John Bel Edwards’ first major address as governor-elect was at the Louisiana Federation of Teachers’ convention, and he gave exactly the kind of speech you would want to hear at such a convention. Among his goals: Getting rid of State Superintendent of Education John White and more access and input from teachers in Louisiana.
If that second half is the case, then governor-elect Edwards, I pray you’ll take some thoughts from a public school teacher into consideration.
First of all, do not restrict the growth of charter schools in Louisiana to just failing districts, as you have said you’ll push for. There is a reason that bill went nowhere in the legislative session: It is a bad idea. You see, it’s not about failing districts, it’s about failing schools. You can have a district with a good grade, but still have one or two individual schools with a bad grade. Vouchers and lottery admissions don’t do you much good when entire schools full of children are desperately in need of a better education. By restricting charter school growth, you are condemning those who attend a bad school in a relatively good district to a poor education with no way out. It is simply not fair.
Secondly, when you are granting access to teachers, please be sure you mean teachers and not a union. There are many good teachers around the state who may be part of a union, but whose politics may not be those of the union and may not feel their political interests are well-represented by it. However, many of those same teachers are phenomenal teachers with decades of experience behind them, and their input can be beyond valuable. However, if you are taking your cues solely from special interest groups, then you will find yourself pushing policies that are best for teachers and not necessarily for the students.
Thirdly, if your goal is to get rid of John White, then do it through legitimate means and not through typical Louisiana politics. A power grab makes you no better than your predecessors, who used the same tricks to get their way. You say you are here as a uniter and not a divider, then unite the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education under your banner. It can be done.
Lastly, and most importantly, travel the state and visit the classrooms. See what is being done right in the schools and not the districts. District offices are filled with policy makers, much like the state legislature. They provide guidance, but not the actual instruction which makes or breaks the test scores that determine the state’s, and therefore your, success. If you care as much as you say you do, as a husband of a teacher and graduate of public schools yourself, then you know that watching teachers work will be the most valuable input you can get.