Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gov. Jindal Executive Counsel Debunks Superintendent Legal Claims on Having to Implement Common Core




State of Louisiana                                                                                      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Office of the Governor                                                                                                                  June 26, 2014
GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL                                                                         Press Office: Mike Reed
                                                                                                      Contact: 225-342-8006, (c) 225-247-5028
Gov. Jindal Executive Counsel Debunks Superintendent Legal Claims on Having to Implement Common Core

BATON ROUGE - The following is a legal memorandum from Thomas Enright, Executive Counsel to Governor Jindal, debunking recent assertions by the Louisiana Superintendent of Education and the President of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that it is illegal for the state not to follow the Common Core Standards and implement the PARCC assessment.  
The conclusions of the memo are summarized below, and presented more fully in the body of this memorandum.
1) The legislature is clear when it adopts a statewide code or set of standards, and it has not done so with Common Core or PARCC.
2) The applicable law requires that 2014-2015 standards-based assessments be based on “nationally recognized content standards”, but does not define that term.  Further, the applicable law does not specify any particular provider of standards-based assessments, and there are multiple providers of assessment products other than the one developed by PARCC. 
3) The applicable law does not specify any specific content standard for the State of Louisiana and does not prohibit the state from developing its own content standards.
MEMORANDUM
This memorandum is written in the context of recent executive orders and other directives issued to the state Department of Education (LDE) and State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) that those two entities undertake a competitive process to obtain standardized assessment products for elementary and secondary level schoolchildren for the 2014-2015 school year. 
In response, there have been several assertions made by the superintendent of the LDE and president of BESE that compliance with the executive orders and other directives is impossible because Louisiana law mandates that Common Core State Standards (Common Core) content standards and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) assessment products be utilized. Media reports quote the superintendent of education as asserting that it would be illegal and/or unconstitutional for the state to use a non-Common Core set of standards or a non-PARCC assessment product.  The media accounts lack any specific citation to law in support of these assertions; however, the applicable statutory provisions remain the same as discussed throughout this memo – R.S. 17:24.4. 
This memorandum addresses provisions of Louisiana law applicable to the development of standards and assessment products for the 2014-2015 school year, and whether these Louisiana laws actually mandate the use of Common Core and PARCC without any mention of them by name.     
Summary:
For the reasons herein, we disagree with the assertion that Louisiana law mandates the use of Common Core or PARCC.  These conclusions are summarized below, and presented more fully in the body of this memorandum.
1) The legislature is clear when it adopts a statewide code or set of standards, and it has not done so with Common Core or PARCC.
2) The applicable law requires that 2014-2015 standards-based assessments be based on “nationally recognized content standards”, but does not define that term.  Further, the applicable law does not specify any particular provider of standards-based assessments, and there are multiple providers of assessment products other than the one developed by PARCC. 
3) The applicable law does not specify any specific content standard for the State of Louisiana and does not prohibit the state from developing its own content standards.
Rationale:
1) The legislature is clear when it adopts a statewide code or set of standards, and it has not done so with Common Core or PARCC.
When the legislature intends the adoption of a specific set of standards or specific uniform code, it appropriately refers to such within the legislation.  Just this legislative session, House Bill 1048 sought statewide adoption of portions of the International Plumbing Code and International Residential Code (VII-Plumbing).  In the Original bill, HB 1048 specifically named those codes to eliminate any confusion what Louisiana law would be, if the bill passed.  There is no Louisiana law that mandates the use of Common Core or PARCC.  Moreover, those names and/or terms do not appear in Louisiana law.
There are many examples in Louisiana law where the Legislature has enacted national standards or codes, including:  
• La. R.S. 9:2601, et. seq. – Louisiana Uniform Electronic Transactions Act
This Chapter is intended and shall be construed to constitute an enactment or adoption of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act as approved and recommended for enactment in all states by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1999.
• La. R.S. 9:3831, et. seq. – Uniform Law for Simplification of Fiduciary Security Transfers
This Chapter shall be so construed as to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law of those states which enact it, and it may be cited as the Uniform Law for Simplification of Fiduciary Security Transfers. La. R.S. 9:38:40
• La. R.S. 10 § 1-101, et. seq.- Uniform Commercial Code
§1-101.  Short titles (a) This Title may be cited as the Uniform Commercial Code.
• La. R.S. 37:146.1 – Licensing of Architecture
o Must complete training requirements est. by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
o Must have a certificate record by the National Council of Architectural Registration Board.
• La. R.S. 40:1730.28 – State Uniform Construction Code-
o including International Building Code, International Existing Building Code, International Residence Code – does exempt certain chapters; including: Administrative, Accessibility, Electrical and Plumbing, etc., International Mechanical Code, International Fuel Gas Code.
• La. R.S. 40:1578.7 – State Uniform Fire Prevention Code
A.  It is hereby found and declared by the legislature that the protection of life and property will be enhanced by adoption of the National Fire Prevention Code, as it is published by the National Fire Protection Association.
• La. R.S. 13:1801, et seq- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
This Part may be cited as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
• La. R.S. 13:3822- Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act
(Uniform Foreign Depositions Law)
o R.S. 13:3821 and 13:3822 shall be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purposes to make uniform the law of those states which enact it, and may be cited as the Uniform Foreign Depositions Law.
2) The applicable law requires that 2014-2015 standards-based assessments be based on “nationally recognized content standards”, but does not define that term.  Further, the applicable law does not specify any particular provider of standards-based assessments, and there are multiple providers of assessment products other than the one developed by PARCC. 
La. R.S. 17:24.4 addresses 2014-2015 standards-based assessments. In 17:24.4(F)(1)(d), it provides:
“(d) Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, standards-based assessments implemented by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in English language arts and mathematics shall be based on nationally recognized content standards that represent the knowledge and skills needed for students to successfully transition to postsecondary education and the workplace. Rigorous student achievement standards shall be set with reference to test scores of the same grade levels nationally.”
The statute requires that these assessments be “based on nationally recognized content standards” (emphasis added). First, as the phrase “nationally recognized content standards” is undefined, that makes clear there is no reference to either Common Core or PARCC.  Additionally, the use of the phrase “based on” clearly establishes a starting point (“nationally recognized content standards”) but then allows for interpretation or divergence from that starting point without becoming so attenuated that the original starting point is lost.  This point also reinforces the argument that no particular content standards or assessment product is required by Louisiana law.
3) The applicable law does not specify any specific content standard for the State of Louisiana and does not prohibit the state from developing its own content standards.
The applicable provision of law defines “statewide content standards for required subjects”, establishes a process for recommendations and advice from educational personnel, and requires LDE to implement following BESE approval. 
R.S. 17:24.4(A)(4) defines “statewide content standards for required subjects” as:
“statements that define what a student should know or be able to accomplish at the end of a specific time period or grade level or at the completion of a course.  Content standards shall represent the knowledge and skills needed for students to successfully transition to postsecondary education and the workplace, as determined by content experts, elementary and secondary educators and school leaders, postsecondary education leaders, and business and industry leaders.”
Act 275 of the 2012 Regular Session updated this definition without expressly naming Common Core, which was plainly in existence at that time.  It is also important to note what terms do not appear in this definition.  It makes no reference to “national standards” or that the state’s content standards be “based on national standards.”  Also, there is no indication that anyone outside this state contribute to our content standards.  The definition lists content experts, elementary and secondary educators and school leaders, postsecondary education leaders, and business and industry leaders.  It would be very hard to believe that the legislature chose to specifically name this group of people to determine the state’s content standards, but have already dictated in the legislation that Common Core was the only available set of content standards.  It is much more plausible that the legislature intended this group of people to be able to develop the standards most suited for our state.
Conclusion: 
For the reasons expressed herein, we do not agree with the assertion that Louisiana law mandates the use of Common Core or PARCC, or restricts BESE and LDE from developing Louisiana statewide content standards or standards-based assessments as they are defined and provided in applicable Louisiana law.
   
