Wednesday, December 5, 2012


President Obama and members of Congress are engaged in intense debates that will have a direct impact on students, educators, and public education for decades to come. If Congress votes for proposed, massive across-the-board cuts, schools across the nation will face a $5 billion funding cut, meaning more kids packed into overcrowded classrooms, fewer services for special education students, and four-year-olds cheated out of early childhood education. LAE leaders are calling on you to take a stand. Click the following link to sign a petition urging Congress to support public education and working families.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Judge Rules Louisiana School Voucher Program Unconstitutional

Ruling Confirms State's New Voucher Law Violates Louisiana Constitution By Funding
Non-Public Schools With MFP Dollars

19th Judicial District Court Judge Timothy Kelley ruled in favor of public education Friday, when he ruled that it is unconstitutional to fund non-public schools through the state’s school funding formula — the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP). Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) President Joyce Haynes said Friday’s decision was a significant victory in defending the right of every child in Louisiana to attend a quality public school.

“We need to adequately fund the institutions where the majority of our students learn,” she said. “And a majority of Louisiana’s students learn in public school classrooms.”

The lawsuit, sponsored by the LAE and other public school teacher and education groups, sought judicial declaration that Act 2 and Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 99 of the 2012 Legislative Session were unconstitutional because they directed the use of the state’s public school financing formula to pay for tuition for some students to attend private and parochial schools. The three-day trial consisted of attorneys dissecting the MFP, and comparing the language of ACT 2 and SCR 99 to that of the Louisiana Constitution. The proceedings focused on voucher dollars and the impact diverting them would have on the state’s public education system. Haynes said it’s important for people to know the facts about school vouchers.

“Proponents tout the voucher program as a means of reducing education costs, but they actually increase costs,” she said. “This program would have required Louisiana taxpayers to fund two school systems — one public and one private — draining away precious resources from our public school classrooms. Our students, teachers, and taxpayers deserve better.”

An issue LAE Attorney Brian Blackwell said violated the specific directions of Louisiana voters.

“Voters approved taxing themselves to better the public schools in their home parishes,” he said. “No voter was ever asked to approve public funding of non-public schools.”

Another discussion during the trial focused on the lack of accountability measures imposed on voucher schools accepting public funds.

“Private schools have almost complete autonomy with regard to how they operate: who they teach, what they teach, how they teach, how — if at all — they measure student achievement, how they manage their finances, and what they are required to disclose to parents and the public,” Haynes said. “Louisiana citizens deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent.”

Questions now arise about the future of the voucher program. Haynes said no matter what happens, students who enter Louisiana public schools will have qualified, caring teachers to receive them.

During the 2012 Legislative Session, LAE, LFT, and LSBA, along with a number of legislators, tried to point out the constitutional issues surrounding the use of the MFP as the funding mechanism for the voucher program, but the administration ignored their pleas.

“As an organization, we have indicated that teachers need stronger professional development opportunities, smaller class sizes, and appropriate evaluation and critique,” said LAE Executive Director Dr. Michael Walker-Jones. “Governor Jindal and Superintendent John White continue to ignore the professionals and make decisions without even looking at our perspective. They believe that the only answer is to divert funds away from inadequately-resourced classrooms and use standardized test scores to denigrate our schools and teachers. The biggest issue is their glorification of the phrase “school choice,” which does not accurately describe the voucher program.”

President Haynes pointed out that unlike public schools, private schools can discriminate in admissions on the basis of prior academic achievement, standardized test scores, interviews with applicants and parents, gender, religion, income, special needs, and behavioral history.

“As advocates for public education, it is our job to make sure that our public schools are adequately funded so that the educational experience is optimal for all of Louisiana’s children. This is their constitutional right,” she said.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White said the state will appeal the ruling. Haynes said it is her sincerest hope that all parties involved will now turn their attention to improving Louisiana public school classrooms.

“We need to invest in proven school improvement strategies like smaller class sizes, certified teachers, and up-to-date textbooks and technology,” she said. “We owe this to the future of this state.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

The LAE Brings Attention to Louisiana’s Upside-Down Tax Policies Through Tax Policy & Corporate Loopholes Symposium

Association Leaders & Tax Policy Experts to Gather on October 27th to Discuss the Impact of Louisiana’s Corporate Tax Loopholes on Statewide Funding Systems

WHAT: Propelled by upside-down tax policies, the gap in Louisiana’s budget continues to grow, hurting neighborhood schools, students, and communities. The LAE will bring attention to this startling issue through a tax policy and corporate loophole symposium on October 27th.

