NEWS: Changes possible in Louisiana school policies

From The Baton Rouge Advocate:

Penny Dastugue, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said earlier this week that tenure is a recurring topic in “stakeholder” meetings that Jindal has been holding with lawmakers and others before he spells out his 2012 education package.

“It is the subject that comes up in every conversation,” she said.

Tenure is a form of job protection.

In general, public school teachers who meet standards are awarded tenure after three years.

Backers say tenure prevents teachers from unfair firings. Critics say that it all but guarantees a job for life, regardless of the teacher’s performance.

Dastugue, a Jindal appointee, said legislation could address anything from how long teachers with unsatisfactory ratings should have before they face formal job reviews, to new tenure policies for future teachers.

She said there has also been talk of changing tenure for school bus drivers, who are thought to enjoy the only such law of its kind in the United States.

Starting this fall some public schoolteachers will start undergoing annual evaluations linked in part to growth of student achievement.

Brigitte Nieland, a vice president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said there have been discussions of new rules for precisely what teachers face if they get unsatisfactory classroom ratings and fail to improve.

“I think it would be linked to the new evaluation,” said Nieland, who attended one of the private meetings with Jindal and others.

Jim Garvey, vice-president of BESE, said he also thinks tenure will be a topic during the 2012 regular legislative session, which begins on March 12.

“My guess is he (Jindal) is not planning to do away with tenure, but he has talked about tweaking it,” Garvey said.

State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, has sponsored tenure legislation in the past and said he would do so again. His past efforts have been unsuccessful.

“If they ask me to, obviously I would love to,” said Carter, who could become chairman of the House Education Committee.

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