R.S. 24.4 (in toto):
§24.4.  Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program; statewide standards for required subjects; Louisiana Educational Assessment Program; parish or city school board comprehensive pupil progression plans; waivers
A.  As used in this Section, the following words, terms, and phrases shall have the meaning ascribed to them in this Subsection, except when the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
(1)  "The Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program" means the coordination of all existing statutory provisions and State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education policies and guidelines to be implemented by the state Department of Education which affect pupil performance with the development and establishment of statewide content standards for required subjects for the public elementary and secondary schools of this state, the complete implementation of the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, the involvement of all federal instructional programs, vocational programs, special education programs, and teacher education programs in this state, and the pupil progression plans for the public elementary and secondary school systems of this state.
(2)  "The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program" means a process of measuring pupil performance in relation to grade appropriate skills, state content standards, and national educational indices.
(3)  "Pupil progression plan" means the comprehensive plan developed and adopted by each parish or city school board which shall be based on student performance on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program with goals and objectives which are compatible with the Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program and which supplements the minimum standards approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  A pupil progression plan shall require the student's mastery of grade-appropriate skills before he or she can be recommended for promotion.
(4)  "The statewide content standards for required subjects" are statements that define what a student should know or be able to accomplish at the end of a specific time period or grade level or at the completion of a course.  Content standards shall represent the knowledge and skills needed for students to successfully transition to postsecondary education and the workplace, as determined by content experts, elementary and secondary educators and school leaders, postsecondary education leaders, and business and industry leaders.
B.  The Department of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Legislature, shall begin the Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program, and the recommended effective date shall be January 1, 1980, and said program shall have as its purpose the coordination of all statutory provisions and State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education policies and guidelines to be implemented by the Department of Education which affect student performance.
C.  The Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program shall specifically coordinate the following programs in order to emphasize instructional planning and development of the instructional programs and services provided for the students in the public school systems of this state:
(1), (2)  Repealed by Acts 1994, 3rd Ex. Sess., No. 1, §3, eff. June 22, 1994.
(3)  In-service training programs for all teachers in the public schools as provided by R.S. 17:24.1.
(4)  The continuing education program for teachers as provided by R.S. 17:7.3.
(5)  The teacher education programs in the colleges and universities in this state through the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's authority to approve teacher education programs and certification requirements.
D.  The Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program shall also provide for the coordination and involvement of all federal instructional programs such as Chapter I programs, vocational programs, and special education programs; however, the provisions of this Section shall not be construed to supersede the provisions of Act 754 of the 1977 Regular Session with respect to the creation, operation, and administration of special education programs in the state.
E.  The state Department of Education shall, with the approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, as part of the Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program, develop and establish statewide content standards for required subjects to be taught in the public elementary and secondary schools of this state.  The statewide content standards for required subjects shall be implemented by the state Department of Education as approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, with recommendations prior to approval and advice from the educational personnel in the public schools and colleges and universities of this state.
F.(1)(a)  The Department of Education shall begin implementation of a Louisiana Educational Assessment Program with the approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
(b)  Developmental readiness student screening for placement and for planning instruction shall occur upon initial school entry into kindergarten.
(c)  Standards-based assessments in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies based on state content standards and rigorous student achievement standards set with reference to test scores of students of the same grade level nationally shall be implemented by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  Such tests shall be administered, at a minimum, in grades three through eleven.
(d)  Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, standards-based assessments implemented by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in English language arts and mathematics shall be based on nationally recognized content standards that represent the knowledge and skills needed for students to successfully transition to postsecondary education and the workplace. Rigorous student achievement standards shall be set with reference to test scores of the same grade levels nationally.
(e)  The rigor of each standards-based assessment, at a minimum, shall be comparable to national achievement tests, including but not limited to the National Assessment of Education Progress.
(f)  The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon initial implementation of the tests provided for in this Subsection, shall establish by rule adopted in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act the adequate test score to determine successful performance of the student on each test provided for by this Subsection.