WHO: The Louisiana Association of Educators

WHERE: Drury Inn & Suites - 7939 Essen Park, Baton Rouge, LA

WHEN: Saturday, October 27th, 2012 @ 10 a.m.

WHY: Taxpayers and education stakeholders in Louisiana must demand that the state end unnecessary corporate tax exemptions and loopholes, and add more accountability and transparency in order to establish an equitable and efficient tax system for our state. This will lead to stronger schools and communities, but most importantly, a better Louisiana.

CONTACT: For more information, please contact Ashley Davis at or (225) 343-9243 ext. 119.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012



To all who were—and continue to be—affected by Hurricane Isaac, please know that our hearts are with you. 

We know that LaFourche and St. John parishes were hit hard and their schools remain closed. Thank you for staying strong and setting an example for all of us during these trying times. The LAE team is working on a plan to help our local affiliates recover from this devastating storm; we’ll keep you posted on specifics as they become available. Be sure to keep an eye on for updates regarding this matter.

In the meantime, we wanted to pass along a few resources for discussions surrounding this natural disaster. Go to to check out The NEA School Crisis Guide and other important resources for caregivers, parents, and teachers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

National Education Expert Diane Ravitch Features LAE Member Letter!

Sending a big CONGRATS to Elizabeth Walters For Scoring National Recognition on Diane Ravitch's Blog!

See the full post below...
August 18, 2012

In Louisiana, Private Schools Can Get an F and Public $$$

Academically Unacceptable? Not If It’s A Private School.

Nobody wants a doctor who scored an F in medical school. Nobody wants a plumber who scored an F in training courses.

Conventional wisdom holds that nobody wants her kid to attend a school that scores an F.

But what about a private school that scores an F? According to the state of Louisiana, private schools that score an F are A-OK.

If there was any question of whether Louisiana’s much-publicized school voucher program is an effort by State Superintendent John White and the rest of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to overtly favor private schools over public schools, the recently released “accountability” requirements for private schools in the voucher program should clear up any doubts. The requirements trumpet “a common standard for student performance across the system of traditional public, charter public, and nonpublic schools,” yet the standards for private schools receiving vouchers are far lower than those for public schools–so low that public schools meeting those standards are considered failures.

Louisiana evaluates its public schools using a 150-point scale, which is then converted into letter grades of A, B, C, D and F, based on students’ scores on standardized tests, as well as measures such as attendance and graduation rates. If a public school scores below a B on the accountability index, students from that school whose household income does not exceed 250 percent of poverty level can apply for vouchers.

Despite White’s own assertions about the importance of accountability to the voucher program, he has chosen not to hold voucher schools to the same standards. Private schools receiving vouchers will be able to continue receiving tax money previously earmarked for public schools–more than $8,000 per pupil–while scoring in the F range.

Yes, that’s right, an F. Private schools can score an F and continue receiving public funding.

Specifically, private schools receiving vouchers, whose voucher students will take the same standardized tests as public-school students, will be required to score only a 50on the scholarship cohort index–which the documentation states will be “substantially similar” to the public-school scoring matrix–in order to be eligible to receive more voucher students, and the money that comes with them. Judging by the public-school matrix, such a score places a school squarely in the F category. In fact, with just 60 schools out of 650 in Louisiana scoring below a 51 in the most recent round of grading, such a score would place a school in the ninth percentile of all tested schools. A similar score in a public school would lead the state to deem that school academically unacceptable and would render its students eligible for vouchers.

Given the emphasis that Louisiana officials place on test scores as incontrovertible measures of school (and teacher) quality, it is fair to ask under what logic one ninth-percentile school is considered superior to another ninth-percentile school, simply because one is private and the other public. That question is unlikely to be answered anytime soon, as is the question of how schools were chosen to receive vouchers in the first place; White and the Jindal administration have refused to release the records of the voucher-program deliberations.

Indeed, many people are beginning to wonder whether the state used any criteria at all, as stories of legal troubles, schools without teachers and self-proclaimed prophetsemerge among the institutions chosen to receive vouchers, to say nothing of the overtly religious agendas of the program’s legislative supporters or the disturbing claims found in textbooks used by some voucher schools.

