Louisiana Association of Educators: LAE
The LAE questions are in bold and numbered. Sean’s answers are below each question.
Professional and Demographic Information
- Education and experiences that have prepared you to serve as a legislative member:
My background is a bit different than others who run for this kind of public office, in that I have dedicated my career to helping people from within government. Not as a politician, but as a government attorney. My decade of experience as a government attorney has shown me the obstacles government workers have to serving people, but it has also shown me the opportunities to make things work again. I understand the complexities of government, and the avenues to improving it. Too often it is the legislators making laws that make it impossible to provide decent service to the people. I want to get politics out of the way of government service.
- Occupation / work / professional experience:
My career as an attorney has been anything but traditional. I worked with amputees from Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war, while prosecuting war criminals in Freetown. I went scuba diving with the Governor of American Samoa to show him the island’s pristine coral reefs after a devastating tsunami. And I have helped Mississippi raise islands out of the ocean to build bird nesting habitat and great beaches. I entered my work in Mississippi in the wake of scandal, as the Executive Director and others were put in jail for corruption. As part of the new team, I helped reorganize the department, put in place new legal and fiscal systems, and rebuild the reputation so that today the Department of Marine Resources is the gold standard of government in Mississippi. Today, I have opened up the Sean Morrison Law Offices LLC, serving the small business community and children with special needs.
- Do you have children who currently attend public school or a public charter school?
No (he’s only 2).
- Please list any civic or professional organizations you belong to.
I am Treasurer of the Slidell Toastmasters, Chair of the St. Tammany Parish Democratic Party, and a graduate of Leadership St. Tammany. I represent the 22nd Judicial District in the Louisiana Bar Association House of Delegates, and serve on the Bar’s Legislative Committee, which reviews all the bills pending in Baton Rouge.
- In your opinion, what are the two most important issues facing public education in the state of Louisiana?
The two most important issues are intrinsically linked, and that is funding the cost of education, and recruiting and retaining professional teachers and school employees. Public school funding has been essentially flat for a decade even as costs have gone up. This leaves our public education slowly falling behind further and further. At the same time, educators have not seen pay increases in 10 of the last 11 years. As it stands, they make about $10,000 less than the national average, which is already too low. It’s time to start investing in schools, education, and teachers.
- Please list any ideas or recommendations that you have to address the most important issues facing public education.
One of the first things we can do is raise teacher salaries. Gov. Edwards has announced that teacher pay will be on the legislative agenda next year, and I intend to vote in favor of it. If you invest in great teachers, you will get great students. We need to finally build in increases to K-12 education funding. The more we sacrifice in education, the further we fall in all categories. And we need to revisit high stakes standardized testing. It has not proven effective at improving our education system, and leaves schools teaching to the test rather than educating our children.
Every child has a right to an equal opportunity to succeed in our public schools.
Every child has a right to be instructed by a highly qualified and fully certified teacher.
Every child deserves the right to a safe, orderly classroom with up to date textbooks, appropriate and up to date technology and other resources needed to meet or exceed established goals and benchmarks.
If a school district meets or exceeds state established student goals and standards, then the school district should be exempt from further interference from state guidelines in regard to educational standards.
Revenues derived from local tax initiatives should be included in the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) calculation for charter schools that have not been approved by the local school district?
Charter schools should be subject to the same accountability standards and high stakes testing that apply to other public schools and should be transparent in their operations.
Currently, under the state’s public school funding formula, the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), public charter schools receive dollars for transportation and retirement costs on the same basis as traditional public schools. Public charter schools should receive these dollars, if they are not providing transportation or participation in the state retirement system?
Investing in public education is a better way to grow the economy in the short and long term than corporate tax subsidies and incentives.
Every year the legislature passes a formula resolution to fund public schools in Louisiana. This formula is called the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP). The MFP should be increased by a certain percentage every year in order to provide adequate funding for Louisiana school districts to educate students.
In Louisiana, state employees as well school employees are not allowed to pay into or draw a benefit from Social Security. The state should continue to offer and guarantee a steady, adequate income through the defined benefit program provided by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana.
The Louisiana Legislature needs to examine all charter school types authorized by law and make appropriate changes to reduce state control over charter school start-ups to allow more local control over the process.
High-stakes decisions about students, teachers and schools should not be on the basis of one test.
Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should have total authority to take-over public schools without the approval of the local parish or city school board and convert the public school to a charter school without local school board oversight.
The State of Louisiana should take the opportunity allowed by the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and reduce unnecessary high-stakes testing in Science and Social Studies.
Charter school funding should not disproportionately divert resources from traditional public schools (city and parish school systems).
Teacher evaluation systems should include multiple and varied forms of assessment and student data to inform instruction, assess student learning, and drive school improvement efforts.
Salaries of teachers should be based upon degree level (Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate), years of teaching and appropriate certification.
Hourly wages for all school support staff should be examined and an appropriate living wage should be determined.
- Due to the fact that school teachers are hired by political subdivisions (elected school boards), should they be afforded due process rights which allow them to teach and work without fear from political reprisals?
- Do you believe that a teacher should lose their due process rights if they receive one ineffective rating on their evaluation?
- Do you believe a teacher should lose their teaching certification if they are rated ineffective on their evaluation?
- Would you support a policy initiative to reduce the amount of unnecessary high-stakes testing of students in the subject areas of Science and Social Studies?