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|Paying a price for doing what's right|
Reps. Andy Anders of Clayton and Frank Hoffmann of West Monroe are an interesting study.
Though Anders is a Democrat and Hoffmann is a Republican, they're both fairly conservative in their views about taxes and the importance of sound family values. They disagree to some degree, though, on the size and scope that government should play in our everyday lives.
The latter is understandable.
Hoffmann represents District 15 in the state House of Representatives. Anchored in West Monroe, District 15 is one of the most conservative legislative districts in the state. It's fairly affluent, too. Very few blacks live in the district. Church-going people are plentiful, and they're pretty serious about high school football.
Anders, on the other hand, represents a majority minority district (District 21) that stretches along the Mississippi River from southern Concordia Parish to the Arkansas state line. It's the longest legislative district in Louisiana, and it's one of the most difficult districts in the Legislature to represent.
Situated in the heart of the Louisiana Delta, District 21 is home to a large number of poor and uneducated people, many of whom rely upon the local, state and federal governments to survive. The district's economic development activities are largely nil except for in Vidalia, the seat of Concordia, where Mayor Hyram Copeland and the town's board of aldermen work well together for the betterment of a small town that clearly is headed in the right direction. Copeland and the aldermen are assisted by a populace that wants to better its community as well. You can feel it when you're there.
Though they may not realize it, Anders and Hoffmann share something in common that many lawmakers share at some point in their political careers. That is both men have angered a segment of the electorate that represents an influential block of voters in their respective legislative districts. Playing with dynamite comes to mind.
For Anders, it's the African-American community that's not happy with him at the present time.
For Hoffmann, it's school teachers.
Anders got into hot water with the Legislative Black Caucus over his vote to require welfare recipients to undergo drug tests. You can rest assured that the so-called black leadership in District 21 will follow the caucus' lead and take it upon themselves to twist and turn Anders' vote against him. Never mind that there are more white people on welfare in America than blacks.
Hoffmann's political problem arose in light of his legislation to implement an enhanced teacher assessment system. Based on a program designed by LSU, Hoffmann's bill calls for teachers to be evaluated based upon the successes of their students. Besides grades, the program would take into account a student's socio-economic status, attendance, classroom behavior records and previous classroom performance.
The teacher unions oppose Hoffmann's bill, which cleared the House earlier this week.
Opposition from the unions was expected. Remember, they're literally against anything and everything that has anything to do with holding educators accountable for their actions.
Many teachers in general are pretty hot under the collar about Hoffmann's bill. They feel betrayed to some degree since Hoffmann was a career educator before he was elected to the House in 2007.
Though I'm no expert on public education, it seems plausible that if a career educator like Hoffmann believes his bill would improve public education, we certainly should give him the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he's talking about. What's the harm in merely testing a program for a year or two to improve public education, which is exactly what Hoffmann's legislation entails?
Married to a school teacher, Anders is familiar with public education and the challenges teachers face in the classroom every single day. One of the challenges teachers face is dealing with students who are the products of drug-infested, broken homes. What is a teacher to do with a student who lives in an environment in which momma or daddy is strung out on drugs and/or alcohol?
That had a great deal to do with Anders voting for the drug-testing bill authored by Rep. John LaBruzzo of Metairie. Anders has witnessed the problem through his wife's dealings in public education in the Delta. It's a serious problem that far too many people in society overlook or ignore because it's far easier to overlook it or ignore it than to do something productive about it.
It goes without saying that the political predicaments Anders and Hoffmann find themselves in today are good examples of the fallout elected officials can and should expect in doing what they feel is best for the constituents they serve. The public in general probably doesn't recognize it or think about it.
They should, for Anders and Hoffmann are paying a price for doing what's right.
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