Panelists Comments

Governor Foster and the 15 panelists directed the following comments to the gubernatorial candidates as education reform was discussed during the reaction panel discussion.

Note: Comments are in chronological order; some panelists spoke more than once. THESE ARE NOT DIRECT QUOTES.
Governor Murphy J. “Mike” Foster 
Give education a priority and be serious about it;
People will give education lip service but it needs to be a priority; we need to commit to improving education in Louisiana;
Politics needs to be taken out of decisions;
The state has to fund education; we have moved, but not enough;
The meat of it is that you’ll all be for education, but I strongly suggest that no one will take you seriously unless you have a plan; those candidates with the ideas will rise to the top of the group;
Good luck – it is a tough job!
Superintendent Cecil Picard, Department of Education 
Undoubtedly, as the governor said, you must set priorities and have a funding source;
Serious tax reform is needed;
We need universal access to pre-K; we are 49th in the nation in the percentage of residents living in poverty;
We need a qualified teacher in every classroom; the single most important indicator of achievement is quality teachers;
We must raise teacher salaries to the national average;
How do we provide greater access to Pre-K education across the state?
Senator Jay Dardenne, Chair of Senate Finance Committee 
How can we look at what we have and how can we fund it? We must rethink the MFP. Be bold, be innovative, and be willing to take on the political establishment. It is difficult to overcome the past. We must continue the progress – expand the pre-K program. We have failed a lot of students but we have to make certain that we do not fail them in the future.
Our biggest challenge is to balance the commitment between Pre-K-12 education and community college investments.
Representative Carl Crane, Chair of House Education Committee 
Accountability is the building block for education reform. It enabled us to quantify what we all already knew. It forces us to take a hard look at what we are doing.
There will be efforts to water down our high stakes testing and we cannot allow that to happen.
Mr. Michael Johnson, Past President of the Louisiana Parent Teacher Association 
A critical thing in our state is training teachers and holding on to them;
Need qualified and motivated individuals in the teaching profession.
Senator Gerald Theunissen, Chair of Senate Education Committee 
Leadership is the key – whoever replaces Governor Foster has to make education a priority;
Reading is a priority in preparing children for school. It needs to start at birth.
We must instill in parents the importance of reading.
Mrs. Glenny Lee Buquet, Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence 
We can reconstitute schools; the meaning has not been defined. We have not done it yet.
What do you do for the low achieving students in our state; what about vouchers; do you want to use vouchers for students to go to other schools; private schools receiving vouchers must meet the same accountability and certification standards as the public schools;
Where do you send students if there are no available schools?
Ms. Grace Sibley, National Board Certified Teacher from St. Landry Parish 
We must endorse accountability;
We need to see where schools are relative to student achievement;
Tests should be based on the curriculum that is taught but tests should not be the curriculum;
Tests should be reliable and valid;
I do not feel that we have shortage of qualified teachers; I feel that many teachers are leaving the system; we need to correct that problem.
Mr. Dan Juneau, President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry 
All options should be on the table.
There are excellent charter schools that can be used as models;
There have been universities that have wanted to work with schools but have been turned down.
Mrs. Frances Henry, Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence 
Qualified and certified teachers are the keys to improved student achievement.
All universities have restructured their programs; it takes time to make changes; we need continued support for all of the work that has gone on with the Blue Ribbon Commission, Board of Regents and BESE.
It is important to retain teachers. At the present time, 43% of the teachers leave their teaching positions in public schools by the end of the 3rd year.
These teachers do not all go to other states; they take other jobs; they move into private schools and other careers; they go where they find better conditions; they go where the environment is important to fellow teachers;
We now have in place an accountability system for the universities and the schools of education; that is equally important; student success is the key.
Mr. Mark Steward, SGA President at McNeese State University 
I feel that I am prepared to teach.
It takes commitment and dedication.
Education should be a priority in our state; TOPS is a great program; TOPS provides an opportunity for those who cannot afford an education.
