Teachers rally against Jindal plan to save schoolsApr 11th, 2012 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
On April 2, Plaquemines Parish educators and supporters rallied on Highway 23 to protest Governor Bobby Jindal’s Education Reform package. Photo by Jessica Gonzales
Donning red shirts, life-jackets, protest signs and flyers, concerned Plaquemines Parish teachers and supporters rallied together on Highway 23 April 2 with one message: “S.O.S. – Save our schools!”.
The group’s goal was to bring awareness to the parish about Governor Bobby Jindal’s new educational reform package, in the form of a rush hour rally at the busy intersection of Highway 23 and Woodland Hwy on the eve of Senate’s debate of the controversial bills.
The measures which approve teacher tenure restrictions and student achievement-based pay were passed with amendments by the Senate Wednesday afternoon by a 26-19 vote.
Other bills in the Governor’s plan would create a tax-payer funded statewide voucher program to pay for private school tuition for certain low-income students, and expand charter schools in Louisiana.
Julie Sanders, an AP History and Gifted teacher at Belle Chasse High School spearheaded the April 2 rally and said that one of the main things that Plaquemines Parish residents should know about the education plan is that local control over public schools would be compromised, which could have an adverse effect on the district’s current ranking of 5th in the state.
“This bill gives more control to politicians in Baton Rogue. Local decisions will be made in Baton Rouge, yet we’re the 5th highest district. We have a great system in Plaquemines, lets work to protect that,” Sanders stated.
Sanders said that the main goal of the rally was to open up dialogue about the polarizing bill, which she feels was hastily passed through the House.
“We’re not the first to try this sort of thing; similar bills in Tennessee are being tested for constitutionality, so lets just take a breath and get some meaningful discourse,” Sanders said.
Sanders also stressed that the rally was a positive thing. She and her fellow teachers decided to come out on the first day of their Spring Break to show that Plaquemines teachers are “dedicated to students even when we’re not in the classroom.”
In addition to local districts losing control over educational decisions, many teachers feel the tenure restrictions and student achievement-based pay are not solutions to education reform.
Gina Fitch has been teaching Art in Plaquemines Parish for 29 years, and was at the roadside rally to voice her frustration with public school critics, and the misconception that protesting teachers are more concerned about retaining a cushy job than student achievement.
“My teaching has been a family affair for 29 years,” Fitch said emotionally. “My kids and husband have worked the concession stand at sports games, whenever I need supplies for my classroom and the budget isn’t there, that comes out of my personal funds.” she said. “You’re not in teaching for the money. That’s ridiculous.”
The amended bills are now going back to the House, who must ratify the new amended versions or send it to committee to reconcile any differences in the legislation.