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Louisiana School Board Association

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Hear the Echoes #8 - Friday, February 25, 2011

Hear the Echoes #8



Red Tape Reduction Act:  Need reduction not strings attached




Although statistics show that only seven percent of an average school’s budget is subsidized by the feds, local districts complain about massive paperwork and red tape required to receive these skimpy funds. A 1991 survey of Ohio school districts found that each district was required to fill out an average of 330 forms, of which 157 were from the state and 173 were from the federal government.  The federal government, responsible for only seven percent of the budget, causes 55% of the red tape.


Is there a superintendent in Louisiana whose staff, right down to the school teacher in a classroom, who would not love to be free from the high tide of record keeping that prevails in education?


Deleting all said reporting requirements is not within the realm of possibilities.  But, eliminating duplicated data inputs, automating the whole mess, and cutting out reporting that often yields no help to decision makers would be welcome relief.  Of course the state legislation could not reduce the massive federal paperwork requirement either.


Why then has the Jindal red tape reduction act of 2010 not been used by any of the 69 public school districts in Louisiana?


The answer is registered in the claim that there are too many onerous strings attached?


The idiom, "no strings attached”, is defined as meaning no special demands or limits that you have to accept in order to obtain the red tape relief.  A scan of the act, and of the rules imposed by the state department of education provides a clear reason for ignoring the act.


Two thirds of school boards in Louisiana refuted the Race to the Top grant application because of the harsh strings attached.  Four strategies, not backed by any research, dictated and limited how districts might accelerate student achievement; and minimal input of grant dollars expected would commit local districts to open ended spending to continue support of potentially unsuccessful programs.


Now the legislature flies in the face of the deeply considered judgment of local elected school officials to make the same requirements apply to red tape reduction.


Once again, the Jindal administration packaged a desirable prize for local school districts in destructive wrappings.


As in so many of the commercials touting special offers one must be aware of the fine print or be saddled with exposure to future demands that are onerous.


Concurrent with this offer of bureaucratic relief, new programs with new reporting and monitoring are added to the administrative workload.


Testing for every grade has all but stopped teaching for a couple of weeks a year as faculty, staff and students prepare for and take exams the results of which are tabulated by state contractors, analyzed by staff in the state department, and then finally passed back to local academic affairs officials.


Now a new value added growth model is being rolled out in Louisiana.  It is to be used to evaluate teachers and schools, and it too is likely to impose more paperwork on teachers and local administrators.  We don’t as yet know how much because the state department, along with 25 other state departments, is in the process of designing the program.


Next comes the common core standards adopted by the Louisiana legislature, and the coming of a new assessment system to measure student achievement.  The consortium developing this new assessment system (Louisiana is part of it) is looking to craft "through-course assessments” that will test students every nine weeks or so.  These tests are planned to be roole up into a summative assessment. 

The overriding question then becomes:  Is anyone thinking about how much time is left for teaching?


Should anyone believe that the results of this new design will bring about less onerous paperwork requirements must be ignoring past development?


If the Jindal administration truly wishes to free up local educational agencies time and therefore give teachers and building administrators more time to focus on children, then all requirements except for the one that outlines the strategies to be used in accelerating student achievement should be amended from the Act.






Don Whittinghill

LSBA Consultant

February 25, 2011