Commissioner E. Joseph Savoie, Board of Regents 
I feel that a reason why teachers do not stay in classrooms is because we did not prepare them properly;
There is not a single way to teach;
Universities have brought in the Colleges of Arts/Sciences; we have professional development schools; pre-service teachers go out into the schools prior to graduation; we have established PK-16+ councils – we meet to discuss what is going on and what needs to be done to improve education;
We know that the statistics will improve – it just takes time.
Mr. John Freeman, School to Work Council 
There are businesses that are willing to help develop teachers; if teachers look at what is required in the real world – that will help them prepare to teach.
Mr. Andy Kopplin, Chief of Staff for Governor Foster 
People in the room have worked together. In the past, different leaders did not work together. Today, they are all working together; the Governor asked that education be made a priority which required all leaders to work together.
The climate has changed and allowed us to make the reforms successful; seven years ago we did not have these reforms; today we do.
Louisiana is in the top 5 states for education reforms; it is because people came together when the Governor challenged them to do things differently.
President William Jenkins, Louisiana State University System 
We are in a time of great change; technology is changing things drastically.
The way in which children are taught 20 years from now will be different than today.
The child’s well being in their household is important.
We must attend to the needs of PK-3 children early.
Colleges of Education and Arts/Sciences have an important role in changing how we prepare students in the future.
Ms. Grace Sibley, National Board Certified Teacher from St. Landry Parish 
We are revamping the thinking about traditional teachers; we need to get away from traditional teaching styles; need to change systems for teaching; we need more meta-cognitive strategies; teachers in Japan get together across disciplines and work together.
Ms. Glenny Lee Buquet, Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence 
We can now make data driven decisions;
Reading is the primary thing;
Research in reading has been great; we now can see how people learn;
How can we communicate changes to the teachers?
Universities are acting as mentors;
The State Department of Education is providing induction programs
Don’t make the mistake of eliminating the current programs and starting over;
We are 12th in the country in efforts to improve teacher quality. 
Representative Carl Crane, House Education Committee 
We are no longer all in competition;
Economic development and education system are our two priorities;
Through the classroom-based technology program, we supported getting technology into the classrooms.
Teachers were not really prepared to use the technology;
We looked at how teachers were being prepared to use technology in the classrooms;
This led to the Blue Ribbon Commission being formed. 
Representative Jerry Luke LeBlanc, House Appropriations Committee 
Generally – when I was elected in 1989, the education community paid a terrible price for in-fighting and not working together. We can regress if we don’t keep our eyes on the horizon. If PK-12 and Higher Education continue to work together, we can continue to move forward.
Accountability – in Higher Education and K-12. If you want sustained support, you must have sustained strategic investment over time;
Statistics show we are pointed in the right direction and should continue;
We may not always have funds for new initiatives, but we need to maintain the current initiatives that are working.
In some years the money may not be there.
If you are investing in new initiatives, sometimes you forget the old ones;
The education community needs to prove its worth to the public;
Higher Education does not have a broad-based constituency;
What becomes a priority in the state can be seen by where the money is invested. Education is a priority and this is evident;
We should address teacher pay every year;
A lot of people are getting ready to retire; salary averages are tending to modify downward because of retirement; this is difficult when you are trying to restructure the salary scale. 
President William Jenkins, Louisiana State University System 
• How can we keep our highly qualified students in the state? We have to do something through economic development. 
Mr. John Freeman, School to Work Council 
Lost 4 of 5 children to other states. 
Superintendent Cecil Picard, Department of Education 
Early childhood education pays.
You can either pay $5,000 for preschool or $25,000 for incarceration. If you don’t pay in the front end, you’ll end up paying on the back end. 
Mr. Dan Juneau, President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry 
We must increase property taxes; we need to sell the public on why it is necessary. 
Ms. Grace Sibley, National Board Certified Teacher from St. Landry Parish 
We need to change the process for certifying out of state teachers.
If you think education is not important, try ignorance. 
Mrs. Frances Henry, Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence 
We need to have a seamless education system; we have a plan, we don’t need a new plan. Higher education has a master plan.