that introduced new legislation on student information privacy and security, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan research group. And as The New York Times reports, the state's bill—which prohibits public school employees from collecting information about students' political or religious beliefs, family income, relationships with ministers or doctors, and gun ownership, as well as protects students or prospective students from having to give school officials access to their personal social media accounts or email addresses—was among about 30 bills passed nationwide. The bills are emerging as technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives—with few controls on how those details are used. Now California is poised to become the first state to comprehensively restrict how such information is exploited by the...

Officials lay out proposal to improve, unify La. early childhood education system

The Louisiana Department of Education and the Department of Children and Family Services this morning released proposed policies and strategies to complete the unification of the state's early childhood system by the deadline required by 2012 legislation, which is next fall. Due to inconsistent standards for learning and development among students below the age of 5, the departments say just slightly more than half of the state's children enter kindergarten equipped with basic literacy skills such as letter recognition. To address shortfalls, the departments say they plan to focus on teachers and outcomes, as well as streamline the enrollment process and expand statewide an early childhood pilot program. Currently, the departments say early childhood educators—identified as “the most critical factor in achieving high-quality outcomes for children”—do not have equitable access to training, tools, feedback and coaching. The plan calls for unifying expectations...

Jindal: More states will move away from Common Core

In an hour-long webinar produced this week by conservative Christian research group the Family Research Council, Gov. Bobby Jindal predicts more states will reverse course on Common Core, as Jindal wants Louisiana to do. "You look at the Carolinas. You see more and more states moving away from Common Core," says Jindal, who participated in the "Common Core: The Government's Classroom" webinar with Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who is running for the U.S. Senate. "I think you are going to see this trend only grow. The more that parents and teachers see this, the less they like it." Jindal has sued the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly violating the 10th amendment in the implementation of Common Core. Jindal, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, originally supported Common Core when he thought it would be a "state-lawed, bottom-up" approach to improving education standards. But Jindal has since reversed course and is now a staunch opponent of the...

Local firms take over contract to oversee $200M worth of EBR schools construction

CSRS and Tillage Construction have teamed up to manage some $200 million in construction projects for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, a deal that is worth $6.9 million over five years. The local firms came together earlier this year to buy out Garrard Group—an Atlanta, Georgia-based firm that had been CSRS's partner in the management of school system facilities projects since 1999. "When the contract came back up for bid it was an opportunity for us to take all the business local," says CSRS owner Curt Soderberg. "Instead of having a partner in Atlanta I have a partner here." Though specific terms of the deal were not disclosed, CSRS has a 75% share of the joint venture. Tillage Construction has 25%. For Tillage, the significance of the partnership is as much about opening new doors as it is about generating a steady stream of revenues. "This gives Tillage Construction an opportunity to expand the services we offer, and it will give us a good piece of new business,"...

Jindal continues to press Obama on Common Core while in New Hampshire

While in New Hampshire over the weekend, Gov. Bobby Jindal rallied Granite State Republicans, touted his recently filed lawsuit against the Obama administration over the national Common Core education standards and continued to attack the president for his handling of international issues. As The New Hampshire Union Leader reports, Jindal said Obama "has to secure the border" in brief remarks Saturday at the Strafford County GOP's annual picnic in Dover. Regarding immigration, Jindal said an influx of undocumented immigrants is fueling a "humanitarian crisis" in Louisiana. Jindal also focused on Republican Party unity in advance of the state's primary election on Tuesday. "No matter who wins, our candidates are better than their candidates," Jindal said, before accusing the Democratic Party of trying to "redefine the American dream" by promoting "bigger government." Jindal's...

Union argues La. education law unconstitutional at state Supreme Court

Gov. Bobby Jindal's 2012 education overhaul bill was crammed with too many diverse elements—including teacher tenure changes, salaries, and a revamp of the powers of local school boards and superintendents—and violates the Louisiana Constitution, an attorney told the state Supreme Court today. "They went too far," attorney Larry Samuel told the court in arguments for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. "They had secondary purposes and more purposes than that." Attorney Jimmy Faircloth, hired by the Jindal administration to defend the law, said the bill satisfied constitutional requirements, with all of its subject matter devoted to education reform. "This is a dramatic paradigm shift in public education," Faircloth said. The legislation was the centerpiece of Jindal's legislative agenda at the beginning of his second term. The justices did not say when they would rule. Some provisions of the tenure law that drew criticism from teachers were changed in 2014. The changes...

'F is for faithful'

Mother Teresa was once questioned about working with the poorest of the poor in India: How could she be successful while people were dying in the streets?

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

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

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

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

Jindal suing feds over Common Core

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

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

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

ACT analysis: Scores same or slightly lower in La.

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

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

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

Short-timers

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

Judge hearing arguments in Common Core lawsuit today

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

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

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

La. teachers get more support to teach Common Core standards

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

Judge to rule on Common Core suit involving Jindal

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

First hearing today on Common Core suit against Jindal

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

NAACP lawsuit challenges EBR school board change

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

Legislators to explore Common Core alternatives on Oklahoma trip

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

Jindal amends Common Core suit, arguing PARCC violates federal law

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

White says small overpayments found in voucher program have been recouped

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

Vitter describes his strong support for Common Core

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

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

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

BESE sets another special meeting to discuss possible Common Core lawsuit

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

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."

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,...

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...

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.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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...

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,...

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

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,"...

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...

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

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

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.

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...