In a sweeping change, Louisiana's top school board Tuesday voted to overhaul the ways teachers are trained for the classroom.
The vote was 6-5 and followed nearly three hours of arguments.
The tally was 5-5 before Gary Jones, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from Alexandria, cast the deciding vote.
The key feature of the new rules is a requirement that aspiring teachers spend a full school year in a classroom with a veteran teacher serving as a mentor.
That means rather than relying on higher education alone to train teachers, the job will be shared by colleges and local school districts, said Jeanne Burns, a top official of the Board of Regents, which backed the move.
A plan to overhaul the way teachers are trained in Louisiana got a major boost Friday when h…
"This is a very, very important shift that we are talking about," Burns told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Pilot projects have been underway for two years.
Shavanda Washington, who said she was apprehensive about the one-year residency, now calls it the best decision of her college career at Louisiana Tech.
"Before I graduated I had job offers, many job offers," Washington said.
BESE approved the plan despite a last-minute bid by Gov. John Bel Edwards to defeat it.
Donald Songy, the governor's newly-named education policy adviser, said while one-year teacher residencies are a good idea, how to pay for the changes warrants a delay.
"Our concern is there is not enough information around on how much the program will cost, especially for local school districts," said Songy, former superintendent of the Ascension Parish School District.
All three of the governor's BESE appointees voted "no" on the plan.
Officials of traditional public schools also opposed the change, including the Louisiana School Boards Association, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Superintendents, Louisiana Association of Principals and Louisiana Association of Educators.
Scott Richard, executive director of the LSBA, said a fiscal analysis is needed before the plan is finalized.
"We can't operate in a vacuum on this issue," Richard told BESE.
Under current rules, aspiring teachers spend roughly one semester as a student teacher before graduation.
The plan would extend that to a full school year, with teacher candidates paid $2,000 per year and teacher mentors $1,000 per year.
State Superintendent of Education John White, one of the leaders of the push, noted that the issue has been discussed for four years and he said another delay would sap energy from the effort.
"We shouldn't be placing teachers in schools and wondering if they are effective," White said.
Lisa Allen, a teacher mentor in Lincoln Parish, said having a teacher candidate in the classroom means an extra set of hands to analyze data and figure out how to help struggling students.
Others backing the change included Democrats for Education Reform-Louisiana; state Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge; and Stand for Children.
BESE members who opposed the move said that, while they like the concept, cost concerns and other worries means the effort needs more review.
"Where is the plan for sustainability?" asked Doris Voitier, superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish school system and one of Edwards' appointees.
Voitier said she favors an expanded pilot program on the one-year residencies.
BESE President Jim Garvey, who lives in Metairie, backed the training shakeup.
"It is the right thing to do for the kids," Garvey said.
White has said the program can be done for $7.5 million for the first three years and that funding sources have been identified.
Beyond that, officials said, a $67 million federal grant and other sources make the change financially doable.
A $67 million federal grant for the state will help finance plans to overhaul teacher traini…
BESE was set to vote on the issue in June.
However, costs concerns by higher education officials and others delayed action, and it was only last week that the Board of Regents endorsed the plan.
The vote Tuesday was technically a committee action, but includes all the BESE members. A final head count on the plan is set for Wednesday during a meeting that begins at 9 a.m.
Voting for new teacher training rules were BESE members Holly Boffy; Tony Davis; Jim Garvey; Sandy Holloway; Kira Orange Jones and Gary Jones.
Opposing the plan were Kathy Edmonston; Jada Lewis; Thomas Roque; Lurie Thomason and Doris Voitier.
The new rules may first apply to the freshman class of 2018.