Monday, March 06, 2006

Lots of important news out of N.O. today

First, there is the sad and chilling news reminding us that many of the missing in New Orleans may actually be among the dead. A body was found, mummified, in the attic of a Lakeview home as a new round of searches began. Another body was apparently found two weeks ago. The death toll continues to rise. As authorities begin the first demolitions of buildings in N.O. it is expected that more bodies will be found in the ruins. Cadaver-sniffing dogs will be used to help in the seardh as the demolitions proceed. The searches will concentrate on 200 homes where people have gone missing.

On the political front, the news is good. Gov. Blanco, making use of funds provided by a much better than expected economy, is restoring most of the cuts made earlier. Additionally, her budget makes provisions for pay-raises for school teachers, a development that would have been unthinkable just months ago.
Improved tax collections and federal hurricane aid wiped away grim projections of sweeping budget cuts for next year and boosted Gov. Kathleen Blanco's budget to a $20.3 billion proposal that would spare most state agencies from significant slashing, pour new dollars into colleges and increase public school teacher pay.

The governor's brightened spending plan was presented Monday to lawmakers, who will craft a final version of the state's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The proposal was a stark contrast to earlier discussions of cuts that could shutter health services and devastate universities, and lawmakers on the House and Senate budget committees had few complaints.

"If there's a problem, I don't know where it is," said Rep. Charlie DeWitt, D-Lecompte. "It looks like everybody's whole. It's a lot better than I expected."

It's a dream scenario for any governor and will no doubt brighten her prospects for re-election.

But it's good-news/bad-news for Orleans teachers, whose union has been all but destroyed by the state's takeover of the public schools.
Today, with its Paris Avenue offices gutted, the union that once represented employees at 117 schools has members at only four campuses.

Union brass talks gamely of an inevitable comeback, but few teachers and administrators see much of a role for the union in post-Katrina New Orleans. The majority of functioning campuses are charter schools and exempt -- at least for now -- from union rules. Like private and religious schools throughout the area, the charter schools operate without negotiated contracts. They hire teachers for a year at a time, keeping those who perform well and letting go of those who don't.

Now for those of you who sigh with relief at the disappearance of the union that is often blamed for the poor performance of Orleans schools -- don't think that this takes the politics out of public schools or that it will now attract only the best and the brightest. What bright young teacher will want to commit his or her career to a system where they will serve at the pleasure of whimsical school pricipals, for low Louisiana salaries with little or no job protection. They will know that as they gain more seniority they will be fatter and fatter targets for cost-cutting as principals will seek to improve the bottom line by hiring cheaper labor. Why would they want to enter such a situation when they can find a better deal in neighboring states, even in neighboring parishes? Only much higher salaries would balance the scales. And that's gonna cost.

But read the whole article. It's "fair and balanced."

And in the realm of the totally useless and irrelevent, Bush visits N.O. on Wednesday in an attempt to bury recent news items indicating that he lied when he said that "no one could have anticipated" the breach in the levees.

1 comment:

bayoustjohndavid said...

To me the scariest part of the teachers' union article was the part where the principal said she was free to hire who she wanted without fear of reprisal. True she said in the context of being able to hire teachers that agree to performance standards, but it's a mixed blessing, at best.