(2)  Repealed by Acts 2012, No. 275, §2.
(3)(a)  In lieu of the standards-based assessments prescribed in Subparagraphs (1)(c) and (d) of this Subsection, an alternate assessment shall be provided for and administered only to those students with disabilities who meet specific eligibility criteria developed by the state Department of Education and approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  A determination of whether any student meets the eligibility criteria established by the state Department of Education shall be made by the student's Individual Education Plan committee and shall be so noted on that student's Individual Education Plan.  The alternate assessment developed pursuant to this Paragraph shall be administered on a schedule determined by the state Department of Education and approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The alternate assessment shall be part of the Louisiana Education Assessment Program otherwise provided for in this Subsection and the alternate assessment shall be used for information, accountability, compliance, and planning purposes as provided by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
(b)(i)  In addition to the alternate assessment accommodations adopted to meet the needs of students with significant cognitive disabilities, no later than September 1, 2005, the state Department of Education, with approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, shall develop modified achievement standards and use alternative assessments to accommodate those students who are assessed with persistent academic disabilities but who are likely to make significant progress.
(ii)  Students with persistent academic disabilities shall be allowed to take academic assessments that are sensitive to measuring progress in their learning and that recognize their individual needs. Academic assessments are to be geared specifically toward accommodating students to enable them to perform on standards-based assessments prescribed in Subparagraphs (1)(c) and (d) of this Subsection. Such accommodations shall include at a minimum verbalized test questions and shall provide for writing assistance of a scribe and any other accommodations deemed appropriate by the student's Individual Education Plan committee.  However, any such accommodations shall not breach test security or invalidate the meaning of the test score or the purpose of the test.
(iii)  At each IEP meeting a written list of accommodations shall be discussed and provided to the parent of each student with a disability.
(4)(a)  In addition to the other requirements of this Subsection, the state Department of Education shall establish, subject to the approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the level of achievement on certain of the tests or on certain portions of the tests given as required in this Subsection in fourth and eighth grades  as definitive of the level of the student's proficiency in mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies.  Fourth and eighth grade students shall be required to demonstrate proficiency on such tests in order to advance to grades five and nine, pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. Such proficiency levels shall be set with reference to test scores of students of the same grade level nationally.  The department shall establish, subject to the approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the nature and application of various intervention options in the case of a failure to demonstrate proficiency, which may include remediation, retention in grade, an alternative placement in succeeding grades, or any other option which will support a student's achieving the required proficiency level.
(b)  In meeting the requirements of this Paragraph, the department, subject to the approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, shall:
(i)  Establish a process for consistently seeking and considering input from teachers, administrators, city and parish school board members, legislators, parents, business leaders, and other persons in the community in developing and establishing the proficiency levels and the intervention options provided for in this Paragraph.
(ii)  Develop a time line for: establishing the levels of achievement which shall be indicative and definitive of student proficiency, establishing the intervention options which proceed from failure of a student to achieve the level necessary to demonstrate proficiency, and piloting such levels and interventions no later than the 1998-1999 school year.
(iii)  Implement the provisions of this Paragraph fully by the 1999-2000 school year.
G.(1)  Each city and parish school board shall appoint a committee which shall be representative of the parents of the school district under the authority of such school board.  Each committee shall participate and have input in the development of the pupil progression plans provided for in this Section.  Each parish or city school board shall develop and submit to the state Department of Education for approval by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education a pupil progression plan which shall be in accordance with the requirements of this Section and be based upon student achievement, performance, and proficiency on tests required by this Section.  Beginning with the 1998-1999 school year and thereafter, approval by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education shall not be required for a pupil progression plan.
(2)  Each parish or city school board plan for pupil progression shall be based upon local goals and objectives which are compatible with the Louisiana Competency-Based Education Program numerated in R.S. 17:24.4(B), which comply with the provisions of R.S. 17:24.4(A)(3), and which supplement the performance standards approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
(3)(a)  Each local school board shall establish a policy regarding student promotion or placement which shall comply with the provisions of this Section, including the requirements for pupil progression plans.
(b)  Particular emphasis shall be placed upon the student's proficiency in grade appropriate skills which may be considered in promotion and placement; however, each local school board shall establish a policy regarding student promotion or placement.
