Our View: Innovation needed for education issues

The one-time inspired phrase, thinking outside the box, didn’t take long to become a cliché.

However, the idea of looking beyond perceived limitations to learn something new is never old fashioned. The trick is to make seemingly impossible situations carry merit.

Passage of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package on April 5, arrived with heavy criticism. Complaints persisted regarding discipline problems that restrict teachers from teaching, and included making use of charter schools among select groups – viewed as segregating less desirable students from a population escaping to private institutions on taxpayer money.

Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (NP-Thibodaux) looked at the education package he was not completely sold on and decided to think outside the box.

The legislator is considering modifications that address remaining problems, rather than write-off public education as a lost cause.

Richard is working on House Bill 1136. If adopted during the 2013 legislative session, this measure would transform using charter schools from an escape for those that qualify, into centers where behavior modification and academic improvement is the core curriculum.

It is a matter of listening to what teachers have been saying for years – government regulations restrict them from taking control of their classrooms, and a lack of parental support perpetuates behavior problems that not only disrupt learning, but discourage good students from excelling.

It means envisioning charter schools as intervention services, focused on at-risk students to promote overall high school graduation, college and career preparation, classroom safety and an alternative to incarceration or other forms of segregation.

Use of charter schools, under Richard’s modified plan, would incorporate measures of accountability that many of the governor’s critics contend is lacking in the legislation passed this month.

The intervention charter schools of HB-1136, would be required to utilize a specific program approved by teachers and staff of the local pre-existing school and actively contributed to by the parents or guardians of the students that would attend those schools.

Richard likened the model to boot camps or half-way house programs that first focus on lasting behavior modification and add academics to that lesson plan.

While we support parts of Jindal’s education reform package and question other elements, we fully appreciate Richard’s effort to take what holds the potential of being more of the same under a different name, and transforming a seemingly impossible notion into an opportunity to do what has needed to be done for many years.

We invite teachers, administrators, parents, students and legislators to think outside the box. By doing so, we could all learn something.