By Dr. Jim Guillory, former run-off candidate Board of Elementary Secondary Education Dist. 8 (Dr. Guillory has earned degrees in La., UL Lafayette, LSU, Tulane and University of Florida)
This article is being written in response to a public letter "The Responsible Thing to Do" by the Governor espousing his effort to reform education and retirement systems. Accordingly, it was stated “It’s time for truth telling.” Dr. Guillory posted an article on a website, avoyellestoday.com, in December 2011 entitled “Responsible, Leadership and Reform.” His definition addressed this subject as being about wealth, power and self. As we can readily see by recent news releases that a majority of our elected representatives do not appear to be addressing extremely important statewide issues in a responsible and transparent manner. (Decisions are being made by using statistical data skewed to support their viewpoints and positions). Thus, we should be demanding that all legislative actions be subjected to an Economic Cost Benefit Effective Methodology. This business model approach would enable the public and tax payers to evaluate the economic costs involved in these hastily approved programs.
BESE, as we are aware, is a compromised policy making body for education and has been effectively neutralized by the huge effort of state financial interests desiring to privatize education. Has this public body fulfilled its state constitutional duty to develop policy which promotes equitable education choices for all students to achieve academic successes? Do we need a BESE membership controlled by the administration and out of state wealthy business owners?
The recent actions of BESE members have not applied a basic economic model, Cost Benefit Effective Analysis to the numerous unproven reform positions being advanced as a panacea or silver bullet for positive changes in public education and are as follows: 1) Teacher Education Instrument was approved by BESE, to have been piloted for one year and fully implemented in 2012. Preliminary findings from pilot programs show principals spending 7-8 hours of professional time for each teacher evaluation. Also, the value added component has a margin of error ranging between 35%-55%. What will be the cost for this hastily implemented program? Could taxpayer (MFP allocations) dollars be better used for classroom instruction activities? 2) BESE budget is $3.4 billion dollars and each year the Superintendent of Education diverts millions for outside contracts to evaluate teachers and starves the MFP funding allocations. Has a deliberate and objective Cost Benefit/Effective Analysis been made to project costs and the positive and negative impacts on student achievement? 3) Vouchers or scholarships will be awarded/approved for use in other parishes or entities. Did the BESE membership conduct a thorough Cost Benefit Analysis of the impact of this program prior to dispensing millions of public dollars to private groups? 4) Special rules and regulations for other type schools but not public ones, are approved. Why has BESE caved on fulfilling their constitutional authority to advance policy which benefits all children, not a select percentage of the state’s population? They are developing programs which simply pick losers and winners by formulating statistical models which can be designed and skewed for support of their predetermined positions or advocacy, 5) Numerous reform considerations, are available for several positive programs being conducted by public school systems such as: a) Use MFP funds to implement a statewide universal Pre-K to 4th grade programs designed to prepare young children for improved academic achievement which leads to better graduation rates. West Feliciana schools have successfully accomplished this concept for the past 15 years; b) address and correct the negative impact of discipline and large class sizes as correlated to SPS and grades defining failing schools; c) promote education policy that prepare students for college and/or those who desire vocational education as a career path to earn certified trade skill sets needed by businesses (Avoyelles, Evangeline, Iberville and others); d) review and objectively evaluate all programs for their effectiveness and e) design accountability procedures for all levels of management and instructional programs funded by public taxpayer dollars.
Finally, several questions may be appropriate for all interested citizens to think about during this critical education reform debate. They may include: 1) does the Governor ignore state university educated individuals and view these professionals to be less competent than his northern friends? 2) should all school models have the same rules and regulations, enrollment criteria and personnel requirements for a fair comparison of their performances, 3) has the grading system adopted by BESE been statistically skewed to assure the designation of “failure”? 4) has the Governor been transparent, ethical, heavy handed or fair with all stakeholders in the education community? Finally is this reform effort good economic policy since the appropriations committees have been bypassed in the less than transparent process?
As the Governor states, retirement costs have increased dramatically but so has inflation. However, an objective cost benefit analysis would reveal:
1) retirement systems are regularly subjected to legislation to add lawmakers and supporters to the system and are commonly approved with excessive benefit packages,
2) a constitutional amendment was passed in 1988, by the people to fully fund and stabilize these systems over twenty years. However, our legislators overturned the people’s vote, by over-riding a state-wide constitutional amendment. Thus, our problems exist today. Where is the Responsible Leadership? and
3) merging two retirement systems which have $500 million or more in assets, presently managed by responsible individuals, and are solvent.
It is reported “that’s an inefficient way to do business and not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars, so privatization is the answer. Fifty percent or more of these funds are employee contributions taken from their after taxes paycheck.
The general public must ask will a third party manager, Goldman Sachs or another Wall Street firm to be more efficient?
I believe that these firms were bailed out by the taxpayers. Will a cost benefit effective evaluation be required prior to raiding these systems, and a secure accountability program be implemented for protection of state employees?
Also does the public hold our legislators accountable by demanding objectivity, honesty, fairness and exhibiting statesmanship qualities of be viewed as good leaders by standing with and protecting their constituents financial interests?
Please remember our military personnel and families in your prayers.