Daily Iberian: Looking back at... - Friday, July 27, 2012
By: Matthew Beaton
Looking back at contentious 2012 session
The Daily Iberian- Teche Area legislative delegates called the past session the most contentious in recent memory and talked about the education reforms it passed, as they spoke at the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce’s "Eggs & Issues” event today. State Sens. Fred Mills, R-Parks, and Bret Allain, R-Franklin, and state Reps. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette, Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, Mike Huval, R-Parks, and Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, all acknowledge that education reform was needed, but they disagreed on how it was addressed in the session. Champagne positioned herself as the staunchest advocate for the reforms passed — which made teacher tenure more difficult to achieve and gave qualified students the option to attend charter and private schools. Champagne said the best part of the reform was that more parents will have a choice about where to send their children to school. She said the worst part was that not all parents will have a choice. "These were choice bills,” Champagne said. She said she didn’t believe in kicking the can down the road. She said she was happy the Legislature took action and was in favor of these changes. Also she noted the state can close a charter school, but it cannot close a failing public school. "You can put (public schools) on recovery, but you can’t close those schools,” Champagne said. Mills said he voted against both pieces of legislation. He said it’s yet to be seen where the money is going to flow — whether it will sift out of the public system and into the private system. "That’s a big issue that’s not been answered yet,” he said, adding, "A lot of people said, ‘Let’s protect the local money.’ ” He said he thought the legislation would be tweaked in the next few years, noting there’s still a lot of work to be done. Landry didn’t equivocate, saying he saw major problems in the new laws. He said, however, one positive is that they no longer allow school boards to take part in the hiring and firing of teachers. That responsibility now rests with school system superintendents and principals. Meanwhile, Barras noted Iberia Parish has no F schools. He said there are some C and D schools, though. He said there weren’t enough students in the parish to make a charter school a viable business option. "I just don’t see the voucher bill being something that affects our area greatly,” Barras told the crowd of approximately 130 people in a conference room at the Ramada Inn. He said the state’s education problems were three-fold: partly administrative; partly teachers; and "mostly” unprepared students, which drew applause. "As much as we’d like to try to legislate what happens at home in the family, when they appear at the front door of the school, we are responsible for educating them,” Barras said.