Louisiana's governor and top public schools leader are at odds over how to redesign state education policies, in areas like school grading and standardized testing, to comply with a federal education law.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has been placed in the middle of that dispute between Gov. John Bel Edwards and Superintendent of Education John White. On Wednesday, the board known as BESE considers whether to submit White's plan to the federal government five months earlier and in a different form than Edwards wants.
At issue is a proposal required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which is reviving old feuds between Edwards and the state education superintendent he once hoped to force out of the job. The 2015 law requires states to spell out how they'll address school ratings, student report cards and other ways to spot and help troubled schools.
White's plan would change the way student performance is measured in Louisiana, along with the method for calculating public school letter grades. Standardized testing requirements would be reworked, and the measuring stick for school academics would get tougher.
Edwards called it an "incomplete vision for Louisiana."
The governor said the plan needs more debate with teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, parents and others before submitting to the federal government. He said it includes too much required testing and too little detail about how school performance will be judged. He also raised concerns about financing changes.
"The future of Louisiana's education system cannot be rushed. If there is even one educator or parent who believes their voice has not been heard, should we not take more time to ensure they will be?" Edwards asked in a letter to White outlining his concerns.
White wants BESE to send the outline to federal officials next month, saying that would set up rollout of the changes starting in the 2017-18 school year. Edwards wants the education board to delay submission until mid-September, saying that will give Louisiana more time to work on the plan and put it in line with 34 other states.
The education superintendent rejected suggestions there's been too little input, saying the education department has held 136 meetings on the plan over the last nine months. He said submission to the federal government doesn't end the conversation, because the rules won't be final until the summer.
"There is a great deal of time for further dialogue," White said in a statement.
He suggested that Edwards was trying to stall the setting of higher expectations for Louisiana's 700,000 public school students.
"Political processes have impeded raising the bar in evaluating the performance of Louisiana's schools. This must come to an end. We cannot delay any longer," White said.
The Louisiana School Boards Association and local superintendents support Edwards' push for the five-month delay.