Joining a growing chorus, officials of two education groups said Tuesday they want a bigger voice in designing Louisiana’s revamped pre-kindergarten system.
John Warner Smith, chief executive officer for Education’s Next Horizon, said his group, while intensely interested in details of the changes, has been limited mostly to submitting ideas in writing to state officials.
“We thought it would be appropriate to invite stakeholders into the room to be part of the planning process,” Smith said. “That hasn’t happened.”
Melanie Bronfin, director of the Policy Institute of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, said the work needs input from more experts.
“I would think that a plan is more likely to be successful if the folks that have to implement it are involved in its creation,” Bronfin said. “It is going to be hard to get the details right if you don’t have the folks on the ground doing it.”
The need for more public input — including parents, child care providers and business leaders — is the first of several recommendations submitted to state education leaders by both groups.
They echo concerns aired on Monday by Wyatt Graves, president of the Child Care Association of Louisiana, to have a bigger say in hammering out the pre-K changes.
“Those details are what affect child care providers every day in business,” Graves said. “And that is why we are so concerned about what the details look like.”
Graves said that, to date, his group’s role in crafting the new system has been largely limited to offering comments, conference calls and a few face-to-face meetings.
State Superintendent of Education John White rejected the criticism.
“We are happy to work with anybody,” White said. “We have been working closely with a lot of those groups and want to keep working with them.”
The changes stem from a law approved earlier this year by the state Legislature at the urging of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
It is designed to overhaul what critics call a sprawling system of pre-kindergarten classes with a wide range of quality, standards and costs. The law requires the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to come up with a definition of kindergarten readiness.
BESE is also supposed to craft performance targets for children under age 3, academic standards for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, and an accountability system for publicly-funded pre-K programs, including letter grades.
White is set to discuss the issue with BESE on Oct. 17.
Smith’s group calls itself an advocate for education from pre-K through 12th grade.
The Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families and its Policy Institute calls itself an independent source of data on young children for policymakers.
The Child Care Association of Louisiana claims about 600 members, including pre-K facilities and individuals who work in the field.
Smith said his group has worked with state officials on planning for the pre-kindergarten changes, including nine regional community forums held in July and August to get input.
But Smith and others contend the nitty-gritty of the planning is limited to six interagency groups involving the state Department of Education, the Department of Children and Family Services, and the Department of Health and Hospitals.
“They have taken the input,” he said. “We think that is good.”
“But as we go through the detailed planning process we think it is important that stakeholders be at the table,” Smith said.