In the wake of a rough couple weeks for Johnny White, word is that he will be slapped with an ethics complaint next week. The story has now hit the Advocate:
A longtime critic of state Superintendent of Education John White said Friday she and others plan to file an ethics complaint next week naming White and four members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The complaint will also delve back into the saga of BESE member Kira Orange Jones, who somehow holds the dual position of head of Teach for America (TFA) in Louisiana while also serving on the board that approves TFA contracts. No ruling on TFA, but that whole arrangement seems about as corrupt as possible. But we digress.
Jones’ election in 2011 was key to the appointment of John White as Superintendent, assuring that Bobby Jindal had a super-majority on the BESE board in support of White.
It’s all coming apart for the smug ed reform crowd, isn’t it?
“But what about the children!” - said everyone disingenuously.
This has been a rough few months for ed reform beauty queen John White. Super White has often been the belle of the ball around these parts, winning praise over the years from widely diverse constituencies, from liberal education reformers in New Orleans, to conservative business elite the state over. He leads a cult of young, idealistic followers at the DOE, many of which are religiously devoted to data-driven education revolution. White’s ascension to Superintendent, with massive infusions of money to swing BESE races in his favor in 2011 (including hundreds of thousands of Bloomberg money to elect pro-White BESE members, as chronological at this anti-Common Core blog) has been swift. His fall might be swifter.
White’s been able to deal with criticism before, including getting an LPB reporter fired for negative reporting on education reform. Unfortunately, White has run into a rough patch from which no amount of his own bs jargon or political hatchet work can extricate him.
Since last year, Bobby Jindal has been ratcheting up his rhetoric against Communist Core, the hated red takeover of public education that threatens to teach our kids that socialism union hordes should be able to forcefully gay marry anyone they want while burning the American flag and singing the French national anthem. Here’s Jindal crossing over to the dark side last year:
Wading into a national debate, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that he is concerned Louisiana public school classrooms would be saddled with a “federalized curriculum” sparked by a series of tougher standards called Common Core.
At the time, White was also buffeted by the blooming national “populism,” including the election in New York City of Bill de Blasio, who promised to backtrack on White’s work as a former NYC school deputy chief. After Jindal’s waver, White went to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute to plead for sanity:
“An aggressive form of populism has asserted itself in the rhetoric of our day,” White is expected to say at the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s headquarters in Washington. “I see it in a tone that is skeptical of reformers in the same populist way our country today is skeptical of authority generally. This is, I believe, greatly damaging for an education reform effort that has done good in America and that needs to be sustained.
That was just the beginning. Jindal announced earlier this year that he was done with Communist Core, and weighed in in support of legislative efforts to end Louisiana’s participation.
White’s fired back a number of times, most recently with a useless meeting last week. But Jindal hasn’t been pulling punches. He’s ripped White’s contracting authority and generally abused him in public, going so far as accusing White of corruption. An investigation at DOE over payroll fraud isn’t helping White’s case.
Now, White is crying uncle.
Johnny Golden Boy has only been the subject of praise and reverence throughout his career. Now, running into the buzzsaw of a Louisiana politician with an ax to grind, White can’t take it anymore:
In a sign of rising tensions over Common Core, state Superintendent of Education John White told Louisiana’s top school board Wednesday that he is being unfairly targeted personally for possible wrongdoing by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration and its allies.
“I am no stranger to politics, and I know that political rhetoric can be heated,” White said in a four-page letter to members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“However, to have multiple officials alluding to the potential of purported and unfounded malfeasance within our agency and within my office, all within days of one another, is worthy of concern,” according to the letter.
Giving up won’t stop this assault. White is going to have to quit. Everyone can see that now. This cry for uncle is only the beginning. White better start packing his bags.
Leadership and Crisis in Education
In the fight over Common Core, Louisiana state government is failing its citizens and the governor is chiefly responsible
Louisiana state government is failing its duty to provide leadership and accountability for public school education in the upcoming academic year. The situation has reached a crisis level with serious potential consequences for students, parents, teachers and all of us as stakeholders in the future of Louisiana. This was a crisis of choice and the clearest responsibility for it lies with the governor.The current dispute between the governor on one side and the state education board on the other is on the verge of rendering a dysfunctional process to administer accountability tests to students this school year. This mess is potentially significant enough to damage the national profile of the state.The dispute is centered on differing views of whether the state should implement the Common Core standards, a path decided by laws signed by the governor as well as policy set by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The governor’s actions so far appear to be an attempt to thwart the law and the Common Core implementation by creating a bureaucratic contest over state procurement practices and contracting law.Fortunately, many solutions are available to address the immediate concerns of implementing accountability tests, which have been central to the state’s progress on key educational measures in recent years. The assessments could be handled in-house by the education agency, by adjusting the current contract for the next year or by a new contract competitively bid. Members of the state education board have proposed several worthwhile solutions.Though time is short, competitive contracting is a good policy principle that still could be employed in the current circumstance. The administration and its bureaucrats should carry on their role to review state contracts to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the procurement process and to meet the state’s legal requirements. But those bureaucrats, with the governor influencing their every move, should not be in the business of using that process to determine the state’s education policy and academic standards. That domain belongs to BESE and the Department of Education.The governor and his administration have been inconsistent on public