White has previously proven sensitive to bad press over vouchers, but apparently he is not sensitive enough to the state’s citizens to give them the clarification they deserve. He did announce earlier this week that the state would be tightening the rules for voucher applicants because, according to the Times-Picayune, “this process now has greater importance.” White apparently did not elaborate on why he did not find the process greatly important to begin with.

Besides demonstrating the state’s prioritization of funding private schools over funding public ones–a prioritization that may be unconstitutional–Louisiana’s differing standards for public and private schools raise another interesting question: What do test scores really mean, and what do they really mean to policymakers? The “school accountability” and “school reform” movements–both of which have gained significant ground in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina seven years ago–take for granted the fact that standardized tests are the best way to measure learning and to hold schools accountable. Louisiana’s low test-score standards for private schools, however, trumpeted concurrently with calls for improved education, complicate the narrative. Could White, Jindal and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education possibly believe that factors other than test scores can be indicators of student learning? Or do they believe that private schools are just inherently better, no matter what the test scores say?

One thing’s for sure–when it comes to evaluating White’s own accountability, Louisiana’s leaders are apparently not that eager to find out whether the superintendent scores an A, a B, a C, a D or an F. The state just postponed his first performance review.

Elizabeth Walters teaches in southeast Louisiana.

Friday, August 17, 2012

LAE Moves Forward With Legal Challenge

*On June 22nd, 2012, leaders from LAE affiliates across the state gathered in Baton Rouge to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Act 2 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 99 of the Louisiana Legislature's 2012 Regular Session. On July 12th, Baton Rouge judge Tim Kelley ruled that he did not have jurisdiction to grant LAE an injunction which requested a delay in funding for the two new, Jindal-backed education laws. LAE attorneys asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to review this decision. On Wednesday, August 15th, LAE attorneys were notified that they were once again denied their request for an injunction. The following news release was distributed to Louisiana media outlets on Thursday, August 16th, in response to this decision.

LAE Moves Forward With Legal Challenge

Ruling Only Denies Request For Spending Halt
Constitutionality of Education Laws Still In Question

BATON ROUGE, LA – August 16, 2012 – LAE say they will move forward with a lawsuit seeking a declaration that Act 2 and Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 99 are unconstitutional, despite the Louisiana Supreme Court’s denial of a request to put voucher spending on hold pending the outcome of a decision on the constitutionality of the laws.

“The courts only denied our request for a spending halt; the merits of the case have not yet been determined,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes. “The constitutionality of these laws is still very much in question. Until a final decision is made on the merits, we will continue our appeal to the courts. We stand behind our commitment to make sure that every child in Louisiana has access to a quality public school education.”

On July 12th, Baton Rouge judge Tim Kelley ruled that he did not have jurisdiction to grant the injunctive relief requesting a delay in funding for two new, Jindal-backed education laws. LAE attorneys requested review of that decision.

“Through our request, we were hoping to prevent the recipients of funds from having to pay back the money when the courts hear the case and rule that Act 2 and SCR 99 are unconstitutional,” said LAE Attorney Brian Blackwell. “If Superintendent White and members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education were so confident in the legality of these laws, they should have agreed to litigate this case quickly, rather than have it go beyond August 1st.”

Blackwell went on to point out that state education officials could have also agreed to delay funding until the issue surrounding the constitutionality of the funding of non-public education under the new laws was resolved. President Haynes said her association's focus remains on protecting the interests of the 99% of Louisiana students whose families chose to keep them in the public schools.

“This is about protecting the constitutional rights of all Louisiana’s school children—not just a select few,” she said. “Our state constitution promises that every child in Louisiana will be provided with an educational setting that will give them the opportunity to develop to their full potential and that’s exactly what we’re trying to protect.”

The trial will proceed on October 15th before Judge Tim Kelley of the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

LAE Leaders Leave Annual Summer Leadership Conference Ready to Take on a New School Year!

New Local Presidents, Emerging Leaders, & Other Association Members Spend a Week Learning about How to Become Stronger Advocates for the Education Profession!

July 22nd through 26th was a busy week for LAE as more than 70 association leaders gathered in Marksville for LAE's annual Summer Leadership Conference. The focus of this year's event centered around learning and understanding the new education laws--Acts 1 & 2-- that will be enacted for the 2012-2013 school year. Participants also attended workshops on how to be a stronger advocate for the association, government relations and legislative action, communications, and professional development. The conference culminated with the naming of Sherry Thompson as president of the 2012 Emerging Leaders class.

