Editorial: More open, frank discussions on education needed in this state

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.