(4)(a)  The governing body of each school with students required by law or a rule of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to participate in the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program shall develop a policy with the participation and input of the committee provided for in this Subsection which shall, at a minimum, conform to any rule adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding pupil promotion.  Following this policy, each teacher shall, on an individualized basis, determine promotion or placement of each student.  Each such governing body may review promotion and placement decisions in order to ensure compliance with its established policy.  Review may be initiated by the governing body, the superintendent, or a student's parent or guardian.  Those students who fail to meet required achievement levels on the state administered standards-based assessments of the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program shall be offered education programs designed to accelerate progress that comply with regulations adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  Such programs shall include, at a minimum, the offering of a summer school remediation program to all students who do not meet the minimum achievement level necessary to be fully promoted to the fifth or ninth grade as established by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education rule.
(b)  Summer school remediation programs as required in this Section shall meet minimum requirements as established by rule of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and shall be funded in part with a state appropriation specifically for such purpose and in part with other funds available to each governing body of schools required by this Paragraph to provide summer school remediation programs.  The Department of Education may allocate and disburse the money appropriated for summer school remediation programs to such governing bodies at the time the number of students who failed to meet the minimum required achievement level is known, rather than on a cost reimbursement basis once the summer school program is complete.
(c)  Local school boards may require students who fail to meet the required achievement level on a test necessary for promotion to the next grade to attend a remediation program, including requiring attending the summer remediation program, but shall exempt from such summer program any student whose parent or guardian signs a form which states, at a minimum, all of the following:
(i)  That such parent or guardian understands that the student has failed to meet the required achievement level for promotion to the next grade.
(ii)  That a summer school remediation program is being offered by the district to improve the skills of students who have failed to meet the required achievement level.
(iii)  That the parent or guardian will take the responsibility of remediation to help the student improve his skills necessary for meeting the required achievement level on the test.
(iv)  That the student will not be fully promoted to the next grade level unless a retest is taken and the student obtains the required achievement level.
H.  The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education may establish by rule adopted in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act a procedure whereby the state superintendent of education may grant a waiver allowing any student with an exceptionality, as defined in R.S. 17:1942(B), who fails to meet the required achievement level necessary for promotion to the next grade on a test administered to students pursuant to this Section or policies adopted by the board upon the request of the local superintendent of the school system in which the student is enrolled in school, provided that the student meets certain criteria established by the board relative to attendance, grades, and conduct.
I.  The state superintendent of education shall appoint a twelve-member task force to study and identify the causes of low performance by students, including students who are members of any ethnic minority, on statewide proficiency examinations.  The task force shall propose to the superintendent a plan to eliminate the causes of low performance and assist students in improving their overall educational skills.
J.(1)  Notwithstanding any provision of this Section or any other law to the contrary, a public high school student with an exceptionality as defined in R.S. 17:1942(B), except a gifted or talented student, and who is not pursuing a high school diploma shall not be administered any examination pursuant to this Section or the Louisiana school and district accountability system, including the American College Test, unless one or both of the following apply:
(a)  The student's Individualized Education Plan indicates that the examination is an appropriate assessment instrument for the student.
(b)  The student's parent or legal guardian requests in writing that the student be administered the examination.
(2)  A student who is not administered an examination pursuant to Paragraph (1) of this Subsection shall not be penalized for failure to take the examination.  For purposes of this Paragraph, prohibited penalties include but are not limited to:
(a)  Withholding of credits toward graduation or denying a student the ability to graduate.
(b)  Denying a student the opportunity to participate in an extracurricular activity.
(c)  Denying a student the ability to advance to the subsequent grade level.
(3)  The absence of test results due to the implementation of Paragraph (1) of this Subsection shall not be factored into or negatively impact the performance score or letter grade assigned to a school or school system, nor shall a school or school system otherwise be penalized in any manner, provided that such absence does not violate any federal law or requirement including the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Added by Acts 1979, No. 750, §1, eff. July 20, 1979.  Amended by Acts 1980, No. 499, §1; Acts 1984, No. 886, §1, eff. July 20, 1984; Acts 1986, No. 146, §1, eff. July 2, 1986; Acts 1989, No. 408, §1, eff. June 30, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 567, §1; Acts 1993, No. 868, §1; Acts 1994, 3rd Ex. Sess., No. 1, §3, eff. June 22, 1994; Acts 1996, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 40, §1; Acts 1997, No. 1335, §1, eff. July 15, 1997; Acts 1998, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 41, §1, eff. April 24, 1998; Acts 1999, No. 407, §1; Acts 1999, No. 643, §§1, 2; Acts 2005, No. 303, §1, eff. June 29, 2005; Acts 2008, No. 907, §1, eff. July 11, 2008; Acts 2009, No. 276, §1, eff. July 1, 2009; Acts 2009, No. 438, §2; Acts 2010, No. 116, §1; Acts 2012, No. 275, §§1, 2; Acts 2013, No. 151, §1.
NOTE:  SEE ACTS 1986, NO. 146, §4.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

