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State Superintendent Meeting Reveals Another Passdown Cost to Local Districts - Thursday, August 25, 2011






            Louisiana Acting Superintendent of Education Ollie Tyler reached out to the staff of the Louisiana School Boards Association yesterday to discuss how the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) and the Louisiana School Boards Association might forge an alliance in support of the children of Louisiana.


          The tenor of the meeting, on both sides, was very cordial and candid views were exchanged. 


          Surfacing at the meeting was another jolt to those school districts whose students have derived much benefit from participating in the state’s EPLAN/EPAS preparation program for the ACT test.  She divulged that the program would not be funded this year.


          Superintendent Tyler explained that the DOE had been operating with the explicit understanding that the Board of Regents (BOR) would continue its funding for half of the cost of the program which successfully prepares children to take the college readiness ACT test.


          However, the Regents staff notified the DOE that, contrary to what had been promised, the $350,000 which the BOR had been providing would not be forthcoming during the current year    

Last year, the Plan was cut from the Regents budget, but the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) that operates the popular TOPS program advanced the BOR’s share of funding.  The LOSFA concluded that the success of EPLAN/EPAS in readying children for the ACT and the number of children served made program continuation a priority.  But this year the budgetary constraints of the Jindal administration coupled with growth in applications for TOPS scholarships meant the higher education part of TOPS funding would not be available.


          There were 78,281 students taking part in the Plan (EPLAN and EPAS).  Eighty-one percent of those students involved said they planned on going to college.  The great success of The Plan has led to many other states seeking help from Louisiana in adapting the program to their needs.


          This year 15,964 students qualified for early start dual enrollment based upon EPLAN scores and math scores of 11,807 EPLAN students made them ready for TOPS opportunity grants.  The program has been even more beneficial for minority students who, with the assistance of the Louisiana EPLAN activity, compiled a composite score of 17.2 vs. the national norm of 16.9.  The biggest advantage of minority EPLAN participants was in reading where they out-performed the national norm 17.8 to 16.8.


          Sometime this year the money supporting Louisiana’s EPLAN program will run out and Supt. Tyler acknowledges that local districts will be hard pressed to pick up the tab to continue.  She will continue, along with the BOR, to seek grant dollars.


          In other matters, the LSBA staff suggested that the DOE might evaluate priorities in its own budget as well.  The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), at its last meeting refused to approve contracts to Teach for America (TFA) that amounted to more than $2 million.  The objection grew from the realization that the Louisiana Education Conference recently reported that there is now a surplus of experienced teachers in the state.

The Conference, in May, reported "The annualized demand sum of public and private is about 3,720 teachers.  Statewide annualized production of students plus certified out-of-state teachers is estimated at about 5,600 students per year.  This would suggest an over-supply of teachers relative to public school demand and private school teacher demand.”


 This begs the question of the need to spend state money for recruiting out of state teachers.


          LSBA has discovered that some 850 beginning teachers in the Teach for America program have been recruited over the past two years.  For each recruit, Teach for America is paid a fee.  In Baltimore, MD, that fee reportedly amounts to $5,000 per recruit and in Birmingham it is reportedly $2,750.


          The funding for TFA was added to the DOE’s budget in Jindal’s Executive budget and thus it is questionable whether it could be cut.  BESE will face that decision at its next meeting.


          Superintendent Tyler and LSBA Executive Director Nolton Senegal agreed that some of the proposals that would be forthcoming from DOE might provide fertile grounds for improving collaboration.  Several of the proposals will deal with transparency in accountability and in transitioning into the new testing and common core standards regimes.  Multi-year pilots that heavily involve local school district voluntary participation are envisioned.


          Clearly the climate of the meeting was vastly different from some past LSBA meetings with DOE leadership.


          LSBA has strongly supported the ACT program and specifically EPLAN/EPAS, and has also been advised that school districts widely across Louisiana have found that recruiting through job fairs has provided more than an adequate number and a better quality of teaching applicants. 


          For those local districts slated to lose the EPLAN/EPAS program and don’t need any new recruitment, it should be made clear to their stakeholders that there are already far more TFA teachers in Louisiana than are needed and that those 78,281 EPLAN/EPAS students are more deserving of continued support than TFA.


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