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Legislative branch should assert itself

Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson, Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard

(Baton Rouge – September 21, 2012) Concerned about the Jindal administration’s apparent "complete disregard" for the legislature and the separation of powers, Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) this week became the second legislator to ask his colleagues to convene in special session. Senator Karen Carter Petersen (D-New Orleans) had already called for a special session over the Jindal administration’s handling of health care issues in the state.

"For democracy to work, it cannot be a spectator sport," said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan. "We have an obligation to express our understanding and support for a legislative intervention.

While Rep. Richard focused on the billion dollars of cuts ordered by the Jindal administration after the last legislative session ended, Federation President Steve Monaghan said he believes lawmakers should also revisit and address the so called bold education agenda which was steamrolled through the 2011 session.

“Representative Richard’s sentiments are shared by educators, but their concerns are not limited to fiscal matters only,” Monaghan said.

“At the governor’s urging, the legislature rushed through and rubber-stamped two poorly drafted, fatally flawed bills,” said Monaghan. “They have fueled confusion and spawned litigation that could drag on for years. The best course for lawmakers is to reconsider them before public education suffers irreparable harm in our state.”

According to the LFT president, the education agenda that Gov. Jindal pushed through in the first weeks of the session has led to mass confusion in the education community, and has made Louisiana a national laughingstock.

“Act 2, the governor’s so-called choice bill, is diverting education funds to corporate raiders, schemers and bogus schools with inadequate facilities; to schools that educate children by sitting them in front of television sets,” Monaghan said.

“We are the object of ridicule because the state is paying for curricula that claim the Loch Ness monster is real, that the Ku Klux Klan was a positive influence, that the Great Depression was a liberal myth, and that mathematical set theory is some sort of Communist plot,” he said.

“The governor’s other big initiative, Act 1, has demoralized teachers by marching forcefully forward with a flawed evaluation model that remains inexplicable, illogical and indefensible,” Monaghan said. “Good teachers fear, with cause, that their careers, their professional reputations and their livelihoods are at risk.”

“School systems, particularly those in small rural areas that have limited staff and resources, have been forced to divert their attention from the education of children. Instead, they must concentrate on satisfying the Department of Education’s ideological agenda and thirst for centralized power.”

Many lawmakers now understand that discussion was inadequate and votes of approval surrendered far too easily. It was definitely a session marked by agendas and ambitions, but with certainty, an excellent educational system for our children could not have the prime motivation, Monaghan said.

“We hope that a special session reaffirm our state's commitment to the constitutional separation of powers in Louisiana,” Monaghan said. “We understand and applaud Representative Richard and Senator Carter for wanting to affirm the role of the legislative branch in governing our state.”

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