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Louisiana School Board Association



News & Announcements

BESE Report - Friday, June 17, 2011

Charter Denied Request

Withdrawal from Teachers Retirement System

 

 

First Line, a non-profit education management operator of a New Orleans RSD charter school, was denied the right to operate a teacher retirement program that is outside the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana.  In its original charter application to BESE, the school agreed that its teachers would be in TRSL.  However, charges were levied before BESE that the teachers were later pressured into accepting a different retirement scheme in a Social Security 403 matching fund option plan.

 

A letter from TRSL to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service questioning the legality of this action brought the reply that it could not clarify the issue before it completes the conducting of a nationwide study of charter schools tax status.  TRLS expects the study to conclude within six to nine months.  Walter Lee, a BESE member and the Superintendent of De Soto Parish, brought the issue to a head with a motion that prohibited First Line from withdrawing from TRSL until the issue is settled.  The vote to approve First Line’s request to withdraw died for lack of a six- vote majority.  While the item is now removed from the BESE agenda, it can be returned at a future BESE meeting when assumedly the sixth vote to allow withdrawal will be present.

 

Perhaps the most contentious debate in the two-day BESE meeting was over whether Lee’s attempt to pull the TRSL issue from the committee report for discussion was permissible.  President Penny Dastague was advised by the new BESE Executive Director that the Lee’s motion was out of order since he had not voted on the prevailing side during committee.   Lee was visibly upset by this.  After much heated debate, the recording secretary read from BESE bylaws that the current rules allow any BESE member to pull an item from a committee report for further discussion.  However in December, only a member who voted on the prevailing side will be allowed to pull an item for further discussion.  Board member Linda Johnson stated that she believed the new rule was intended to apply only to an absent committee member’s ability to  pull an item previously discussed in committee, thus causing undue re-discussion.   

 

In other action, BESE heard that Louisiana’s participation in Advanced Placement trails the Southern Region and nation and that only 33 of Louisiana’s districts actually offer AP classes.  The state ranks second to last  in the nation in the number of students earning college credit for their AP scores.

 

Representatives of the Special Education Advisory Council complained to BESE about the lack of transparency in the way the state department handles special education.  Changed leadership in DOE, the testifying representatives reported, has brought about much less information and contact with the special needs community.   A complaint was registered that local school districts do not offer sufficient opportunity for special education teachers to obtain training.  They complained that the state and districts do not provide special education teachers with sufficient professional development to enable them to become more successful in their interventions.  BESE directed the department to intensify its outreach program.

 

BESE also considered a request to waive the awarding of Letter Grades for those schools (particularly RSD-NO charter schools) that show significant growth but are expected to be given "F” grades in the new system.  Most RSD-NO charters and direct run schools appear to be headed for "F” scores.  The charter schools are concerned that in a free-market system in which   parents can choose from competing schools, they may even turn away from charters showing poor progress.  BESE ruled that all schools need to be letter-graded this year or the law would be violated.

 

BESE also evaluated the degree to which schools are in compliance with the legislative mandate that 70% of their resources be spent on Instruction.  Twenty-eight schools in the state were reported to be failing to meet that requirement.  The Department will continue working with those schools to obtain compliance with the law.

 

An analysis presented by the department shows that there seems to be little relationship between the percent of budget spent in the classroom and the District  Performance Scores (SPS).  For example, St. Charles spends 75.17% on instruction and obtains a 104.9 DPS.  St. James Parish spends 82.3% and achieves a 93.3 score, and St. John the Baptist spends 74.74% scoring 81.8.  Orleans Parish spends 66.81% on instruction but gains a 104.3 score, while Plaquemine Parish spends 55.33% but scores 105.

 

Six local school district resolutions advising BESE of their support for the new Coalition for Louisiana Public Schools were received and acknowledged by the board.

 

BESE also held a joint meeting with the Board of Regents for Higher Education.  In a report, the Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence reported that in order to reach graduation and post secondary education goals, better use of school counselors are required.  The joint membership heard that Louisiana has now adopted the Louisiana School Counseling Model, a comprehensive student development program.  This model came from a DOE task force that worked two years developing the program.  Don Whittinghill was the LSBA member on the task force. 

 

Among recommendations adopted was a requirement that the role and responsibility of school counselors be clearly defined and that state support for school counselors be enhanced in order to enable counselors to meet student growth expectations.  The Commission also recommended a more intensive outreach to school districts which articulates the roles and responsibilities of counselors, and urged discontinuance of the practice of assigning added administrative duties to counselors which diminish their time available for counseling students.