In a statement, Zachary Community Schools Superintendent Warren Drake said that teachers and staff would be in class on Wednesday. "We have not had any reports of unusually high employee absences scheduled... our focus continues to be on teaching and learning."
Jindal's legislation calls for changes to teacher evaluations, tenure and retirement plans and both those who are for the proposed changes as well as those who are against it, have strongly voiced their opinions.
Proponents of the bill responded quickly to the news that East Baton Rouge Parish schools would close due to more than 900 teachers announcing they would not be in class but at the State Capitol to protest what they see as an attack on teachers.
Senator David Vitter, in a press release to the media, said "As a Louisiana citizen and parent, I'm really outraged. I guess the folks behind this are making their priorities clear - forget the kids; we just care about our tenure protection and benefits."
The Louisiana Federation for Children also sent out their own statement, expressing their disappointment and condemning Vermillion and St. Martin parishes for closing school "under the guise of a so-called Professional Development Day."
"While it's extremely disheartening to see these children ignored, it's unfortunately not out of the ordinary for the unions to go out of their way to protect the status quo for adults and special interests instead of putting children first," said LFC's Lauren Perry. "The futures of thousands of children are at stake. We urge the Education Committees of both the House and Senate to look past the antics of the state's union leaders and vote to provide our children and families with quality educational options they not only want, but deserve."
Mayor Pro-Tem and candidate for Mayor-Preident of Baton Rouge, Mike Walker, accused the teachers' unions of putting their own interests ahead of education the state's children. "This shameful decision to walk out of class...proves why our public schools are broken," said Walker. "Truancy is a large enough problem as it stands in East Baton Rouge Parish Schools. We don't need unions adding to the problem by making our teachers truant too. This selfish decision has also forced the cancellation of bus service for private and parochial school children, costing working families yet more money."
The unexpected school closings forced many working parents to scramble to find childcare for their children, prompting BREC to open 15 of their gyms early to children, 12 years old and up.
Still, others applauded the protests, and expressed their concern that the governor's office is rushing the legislation through.
In a letter to the editor, a representative from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education wrote that specifically with changes to teacher evaluations, "it would be impossible for a principal to evaluate a large faculty..." said Lottie Beebe, representing District 3, who pointed out that St. Martin Parish principals have documented that it requires 7 to 8 hours to evaluate one teacher. "Recognizing this impossible challenge, the solution offered by our state superintendent is to allow deans of students, reading facilitators, assistant principals and others to assist with the evaluations. Principal effectiveness is tied to teacher effectiveness. It would be an extreme leap of faith to relinquish this responsibility to others."
Parents and teachers alike commented on Facebook regarding the legislation. "As a teacher, I think we need to be in the classroom and not at a rally with our focus where it needs to be - on our students and their preparation for iLEAP!" wrote Zachary teacher Frances Fontenot. Lauren Felder wrote that she is an unemployed teacher "who can't get a job because of all the budget cuts. I know for a fact that there are teachers out there that do not do their job well and care nothing about their students but they are still employed...Whether it's done the way Jindal proposes or some other way we need to get the ineffective teachers out and start focusing on what's best for the children..."
Kayla Young agreed with those protesting at the State Capitol. "There is nothing wrong with teachers being evaluated to keep their jobs at all," wrote Young. "However, why should we be evaluated on test scores alone no matter how much tenure or education we have. Do you really just want someone teaching the 'test' to your child?"
Discussion regarding the bills, as well as more protests, is expected to continue through Friday.