The Louisiana State Capitol: Private Property of the Special Interest Groups?



The 2014 Louisiana legislative session has been a very eye opening experience for many of us.    There was so much to take in, so many faces that seemed to be in the Education Committee meetings every time we showed up.  Who were these people?  They weren’t part of our crowd… the parents attempting to have a hand in the decisions that would be made regarding our kids’ education.  No they weren’t one of us;  they were “important” people with real pull with the legislators.  These “important” people were employees of big lobby groups.   We befriended some of them, they were kind and professional.  The rest of them can be described by one word:  disgusting.  It is these groups that we will discuss in this post.

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) is one of those groups.  LABI is a business interest lobby group.  LABI touts the pull they have with legislators on their website.  On the LABI site, it is said that “Our work over the last 30+ years has given us a level of credibility with state officials that is unparalleled.”  Sadly this is true.  LABI does have an unparalleled pull with legislators, when compared to the individual citizen.  

Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL) is an organization that according to their website “promotes ideas for the betterment of Louisiana that cuts across political, social, and ideological boundaries.”  In our opinion, this is another organization that has presented at several parish chamber meetings, once again touting buzzwords and broad statements without actually supporting the standards; leading local businesses to believe they are signing on to support something that will be better for our children. The individuals with this organization are incapable of holding an educated conversation with anyone who attempts to do so.  They also refuse to allow individuals who are against the standards to speak at any of the chamber meetings they present at for fear that they will be asked questions for which they can not answer.  

You can forward to the 1:18:55 mark of this video, and you can see for yourself:
The woman wearing the green blouse and black blazer is Stepahine Desselles.  Notice how she refuses to respond to the points made by the opposition, and even alleges that basically nothing they [the opposition] said was true.

Stand for Children is another group that has a big voice, bigger than any individual citizen.  Stand is  a non-profit organization that supposedly is looking out for the best interests of children, but have been criticized for representing business interests.  A Washington Post article does a great job of explaining this criticism.  They are largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Walton Family. They use the ugliest of methods to deliver their message.  Several times during session, Stand would parade sweet children and hard working moms into the committee rooms.  These folks would testify about how the “high standards” with Common Core would allow them to go on to have a future, and to take Common Core away would allow them no future at all.  It was quite dramatic.

Keep in mind, Stand for Children is the organization that proudly boasts about the amazing collection of signatures they have collected on petitions that express the will of the people to keep Common Core in place.  In Oklahoma, it recently came out that Stand for Children was lying… they had falsified around 2,000 signatures on their petition. I wonder if their Louisiana petition is legit?  In Louisiana, we have received reports that the Stand for Children organization was offering incentives for people to go to the Capitol and testify in favor of the higher standards, and even hosted training days to prep these people to go before the committee and speak.

What is unique about this collection of special interest groups?  LABI, CABL, Stand for Children, and Louisiana Federation for Children are all devout supporters of Common Core.  Some of these groups are specific to Louisiana.  Are parents in other states experiencing similar nasty behavior by proponents?

As we attended more Education committee meetings, we came to know exactly the talking points and tactics these people would use.  We were there to fight Common Core with factual evidence supporting our position.  They were there to make sure it stayed.  They had buzzwords, empty promises, and false ideals.  There was no “meat” to their argument, but the stature of these groups meant that the legislators would agree with them time and time again.

On May 22nd four really awesome bills were finally being heard in the Senate education committee.  Lots of parents were at the Capitol to support “our” bills.  My friends and I found seats, to the far left of the crowded room.  Before long, we had some familiar faces sitting next to us:  Brigitte Nieland (LABI vice president of Program and Workforce Development), Jason Hughes and Carrie Monica (both with Stand for Children) Kelli Bottger (Louisiana Federation for Children, a pro charter school group)and finally Stephanie Desselles (CABL: Council for A Better Louisiana).  From here on out we will refer to them as the “MIPs” because apparently they are in fact the Most Important People at the Capitol.


