Putting the Children First

Letter From Louisiana

Until the mid-1970’s, public education in Louisiana, like that in much of rural America, was solidly and successfully based on traditional methodology and philosophy, which emphasized academic excellence, an honest curriculum, discipline, and civic responsibility.  Administrators and teachers considered themselves to be true professionals with an accompanying moral obligation not only to provide quality education to the children of the state but to strengthen those children in their appreciation of knowledge, patriotism, and civilization.  As professionals, educators were prepared to sacrifice time and effort, during school hours and after, to ensure the success of their students.  As did the virtus of the Roman republic, civic virtue in Louisiana depended on the dedication and selfless devotion of the state’s teachers.

Louisiana’s teacher organizations at that time reflected the legacy of racial segregation.  The Louisiana Education Association (LEA) consisted primarily of black teachers and administrators, while the Louisiana Teachers’ Association (LTA) was chiefly made up of white educators.  In New Orleans, a sociological morass often ignored by the rest of the state, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT), an affiliate of the AFL-CIO’s American Federation of Teachers, had gained a foothold.  In 1976, the leadership of the LEA and the LTA proposed a merger...

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