The challenge remains great. Our state still lags in the bottom third of most national rankings, and likely will continue to do so for a while as standards and assessments are raised to become as rigorous as other states. Education and jobs are the paths out of poverty, and Louisiana’s citizens deserve the quality of life offered to citizens in prosperous states. LABI will continue to fight for students, taxpayers, and a quality workforce that can bring good jobs with benefits, and will fight against defenders of the status quo that benefits a few but not all.
Early Childhood Education
The Issue: High-quality, affordable and available childcare greatly impact the productivity of Louisiana’s workforce. Early learning opportunities, particularly during the first three years of life when the brain is forming more than 1 million new neural connections every second, lay the foundation for school readiness. Too many working parents in Louisiana do not have access to affordable, safe, high-quality childcare environments, and too many children enter kindergarten without basic skills and knowledge needed for learning.
LABI Position: Support high quality daycare and early childhood learning.
Reasoning: Absenteeism and job turnovers negatively impact Louisiana’s workforce, and both are heavily influenced by unreliable childcare. Studies have shown that investing in early childhood education shows positive results such as higher wages later in life; increased tax revenue; better public schools; improved public health; less crime, and better educated, skilled workers.
The Issue: Louisiana’s unemployment crisis is not due to the lack of available jobs. It is the result of the lack of qualified workers who possess both the technical and soft skills required in our increasingly technical economy.
LABI Position: Support the transformation of Louisiana’s workforce development system to become market driven and employer connected. Advocate for additional training and recruitment of skilled trades men and women to combat the workforce shortage in critical sectors such as construction and manufacturing. Support rational and effective re-entry programs for ex-offenders that will enhance workforce development efforts. Support programs in high school that offer training and workforce skills development.
Reasoning: Louisiana has an urgent need for workforce development. The private and public sectors must work collaboratively to address the most urgent need facing the state.
Public School K-12 Accountability System
The Issue: It is critically important that the Louisiana business community continue to support, monitor, defend and strengthen the K-12 public school accountability program. There are continued attacks on accountability and standards from the education bureaucracy; we must defend against all attacks on education reform.
LABI Position: Support, protect and strengthen the K-12 accountability program. Stop efforts to eliminate or suspend accountability components such as the assignment of letter grades to schools.
Reasoning: The foundation of a strong public school system must include academically rigorous standardized tests and a plan to determine what to do about schools and school systems with poor student achievement results.
The Issue: The state has 14 publicly funded four-year universities, as well as community and technical colleges, with four unique university systems, management boards and a Board of Regents.
LABI Position: Support recommendations that call for defining the role, scope and mission of each higher education institution; implementing performance-based funding, restructuring governance to maximize efficiency; and reorganizing campuses to support their missions and align them to regional economic development priorities. Support tuition and fee autonomy.
Reasoning: The Board of Regents and the Legislature should continue to examine all institutions of higher education and make recommendations for closing and/or consolidating programs and institutions. Geographical proximity, enrollment, graduation rates, students’ performance on professional examinations, job placement and retention, duplication of programs and accreditation difficulties are starting points for consideration. Shared facilities, faculty and supplies for technical training (secondary, technical college and four-year universities) should be part of the effort to consolidate and improve efficiency.
Pro-Taxpayer Reform: Support Paycheck Protection legislation that would reform or eliminate taxpayer-funded bodies (such as local school districts) from collecting membership dues or other monies for organizations that engage in political activities (such as teacher unions) through automatic payroll deduction.
Teacher Quality: Support legislation to repeal tenure for new teachers. Oppose legislation that would expand tenure, sabbatical and extended leave benefits for all school employees, including post-secondary institutions. Oppose any legislation that would repeal or damage Act 1 of 2012.
Higher Standards/Workforce Development: Support high standards in mathematics, science, and English Language Arts (“ELA”). Support “Mastery” as the minimum student proficiency level in assessments (as opposed to the current “Basic”), which would put Louisiana students on par with students in other states for comparative purposes. Oppose Hold Harmless, curving of school letter grades, or other attempts to artificially inflate performance statistics.
Post-secondary Education: Support the adoption and full implementation of higher admission standards for 4-year universities, discontinuing low-enrollment programs, reducing remediation, improving articulation and dual enrollments, encouraging electronic distance learning, and addressing the issue of duplicative programs among institutions. Support full implementation of the WISE Fund to ensure the development of private sector and higher education partnerships committed to addressing critical workforce needs.