The Following the personal of account of Amy Lemoine describing what took place on May 22, 2014 in the Senate Education Committee:

When retired school teacher Lee Barrios got up to speak in opposition to Walt Leger’s HB 953, the MIPs started making their comments. “Of course”, I heard them grumble.

Then, a mother of four and attorney from south Louisiana gets up to speak.  She presented a very well articulated testimony in opposition to HB953.  Towards the end of her testimony, this mom got a little emotional, and started to tear up.  It was at that moment that the line had been crossed.  You see, the MIPs started mocking this mother.  We heard things such as “Oh, let’s go cry in the corner,” and other mockings of her emotional state.

Wow.  

There was no more sitting back and listening for me.  I had to do something; this horrible behavior could not go unreported.  At 3:53 pm I got up from my seat, went out into the hallway, and called the LABI office.  The woman who answered the phone was very patient, and listened to my concerns.  I explained that I refuse to remain silent about this, I would be going to the media to expose this obvious disdain for parents involved in the legislative process.  She assured me that she would get in touch with the LABI president right away.  Within minutes of my returning to the committee room, Ms.Nieland’s phone rang.  I could hear a man’s voice on the line.  Ah, it must have been the president.  To whatever he told her, this was her response:  “Yeah there are some parents here, they are just upset because they just lost a big bill.”

Again, wow.

There are two things that I would like to point out about that statement:
  1. The parents are upset because they just lost a bill.  No ownership of her behavior, instead she deflects the blame onto the parents.
  2. The parents are upset because they just lost a bill.  Hold up lady!  This is no game to us, the parents.  The bills on the table will affect our children.  The only thing she has on the line is her paycheck.
Let’s get back to the story.   Apparently the phone call from her boss was not enough to get Ms.Nieland to act like a professional.  She and her pals continued to snicker and make condescending comments about the parents.  I reacted.  I turned in my seat to face them.  I spoke up and asked her (specifically) to please stop.  “Please act a little more professional,” I said to her.  We had a quick exchange of words.  She said something to me about my being disingenuous.  I again asked for her to stop, and act in a more professional manner.

At that point Mr. Hughes (Stand for Children) stood up, leaned in my direction and pointed his finger at me. He told me that we were not going to do this right here I need to stop.  I need to go.  He then went on to wave over the sergeant at arms (the committee security guard) and insinuate that I was causing a problem and needed to go. The sergeant at arms looked over at me, then back at the MIPs and seemed confused.  I didn't appear to be out of line, or misbehaving in any way.  He walked away.  I stayed.  

The LABI, CABL, Louisiana Federation for Children, and Stand for Children representatives make fun of parents, and the Stand for Children representative acts like he owns the place and can kick out whomever he would like.  

After this exchange things are relatively quiet for a while.  Then came the time for public comment on HB1076, a student data privacy bill that parents have been closely following for several weeks. When the chairman asked the crowd if they wanted to come and speak, the crowd in general answered “yes.”  With that I heard “Of course” from the MIPs.  You see, the more parents that exercise their right to public comment means that the committee meeting will last longer.  The MIPs workday would be longer because parents wanted to speak.  

When a dad gave his testimony (6:00 pm) the MIPs were very vocal about disagreeing with what he had to say, “this is just disgusting” someone from their little pack said.

And finally, at 6:12 pm the retired teacher who spoke earlier was asked if she would like to speak again.  When she stood up answered “yes” and made her way to the table, someone from the MIP pack grumbled “Oh, God.”


Determined to not let this horrible behavior go, I called the LABI office the next morning (Friday May 23rd).  I spoke to the President of LABI, Mr. Stephen Waguespack.  He was nice enough to apologize for what had taken place.  When I told him that it is apparent that LABI (through the behavior of Ms.Nieland) does not think parents have a place at the Capitol, he let me know that is not the “take away” that he wants me to have of his organization.

Within hours, this editorial was posted to the LABI website by the LABI President:



The LABI president talks of the robust debate that comes with the democratic process.  We (the parents) are certainly open to debate, but that debate should happen in a civil and professional manner; especially those who are PAID to partake in such debates.  Through the actions of their PAID representative, LABI has been anything but respectful in disagreeing with differing opinions, specifically with regard to education.

I wouldn’t want anyone to take just my word for it.  I don’t want it to seem that the behavior displayed on May 22nd was an isolated incident.  Just to be sure no one claims that I am just one dramatic mom who has it out for these lobby groups, I will now share with you the accounts of other citizens:


Mr. David Mount offers his observation:

“There were three particular individuals who caught my attention on May 22nd in the Senate Education Meeting. The one lady who was with Stand for Children who was on the front row [Carrie Monica, Stand for Children Marketing and Communications Director] laughing when Sarah Wood the Attorney was giving her statement.  Also, a young lady [Kelli Bogget] and young man [Jason Hughes] who were sitting in the top row next to each other both laughing at several parents giving statements including Sarah Wood the Attorney.  I thought that it was not only disrespectful but, I thought they were taking a bit too much joy in the fact that these parents were so upset with the whole process regarding Common Core. It actually disturbed me to look over several times to see them taking lightly the concerns of the mothers who took the time to speak before the Education Committee. The two bothered me most were the lady with Stand for Children and the young man. They were the ones expressing joy in the agony of the speakers.”


