Future of education reform in the air

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brick by brick, Louisiana’s judges appear to be dismantling Gov. Bobby Jindal’s platform of educational reform.

First it was a Baton Rouge judge ruling the voucher system, which allows students to attend private and parochial schools using public funds, unconstitutional. The voucher system was the centerpiece of Jindal’s plan to revamp the state’s failing education system.

The second blow came this past week when a judge threw out a portion of Jindal’s so-called tenure plan. Judge Michael Cald-well upheld the components that deal with new teacher tenure and salary laws but ruled a section that stripped local school boards of any authority into personnel matters did not fit into the objective of the bill.

The clause Caldwell struck down gave local superintendents sole authority in the hiring and firing of principals, administrators, teachers, and support staff. There was concern the new law transferred too much authority to the superintendents, thereby gutting each local board of input into key personnel decision, with the exception of hiring the superintendent.

While the voucher ruling, if it is enforced, could be good news for the St. John the Baptist Parish school system as it lost more than 200 students — and the accompanying MFP funding — to the voucher program this year, the newest ruling could bog the system in unnecessary bureaucracy at a time when it needs to act most efficiently.

Already, repairs to East St. John High School were delayed by several weeks as each individual school board member waded his or her way through each option, only to choose the lone real option available — to follow FEMA’s lead and repair the original school.

Now personnel changes that may be necessitated by the shuffling of students to new campuses will likewise have to gain board approval — a sometimes time-consuming process.

Having a system of checks and balances is no doubt the best policy, but shackling the person chosen to lead a school system goes beyond mere checks and ba-lances.

Regardless, the latest ruling shows why the government is un-able to act on anything quickly. Bills with one purpose become bogged down with unrelated clauses and cloud the issue. Had the bills been written in a straight forward and cohesive way from the start, this legal limbo that has so many school districts across the state uncertain of how to move forward may well have been avoided.