On Sept. 16, The Advocate ran an article, “La. Public School Teacher Retirements Remain Up,” positing that veterans of the profession have accelerated their exit rate due to dissatisfaction with the direction our state has taken on public education under the leadership of Gov. Bobby Jindal. At least that is what many school officials think, including Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association. Of course, there are alternative theories; however, Mr. Richard has hit upon some salient points.
Our state is certainly in upheaval as Jindal’s opposition to Common Core clashes with state Superintendent of Education John White’s support for the same. As their respective minions line up behind the two of them, this hotly divisive matter plays out in the media and in the legal system with lawsuits and countersuits, plus accusations of federalized curriculum from Jindal and disingenuousness from White. All the while, experienced, highly qualified teachers flee a system fraught with dizzying confusion framed in a perverse theater of grandstanding and infighting.
Yes, teachers are leaving — many of them because they no longer feel they are valued by an ungrateful system. Specifically, veterans have put in many years of hard work and personal sacrifice at gross underpayment because of their dedication to, for what many years, was a noble, rewarding and edifying profession.
However, in turn, they have been systematically unrewarded by Jindal, who successfully pushed through poisonous legislation that basically stripped away the protections of tenure and tied teacher evaluation to student performance.
Tenure, designed to keep our most prized professionals from being “at will” employees, was swept away with the governor’s swish-broom of contempt for one of the last remaining bastions of unionized public employees.
Then, the added insult of tying teacher evaluation to the performance of students that they do not hand-pick constitutes the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Moreover, Common Core is not an “ingénue” of a concept. Effective and successful teachers have utilized many of its components for many, many years anyway. There is no need for formalization of what is common sense. The frailty of the implementation of Common Core is the flawed notion that all teachers should practice their craft and impart instruction in a highly ritualized manner.
Back to teacher defection: Our neighboring state of Mississippi showed its respect and regard for veteran teachers when on March 9, 2004, state Superintendent of Education Henry L. Johnson reached out to experienced and retired teachers with a plea to remain in or return to the active ranks.
Instead of creating apathy and driving away the teaching profession’s most valuable assets — highly qualified, experienced veteran teachers — our state should be encouraging them just as Mississippi did. Replacing veterans with novices possessing questionable “new ideas” (read: Common Core) has been the main thrust of what has created our present crisis.
Lloyd C. Norwood Jr.
consumer finance professional