A new public relations slogan from the state’s Department of Education claims that "Louisiana Believes." However, Louisiana educators don’t seem quite ready to believe that what's being pitched comes close to being "the real thing."
In a press release issued on June 18, Superintendent of Education John White announced that the final version of his public relations effort is the “outcome of meetings with hundreds of educators across the state, who gave feedback” in a series of in-person and virtual meetings.
A survey conducted by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers after Superintendent White’s meetings tells a different story, however. Teachers complained that there were too few meetings held in accessible locations, that they were largely unaware that the events took place and that the concerns of those who attended were largely ignored.
The most significant finding in the survey is that of the teachers who responded, 65 percent remain “very confused” about Governor Bobby Jindal’s education agenda.
LFT launched the survey at the conclusion of Supt. White’s meetings, which included in-person visits to teachers at 11 sites and four virtual, online meetings.
Observers estimate the total attendance at the 11 meetings at around 1,300 people.
Of the 211 teachers who responded to the survey, 97 said they attended one of the meetings in locations around the state, and 42 said they participated in one of the virtual, online conferences.
Of the teachers who attended neither type of event, over half said they were not aware of the events. Most of the rest said there was not a meeting in their area.
Supt. White said in his press release that “Louisiana Believes is a plan to empower educators and parents to make changes for their children,” and that “it’s critical that they lead us in developing and implementing the plan.”
That is an objective that was lost on teachers, according to the LFT survey. Of those who attended the town hall conferences, 66 percent found them “unsatisfactory and disappointing,” 44 percent found them “informative but inadequate to the task,” and only four percent said they were “very informative, addressing most or all of my concerns and questions.”
Responses from those attending the virtual, online conferences were similar. Sixty-five percent found them “unsatisfactory and disappointing,” 33 percent found them “informative but inadequate to the task,” and two percent found them “very informative, addressing most or all of my concerns and questions.”
The survey asked teachers to provide longer answers to questions probing their reaction to Supt. White’s presentation. It is apparent from the responses that most teachers don’t believe they were properly informed, much less consulted, as the governor’s plans were developed.
Here are a few sample comments:
- Anytime a tough question was asked of Mr. White, he would take the microphone away from the participant. He was very vague.
- He seemed like a used car sales man manipulating numbers to tell the story he wanted us to believe in.
- Several people asked valid, well-stated questions that weren't truly answered. I felt as though he quickly brushed over the difficult issues and just repeated much of the same jargon that we've been hearing for months.
- It seemed to me that it was just a PR stunt.
If he was really interested in the input of teachers around the state he would have had these meetings before the Legislative session began, not after the bills had already passed. I fully believe that these meetings were window dressing - to make it look like he and the governor cared what we thought.