Monday’s public forum at the Lake Charles Civic Center regarding education in Louisiana certainly hit the mark on its intended goal. The forum, initiated by Louisiana Progress and co-sponsored by the American Press and the City of Lake Charles, sought to create a constructive dialogue regarding the status and path of primary and secondary education in the state. (Lance Traweek / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 5:33 PM
Monday’s public forum at the Lake Charles Civic Center regarding education in Louisiana certainly hit the mark on its intended goal.
The forum, initiated by Louisiana Progress and co-sponsored by the American Press and the City of Lake Charles, sought to create a constructive dialogue regarding the status and path of primary and secondary education in the state.
The overwhelming majority of the 150 that attended were teachers and school administrators, a larger than expected turnout, but one that was somewhat disappointing because it was short on both parents and members of the business community.
Because of that, complaints about the education reforms being enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal, state lawmakers and the state Department of Education dominated the conversation.
That’s understandable. Teachers and administrators have plenty to gripe about from how the new voucher system that pays some tuition for students from low -performing schools to move to private schools was implemented to the uncertainty and unfairness in the new system that will be used to evaluate them.
Part of their frustration stems from the way the Jindal administration did not reach out to teachers and value their input in how the system should be reformed. Had the teachers’ opinions been considered there may have been better buy-in on their part.
‘‘The teachers have not been engaged enough in the planning and implementation and I think what we heard tonight was a lot of fear and frustration and a lack of information,’’ said Melissa Flournoy, director of Louisiana Progress. ‘‘I’m hoping the message back to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is we really need to do a better job informing our teachers and providing training for them for the implementation of all these reforms.’’
Holly Boffy, who represents Southwest Louisiana on the BESE board, came under repeated fire, but never flinched.
‘‘I will not stand here and tell you that our evaluation system is perfect, but I will tell you that it is much better than not giving teachers feedback on their direction,’’ she said. ‘‘I see it as a step in the right direction.’’
At the same time, the teachers’ unions at the state level must also shoulder part of the blame for not being more proactive and offering alternative suggestions and/or partnering with the Jindal administration to craft reforms that all parties could live with.
If there was a downside to the evening, it was that all of the complaints led to an evening where the plight of the student took a backseat.
There was little discussion about how to get parents and guardians more involved, the critical issue of early childhood education, the reinforcement of reading fundamentals and a host of other issues that affect students learning and achievement.
That doesn’t mean the forum was a failure. Quite the contrary. What it does mean is there needs to be more open, frank discussions where all the stakeholders participate, exchange ideas and pledge to work cooperatively for the betterment students in Louisiana.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.