Central parts of Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform program have received final approval from the Louisiana House of Representatives. They ratified the Senate versions of HB 974 and HB 976 by a margin of 60-43 and 60-42. As the Senate amendments didn’t substantially alter the framework of the Governor’s original proposals he is certain to sign the bills. This means that Louisiana will now curtail teacher tenure and link teacher pay to student performance. Louisiana will also advance the charter school movement by opening new paths to the creation of these independent public schools and create a statewide program to pay the private-school tuition for low income students using the public-school financing formula.
While the Governor and his supporters are convinced that Louisiana is desperately in need of a radical education policy overhaul and will be thrilled that the measures will be signed into law barely a month after they were unveiled publicly, not everyone, even within Jindal’s Republican party, is happy with the swift progress of his legislative measures.
Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, was among the handful of Republicans who crossed over to vote against the GOP governor. “I can tell you that this is not a Louisiana agenda,” the retired teacher and administrator said. “This is a national agenda to do away with public education as we know it. … I hope I’m dead wrong. I hope that we are not destroying something we all grew up with.” Teachers and public schools, he said, “Can’t be as bad as we’ve been made out to be.”
Jindal’s raft of education reforms also includes two other bills still making their way through the legislature. One is the voucher bill that will allow donors to give money to third party groups to use for private school tuition grants, while allowing the donors to recoup most of the money as a rebate from the state. The other would mean bring childhood education problems in receipt of public money under the oversight of the state.