Mrs.Casey Peltier gives her statement:

On several occasions in my visits to the capitol to hear and testify either for or against bills being heard in regards to MY children's education (which in case these people are unaware- is my RIGHT as a Louisiana citizen), I witnessed the horror of what being in the company of these groups is like. I have seen things from stares, eye-rolls, snickering (loudly) to downright ugly and harsh comments made about the character of those citizens in attendance. Most recently was this past Thursday [May 22, 2014] in Senate Education Committee. I was sitting 3 seats down from LABI, Stand for Children and CABL representatives. During one parents testimony the laughing from the corner they were sitting in had gotten so loud that people from across the room were looking over. I took it upon myself to contact the LABI office and report the debacle I was watching unfold.  As a individual who works in Human Resources I would never allow any of these individuals to continue to represent my organization should I receive the feedback I gave to LABI.  At one point I turned my head to speak to a fellow parent sitting next to me and saw that Stephanie with CABL was giving me what I will call "the evil eye" so I asked her "WHAT"?....and she proceeded to say to me "I am not looking at you"...really lady? really?- this is the type of uncomfortable situations citizens are forced upon when attempting to exercise our rights.  Somewhere along the way these organizations have come to believe they are the know all and be all of our legislative process because they contribute so heavily to the campaigns of many of our legislatures BUT it would do our legislators well to remember whose fingers push those buttons in that booth.


Mrs. Lee Barrios (Retired National Board Certified Teacher) offers her observation:

When I was standing in line waiting to testify at House Ed a couple of weeks ago, I turned around when I heard my name to see her [Brigitte Nieland] talking to a lady next to her.  The lady saw me staring at her poked Brigitte.  Bridgette responded, " I don't care if that B!*$% is listening to me". 


From Ms. Debbie Sachs:

CABL and LABI have to mock us and  make us out to be ignorant in order to justify their support for an unethical and disgusting agenda. They have no other avenue.  Barry Erwin told the entire crowd at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Covington that there was a lot of misinformation on the internet concerning the sharing of our children's and teachers' data.  After the meeting, he admitted that he knew about it and InBloom all along.  I was devastated and shocked by his behavior......and I guess all of you saw  the role that Stephanie Desselles played at a senate education meeting and what she did to my friend - Libba McHenry.  If you haven't seen - it is all on Lee Barrios' blog under fake testimony.  It is very sad, but I guess some people will do anything for money.


From an Ashley McReynolds, fighting for her disabled child:

While I was testifying during the MFP discussions in the Senate, several witnesses observed Ms. Nieland (LABI) and Stephanie Desselles (CABL: Council for a better Louisiana) snickering and laughing at me.  The behavior was so disruptive that several people tried to get the attention of the Chairman to get them to stop, however the chairman did not see them motioning from the audience.

From Dominique Magee, mother of two:

I personally witnessed Brigitte and Kelli's rude and mocking behavior both times in the Senate edu committee.   I also had the pleasure of sitting directly in front of her [Nieland] during the house edu committee on Geymanns HB 381 on April 3rd, where another mother and I both sat and listened to her [Nieland] mock and criticize parents testifying in favor of that bill.  Nieland  was obscene.


The behavior of these lobby groups is downright disgusting.  Please make no mistake, these groups pay these lobbyists quite well to go and represent their organizations at the Capitol.  I would suggest the various lobby groups choose a little more wisely whom they are sending as their voices.  We can take it a step further.  For example, a slogan found on the LABI website  “One voice, amplified”.  LABI is the AMPLIFIED voice of MANY Louisiana businesses.  Hmmm… I wonder if these businesses would be okay that their representation at the capitol mocks, laughs at, and is so incredibly ugly to mothers of disabled children, retired teachers who served the children of Louisiana for years and years, and countless other parents who are concerned?


It may seem too far gone, the way that things are now with these people having so much pull.  Perhaps it is just the perception that these lobby groups have such enormous power.  Alone, the business lobby has no real power, but they have masterfully manipulated the legislative environment into a situation where it is generally accepted that they do in fact have power.  We need not forget that things can always be turned around.  It is the individual citizen not the business lobby that votes our lawmakers in.  The lawmakers need us at election time.  They should hold the individual citizen in higher regard in the legislative process at the Capitol.



Friday, May 23, 2014

HB953- Just Say NO

Okay troops, we had a great day in Senate Ed yesterday but our work is not yet done.  Just one more week of emails and calls, then we can have a little down time.

We need to get to work on Leger's HB953 which passed through Senate Ed yesterday.

A little backstory on this bill:
When Leger presented this bill in House Ed on April 30th, he announced that he had added amendments (the night before) that would be the "heart of the bill."   Those amendments COMPLETELY changed this bill.  

