LFT: Rethink reform after Supreme Court decision

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Monaghan urges legislature: “Make wiser decisions.”

(Baton Rouge – May 14, 2013) In the wake of a State Supreme Court ruling that the state is unconstitutionally funding school voucher and course choice programs, Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan is asking lawmakers to step back and rethink the controversial education reforms of 2012.

In a letter to every member of the Senate and House of Representatives, Monaghan wrote, “changes to public education must be research based, fully vetted, and appropriately piloted as necessary.”

In the haste to enact the governor’s extreme agenda last year, Monaghan believes, politics and ideology took precedence over sound educational policy. That resulted in the adoption of laws that have thus far failed constitutional muster and caused turmoil in our schools and communities.

Less than a week ago, the State Supreme Court upheld a ruling that the funding mechanism for the governor’s voucher and course choice programs violate the state constitution. Still to be heard is the governor's appeal of a lower court ruling that a law which ties a flawed evaluation process to virtually every aspect of a teachers’ professional life was unconstitutionally adopted.

The legislature should use the court decision as an opportunity to “elevate and improve the conversation surrounding public education,” Monaghan wrote.

“We’re hopeful, too, that all stakeholders will be provided a seat at the table to discuss research based solutions to real problems in the best interest of ALL Louisiana children,” the letter continued.

The LFT president urged against making the same mistake as last year when, without adequate debate, lawmakers hastily adopted omnibus bills that radically changed public education and opened the state treasury to a procession of “out of state companies and educational entrepreneurs.”

The legislature, Monaghan wrote, “will more than likely be asked to once again debate and pass judgment on controversial proposals. Undoubtedly, some of these will simply seek to reenact provisions that the Court just found unconstitutional and/or the Court has yet to provide final review.

“(W)e have more information now than we did when these decisions were hastened through the legislative process in 2012,” Monaghan wrote “We have had a year of clarification. We’ve had a year of difficult learning. We can make wiser decisions.”

In the past year, he wrote, “the legislative and rule making processes have been characterized and damaged by name calling, the suppression of constructive criticism, and the denial of access to information to those who may hold a divergent view.”

As we move forward, Monaghan wrote, “all stakeholders should be included in policy development…A process of open, ready and willing collaboration is the only road to lasting meaningful reforms.”

To read the full letter, please click here.