Here are a few memories from this year's event...

Friday, July 27, 2012

LAE Attorney Sent Letter To Ask Voucher Schools To Hold Off On Using Money Until Legal Challenge Is Finalized

ATTENTION: On July 12th, Baton Rouge judge Tim Kelley ruled that he did not have jurisdiction to grant the injunctive relief requested to delay the funding of the two new, Jindal-backed education laws until a decision was made concerning the constitutionality of those laws.

On July 25th, in an effort to advise the schools participating in the voucher program of their potential future obligation to refund monies they may receive, LAE Attorney Brian Blackwell sent a letter to the participants asking them to agree to hold off on spending the money until a final decision was made on the constitutionality of the program. After the letter was received, there was an all out attack on LAE in the press calling the move “disgraceful,” “outrageous,” “shameful,” “sophomoric,” and the list goes on. Click here to see LAE’s response to the attacks.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Have you met LAE's newest staff member?

Welcome to LAE's New Northeastern Region UniServ Director Mrs. Angela Miller!

Angela grew up in Missouri. She has over 18 years of K-12 experience in the states of Missouri and Arizona. She was active in local and state association leadership and committees before becoming a UniServ Director in the Arizona Education Association.

Angela will serve Region 2 in northeastern Louisiana out of the Monroe office. She is excited to be working with the members of LAE...and we're just as excited to have her! For all you Monroe-area members, please note Angela's contact information listed below:

300 Washington Street, Suite #100 A
Monroe, LA 71201
Phone: (318)387-0536
Fax: (318)387-5150

Do you know who your LAE UniServ Director aka member advocate is?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guess Who Has Been Empowered by the Jindal Education Reform?

A guest blog from our friend Mike Deshotels aka The Louisiana Educator.
Governor Jindal and his state superintendent, John White, love to talk about how the Jindal education reforms embodied in Acts 1 and 2 of the 2012 legislative session will “empower” teachers, parents, and administrators. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the approval of this legislation amounts to the greatest stripping of educator power and job security in the history of Louisiana public education. It is also a full-fledged attack on all public schools.
This historic revamping of almost all major components of our K-12 education system was rammed through the legislature at an unprecedented speed. Some critical portions of the legislation received almost no public scrutiny. Many legislators apparently knew little about the ramifications of their votes.

Even though the Governor's plan for pushing through the legislation was designed to catch educators off guard, LAE was able to rally thousands of teachers to the steps of the Louisiana Capitol, and into overflowing committee rooms with only days notice. Teachers wearing red protest shirts flooded the entire bottom floor of the capitol for both the House and Senate committee hearings on House Bills 974 and 976 and Senate versions of the “reform” legislation. Record numbers of red cards were filled out by teachers indicating opposition to the bills in committee and requesting to speak in the committee hearings. Most of those teachers were denied the right to testify as the time for discussion of the bills was limited. Teachers tried desperately to get their legislators to meet with them and hear their professional opinions about the damaging impact of this legislation, but the majority of legislators had already committed their votes to the Governor on this poisonous legislation sight-unseen and were bound and determined to vote for it no matter what teachers wanted. Their decision was purely political and was done only to curry favor with the governor and his allies or to avoid the reprisals that the Governor was quite willing to inflict on all opposition.

Many legislators tried to reassure teachers from their districts that the legislation was only meant to affect the low performing schools and teachers, most of which were to be found outside their districts. Over and over again legislators said they were proud of the public school teachers and schools in their districts and that the legislation would have practically no impact on their teachers and administrators! Nothing could have been further from the truth. Educators who were active members of the LAE knew better because they took the time to read the analysis prepared by their Association and to read the bills for themselves. Nothing about the legislative process or the substance of this legislation had anything to do with teacher empowerment!

Not a shred of evidence was presented by the Governor and his allies to show that these major revisions of education law would improve the education of any students whatsoever. In fact, there was ample evidence to the contrary. The data resulting from the initial steps of privatization of education in Louisiana through the use of charter schools and vouchers show more of a negative impact on education of children than a positive one. All so-called failing schools taken over by the Recovery District keeping the same student body before conversion to charters in Louisiana are now performing at a lower level than before the takeover. The majority of children who had utilized the limited public to private vouchers have performed worse than before transferring to the private schools.