Very sneaky tactic...

This bill does two things:
1) Delay consequences for teachers/ districts based on assessments.
***This little bit is the "cheese" on the mouse trap.  It's just to lure people in.  And it did. 

2) Cement us to Common Core
***SNAP!  Thats the "arm" of the mouse trap, slamming down on the state of Louisiana, pinning us to Common Core.


If you click on the link below, you can read the original bill, and then the reengrossed (current form) of this bill.



Here is the concern:
Even though the Governor has publicly opposed this bill, we worry that he will sign this bill into law.

Gov. Jindal's policy advisor, Stafford Palmieri has been asked if this bill will cement us to Common Core.  Her response was that the Governor's attorney said that it would not.  Common Core is the ONLY thing that will satisfy the standards and PARCCor SBAC are the only test that will satisfy the testing requirements laid out in the bill.


We need to try to kill this bill on the Senate floor... it will come up for a vote next week.  Please contact every senator and ask them to vote NO for this bill.

AND


Contact Governor Jindal and let him know that the people of Louisiana are WELL AWARE of the full scope of this bill, and we REJECT it!

225-342-0991

Senate Email List:
adleyr@legis.la.gov, alarioj@legis.la.gov, allainb@legis.la.gov, amedeej@legis.la.gov, appelc@legis.la.gov, lasen15@legis.la.gov, brownte@legis.la.gov, smithbuffington@legis.la.gov, chabertn@legis.la.gov, claitord@legis.la.gov, cortezp@legis.la.gov, crowea@legis.la.gov, donahuej@legis.la.gov, dorseyy@legis.la.gov, erdeyd@legis.la.gov, gallotr@legis.la.gov, guillorye@legis.la.gov,  HeitmeierD@legis.la.gov,  johnsr@legis.la.gov, kostelka@legis.la.gov, lafleure@legis.la.gov, longg@legis.la.gov, martinyd@legis.la.gov, millsf@legis.la.gov, morrelljp@legis.la.gov, murraye@legis.la.gov, neversb@legis.la.gov, peacockb@legis.la.gov, perryj@legis.la.gov, petersonk@legis.la.gov, risern@legis.la.gov, smithgl@legis.la.gov, smithj@legis.la.gov, tarverg@legis.la.gov, thompsof@legis.la.gov, walsworthm@legis.la.gov, wardr@legis.la.gov, whitem@legis.la.gov 


Monday, May 19, 2014

Plan to be at the Capitol on Thursday!



Update on the "hostage" education bills:


Directly from Representative John Schroder:
“From what I understand, the bills will be heard this Thursday”


We need a HUGE showing of concerned citizens in the Senate Education committee this Thursday May 22nd to show support for these bills.  Rep.Schroder is expecting for all four of his pending education bills to be heard.  

This includes:

HB 1076: This bill protects students' private, identifiable data. This bill passed the House with a vote of 99-0.

HB 1199: This bill gives parents the right to view all instructional materials and content their children come in contact with. This bill passed the House with a vote of 92-0

HB 988: This bill gives control of curriculum, content and methodology to the local school boards and parents and puts it into law. This bill passed the House with a vote of 93-0.

HB 1015: This bill provides an alternative pathway for students with disabilities to obtain a high school diploma. This bill passed the House with a vote of 99-0.



Please make plans to be there.  This will be the last chance (aside from email and phone calls) to have our concerns regarding these issues heard during this session.  

Please note, we are going on what we have been told.  There is the chance that the agenda will come out without including these bills.  We will put out a notice ASAP if that is the case.






Friday, May 16, 2014

LEAP scores withheld

We have some interesting news…

LEAP scores were scheduled to be released today, Friday May 16, 2014.  Just minutes ago (approximately 1:30 pm), all districts across the state were notified that test scores will NOT be released today as scheduled.  The test scores will be released next week, possibly Tuesday.  

Knowing that today was the day that test results would be released, many students went to school this morning eager to see their results.  Now those students get to worry over the weekend.  

When calling various schools for a statement, we were told this has never happened before.  LDOE says the reason for the delay is "technical difficulties".

Could the hold up be that the scores are so bad, that John White needs time to spin a good story?  Has Common Core done that phenomenal of a job dumbing down our kids?


Parents need to call and ask for their child’s test scores.  We must be relentless until our questions are answered!

LDOE assessments department:  225-342-3404




Thursday, May 15, 2014

Things are heating up!

And there is more to the saga....




Yesterday (May 14th)  in the House education committee, Rep. Richard and Rep. Thompson ask about the "situation":
video







This morning (May 15th) on the Denny Scaffer Show:
Listen to Rep. John Schroder talking about the bills... Starts at about the 5 minute mark. It goes on until about the 14 minutes mark. Wow. Denny Schaffer really goes off on Appel
http://www.wrno.com/media/podcast-denny-schaffer-morning_rush/denny-schaffer-5152014-7am-24773511/

And then there is the article that was published in the Times Picayune yesterday (May 14th):