Pro-Taxpayer Reform: Support legislation that would prohibit employees of local school systems from serving on BESE.
Local School Board Reform: Act 1 of the 2012 legislative session included local school board reforms, namely prohibiting school board members from making personnel decisions. Support additional legislation and policy that would encourage the focus of local school boards to be on improving failing schools and raising student academic achievement. Examine bureaucratic impediments to reform at the local school board level and support legislation that would require local school boards to be more accountable for the academic achievement of the students in their districts.
Workforce Development/Vocational Education: Continue to support LCTCS efforts to improve the delivery of training in vocational education and community colleges. LABI will encourage the continued development of a post-secondary education system (adult education, technical colleges, community colleges and university systems) that will be efficiently coordinated to provide shared resources and facilities, non-duplicated offerings and articulation agreements. This system should be tailored in each region of the state to address the proper mix of special workforce training programs, vocational and technical training, industry-based certifications 2-year associate degrees and advanced degrees, and to provide a rapid response to changes in business. Development and direction of these systems should include input from the business community and include systems designed to measure the progress of each educational component, holding accountable those responsible for the success of their students.
Adult Education/GED Programs: Support legislation and long-range public policy decisions to reorganize and improve the high school equivalency diploma and other training options.
School Choice: Support expanded school choice for students. Other avenues to increase choice, such as education savings accounts, tax credits or deductions for tuition to attend nonpublic schools, should also continue to be supported.
Charter Schools: Support the expansion of quality charter schools. Explore other states’ charter school authorizing authorities (state boards of education, local school boards, universities, etc.) to determine if Louisiana could improve the charter school approval process, making it more streamlined while maintaining full transparency and taxpayer accountability.
Teacher Excellence: Support efforts to improve teacher quality in Louisiana. The classroom teacher is the single most important factor in and influence on students’ educational success, and LABI will work to strengthen the state’s professional teaching corps. Continue to work with BESE and the State Department of Education to support the state Teacher and Principal of the Year programs (Dream Teachers). These events recognize and reward Louisiana’s best educators and elevate the profession.
Leadership Development: Support efforts to identify and recruit outstanding individuals with records of success into school leadership positions, especially principals and superintendents. Support alternative certification paths for principals that allow and encourage professionals and leaders in fields outside of education to consider becoming principals.
8(g): Support the integrity of the 8(g) fund and oppose any attempts to use those funds to supplant general fund revenues for education.
Classroom Funding: Re-examine the state’s school finance funding formula, the MFP, to determine how to get more money into the classroom, ensure that tax dollars follow the student, and determine the actual cost of delivering quality educational services.
School Discipline: Support efforts to address the issue of school discipline and work to identify solutions to classroom management problems while keeping disruptive students in learning environments.
TOPS: Support efforts to strengthen the academic requirements to receive the merit-based Tuition Opportunity Program for Students scholarship and oppose efforts to weaken current requirements. Support the substitution of ACT WorkKeys assessments (silver or higher level attainment) as an alternative eligibility requirement to the ACT score for TOPS-Tech scholarships, and support other TOPS-Tech revisions that contribute to building a trained, ready workforce.
High School Redesign/Dropouts: Support efforts to reduce Louisiana’s public school dropout rate and draw recent dropouts back into school or training, including the creation and expansion of courses that emphasize technical training.
Higher Education Governance: Support the creation of a single board for post-secondary education to manage and oversee the state’s four-year post-secondary education institutions. Additionally, recognizing the unique mission of two-year institutions and their significant role in workforce development, support a separate LCTCS board to govern the state’s community and technical college system.
Alternative Schools: Support efforts to create effective alternative schools for students who do not perform well in traditional school settings.
Parent/Teacher/Citizen Empowerment: Support efforts to provide parents, citizens and educators with factual information about education issues at all levels and teach them how to get involved and make the education system work for them and their children.
Collective Bargaining: Oppose legislation mandating collective bargaining and/or binding arbitration by any public body.
Camille Conaway serves as Director of the Education and Workforce Development Council. In this capacity, she coordinates business involvement in education reform issues, including workforce development.
Director, Education & Workforce Development Council, LABI
Chair, Education & Workforce Development Council
Cajun Industries, LLC