On the issues of teacher employment, evaluation, and reduction in force, not one bit of evidence was presented to the legislature to indicate that the changes in Act 1 would improve instruction and retain the best teachers. The new value-added teacher evaluation system has not yet produced one positive result in all the states where it has been tried, but it has produced many horror stories for teachers and students. My blog at contains numerous posts over a two and a half year period to document the failures of charters, vouchers, and value-added efforts. These posts cite actual statistics and studies that demonstrate, over and over, the lack of success of such programs. The truth is there for anyone who is interested in the truth.

But this legislation was not really about trying to improve education; it was about privatization of education, and the stripping of job security and the professional status of all public school teachers. I pointed out in one of my blog posts that Act 1 has reduced the job status of a typical teacher to that of a teenage grocery store clerk. That's the kind of teacher empowerment that has been produced by the Jindal education reform.

In answer to those legislators who assured their local educators that none of this legislation would adversely affect them, I want to point out just a few results of the legislation. Starting this school year, there will be a large number of private schools--some of them operating in our highest performing public school systems--that will be able to draw students from public schools and place them in substandard buildings with no adequate materials for instruction or qualified teachers. So far, the state has done almost nothing to insure that there will be adequate instruction in such schools. Their students can be promoted from one grade to another or even given a diploma without passing any of the LEAP or graduation tests. Also, to the amazement of some legislators who voted for the Jindal reforms, it is quite possible for a Muslim school, or even a school operating as one of the dreaded Medrassas, to demand voucher funding from our taxes as long as they meet the same minimal standards met by the rag tag “Christian” schools that have already been approved!

Act 2 also provides for the approval of new charter school authorizors that will be allowed and encouraged to approve new charter schools in all parishes that can compete directly with all public schools (not just the ones rated as low performers) for students. The law has now dropped all certification requirements for teachers in all so called “public” charter schools. These schools will be allowed to use our tax monies to advertise in the media for the purpose of attracting students and their share of the MFP funding from public schools. Over time the transfer of funding could financially cripple even our higher performing public school systems.

Finally, on the issue of teacher job security; there now is none. The legislation in Act 1 has amended the teacher tenure law to the point that all teachers will now be “at will” employees. They can be fired any time the principal and the local superintendent agree that they want to fire a particular teacher. The so-called tenure hearing will be held before a hearing committee where two of the three members will be appointed by the principal and the superintendent. In the case of layoffs, if a 20-year, tenured teacher has the misfortune of teaching a class where students perform below the expectation predicted by the value-added formulas, that teacher must be the first to be laid off no matter how good his/her evaluations have been for the past 20 years.

All public education employees are very much at risk. If a principal or a superintendent does not produce his/her quota of value-added success over a period of time, he/she must be dismissed. Theoretically, even a principal of a high-performing school is at risk if the students there do not perform according to the value-added formula expectations. Local educators have absolutely no input into the development of the value-added formulas by which they will be judged. Local voters have no say at all in the educator evaluation system.

So let's review: We have parents who can send their children to voucher schools, but they cannot choose the school, and they will never know how much their child is learning using the Louisiana accountability standards. We have teachers who can be fired at-will, or if they have the misfortune of having a class that performs below the expectations set by the state experts. We have principals who can be dismissed because their students do not perform according to value-added expectations, or because they refuse to fire teachers who do not meet value-added expectations. We have superintendents who can have their contracts voided by the state superintendent if they do not meet value-added expectations. And, we have school boards who now cannot make employment decisions for anyone but the local superintendent even though they can be overruled by the state superintendent in that employment decision. We have taxpayers who have absolutely no say in anything having to do with education, and a Governor with no training in education,and a state superintendent with two years teaching experience and questionable certification who rule over it all. Who do you think has been empowered?

The only way educators will be empowered is if they take action now to empower themselves! LAE is a strong, well-run professional education association. Because of the expertise of its leaders and staff, and its affiliation with the National Education Association, it is also a powerful union, but it needs to be made much more powerful if educators are to triumph in this critical battle. If you are already a member, please start recruiting other educators who had not yet joined. If you are not yet a member of LAE-NEA, and you believe in the education profession and public education, please join today and get active in the association as it goes into battle for the children and their teachers.


Michael Deshotels, retired educator