Louisiana teachers took the day off today to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform plan, which would make changes to teacher tenure, restructure teacher compensation to reward performance and enable low-income students to use vouchers to leave underperforming schools to attend private or charter schools.
It was a cornily themed protest: Teachers declared it “the funeral for real education reform” and even toted along a mock coffin. Intimidating. They hoped for “real reform,” they wrote in a release, “but the policies proposed and the legislative process thus far is proving fatal.”
At least they’re out in the open about their flagrant disregard for the legislative process. Their proposed alternative to it? An election to recall the governor! Have they not seen what a catalyst for cross-country conservative activism Scott Walker has become? Eh, well, if they want to grow the conservative movement, I’m cool with that.
But the children. No, seriously, what about the children? This is the second time this month that Louisiana teachers have canceled class to attempt to, er, put the nail in the coffin of the legislative process. As The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke wrote about a mid-March protest:
When one-third of all students are below grade level, the last thing public school employees should be doing is using class time to lobby the state legislature to prevent much-needed reforms. But they are joining the education unions who are descending upon Baton Rouge and are in full force to maintain lifetime job security for teachers, a compensation system that fails to reflect teacher performance, and a lack of school choice options for children.
It’s a combination that has been failing Louisiana students for too long. Jindal is working to implement significant reforms that are in the best interests of children in the state—not the demands of the adults in the system—and for that, public school teachers are leaving the classroom this week to join hands with the unions.
Naturally, taxpayers will be footing the bill for the teachers’ lobbying, since the school districts are considering these “professional development” days.
This is the attitude of too many public school teachers today, yet Bill Maher still has the gall to criticize the Santorums’ decision to homeschool their children! Disappointing, but not surprising.
A quick caveat: When I write, “This is the attitude of too many public school teachers today,” I do not mean, “This is the attitude of all public school teachers today.” (Crazy that I have to clarify that, but so be it!) As a graduate of a public high school, I deeply appreciate the teachers who made a significant positive impact on my education. Similarly, as a relative and friend of several public school teachers, I am encouraged and inspired by teachers whose first concern as teachers is the education of their students.
Still, protests like these suggest that adults care more to preserve the system than to improve the quality of education children receive. They also smack of a certain elitism that assumes union leaders know better than individual teachers and teachers know better than parents how to raise and educate children. In fact, one Louisiana union leader has admitted as much:
According to Dr. Michael Walker Jones of the Louisiana Association of Educators, low-income parents “don’t have a clue” when it comes to making decisions about their children’s education. Last week, in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, he stated: “If I’m a parent in poverty, I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day-to-day.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) was quick to respond to Jones, who leads the state’s largest education union:
“The union leader’s comments are just the type of top-down, arrogant, elitist mentality that has badly damaged our system of public education in this country. I believe that parents—regardless of their income or circumstances—know what’s best for their children. It’s ridiculous and insulting to say that parents can’t make decisions in the best interest of their children.”
I’m with Governor Jindal.
Update: Forgot to link to this article that mentioned teachers’ desire to recall the governor!