contracting. After years of reviewing and approving Department of Education testing contracts, only now has the administration raised serious concerns about them. If the past contracting methods were faulty, the administration as well as the education agencies bear a responsibility. Although the governor now insists that competitive bids be used for a testing contract, he has endorsed no-bid contracts for major initiatives he has favored. His sudden zeal for competitive bidding is welcome but apparently is selective.From cutting-edge supporter to virulent enemy of Common Core, the governor’s inconsistent path on educational standards is becoming the defining issue of his gubernatorial and leadership legacy. The governor’s change in stance began with ambiguous statements about his commitment to the new standards, which he helped birth. Only a year ago he was pushing hard for faster implementation of Common Core, and yet now he shows intolerance for those who want to proceed with Common Core even slowly. When he decided to oppose the standards, he made a limp effort during the recent legislative session and proved to be a weak ally of his fellow Common Core critics. The Legislature rebuffed efforts to change the law in the direction he wanted it to go. Now the governor is on the presidential campaign trail loudly attacking Louisiana and its consensus implementation of Common Core.Anyone can change his mind, but Jindal’s oscillation on this issue combined with his apparent political calculations are affecting his image as a sincere and reliable leader here in Louisiana. Years of work brought us to the point where the state is ready to start a new set of standards, a process the governor until recently sought to accelerate. The current problem – finding a way to conduct assessments for the next academic year – was in no way created by the federal government. This is a fully state-created crisis. The governor has the main responsibility for creating this crisis and a failure of the system would be on his shoulders.The governor should not use his bureaucracies for harassment and ultimately allow bureaucrats to make policy decisions that are clearly and rightly delegated to state education leaders and the Legislature under Louisiana’s constitution and statutes. The governor regularly criticizes the federal government for this type of executive over-reach.The governor’s new opinion on Common Core is his business and his right, even though his opinion is not consistent with the laws he endorsed and signed into effect. It is unfortunate that the governor is traveling the nation criticizing his state on this issue. But his potential use of executive over-reach and bureaucratic interference to stop Common Core is a more serious matter and would be damaging and punitive to schools and taxpayers.If the governor wants to persuade the state to take a new direction on educational standards, then he should use a good, foundational democratic decision-making process to do that. If he forces the state in that direction with disruption and interference, then he lets slip the state’s steep climb out of its past era of autocratic rule. Is this demonstration of leadership an indication what kind of president he would be?For now, the governor has the opportunity to address the immediate problem of student academic assessments by demonstrating he has the skills to work with others and to allow Louisiana’s government to proceed with implementing state law and policy in a proper legal manner. In doing so, he could more likely be seen as a leader worthy of high office and not just a political candidate who blows with the latest wind.
For those of you following the most important story in Louisiana politics (cause nothing beats a Governor’s race), David Vitter’s campaign non-campaign SuperPAC packed away $1.79m for Vitter’s 2015 race. You can now count the SuperPAC as one of the largest campaign purses in the state, around the same size as other Gubernatorial candidates-in-waiting MAIN CAMPAIGN accounts of bigtimers such as John Kennedy, Jay Dardenne, or Mitch Landrieu.
In essence, a headless SuperPAC, the Deus ex machina of political campaigns, is tallying up the big money without Vitter’s such much as dialing a number (although to be fair, Vitter has appeared on behalf of the Fund for Louisiana’s future at least once, and of course transferred some of his own campaign funds to the cause). And how is this thing garnering so much cash without a candidate pushing the oarsmen?
In May, New Orleans federal judge Martin Feldman ruled that, based on a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, Louisiana can’t enforce its limit of $100,000 donations for advocacy groups. The High Court ruled that spending money on advocacy is an exercise of free speech, which cannot be regulated. Less than two months later, the American Chemistry Council broke the $100,000 donation threshold for the Vitter Super PAC.
Overall, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future took in $623,968 in the three months through June 30, on top of $157,500 received in the first three months of 2014. That’s brought the group’s cash on hand to a robust $1,796,733.
Among the biggest donors for 2014, were $100,000 each from Tracy Krohn, CEO of W&T Offshore Inc. of Houston; and Daniel Heard, a retired investor from Houston. Since its creation in 2013, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future has received five donations of $100,000 or more. Galliano Marine Services of Cut Off and GMAA LLC of New Orleans gave $100,000 in 2013.
Other top donors during 2014 included Hilcorp Energy Co. of Houston, $45,000; 4K Marine LLC of Morgan City, $40,000 and Texas Petroleum Investments Co. of Houston, $30,000.
Oh, that whole “no limits” thing.
The Fund For Louisiana’s Future: No limits, Setting Records.
BINGO! @Cenlamar nails a cenla private school for a sleazy bingo deal
Originally posted on CenLamar:
On Tuesday, the City Council of Alexandria, Louisiana voted unanimously (with one noticeable abstention) to lift its moratorium on video bingo parlors for the next 120 days. The moratorium was first championed more than six years ago by former City Councilman Myron K. Lawson, who claimed he was concerned about the unchecked and unregulated proliferation of gambling businesses disguised as social welfare clubs. Video bingo is not the same game played in elementary schools and nursing homes across the country. It’s vastly more sophisticated and much more lucrative. The buy-ins are larger, and so are the prizes. So, too, are the profits. While the moratorium may have effectively ended the opportunity for new, enterprising operators to open up new facilities, it also had the direct effect of protecting the profit margins and granting quasi-monopoly status to established businesses and non-profit organizations. Because of the moratorium, there would no longer…
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“Bobby Jindal is among the least popular Governors in the country” – Public Policy Polling, July 8th, 2014.
For history’s sake, you can check out some of his recent polling in this graph:
Jeremy Alford writes today in LaPolitics about the comings and goings of the VitterPAC, the now-unlimited money cannon Vitter will no-doubt use to pummel Jay Dardenne and friends in the 2015 Governor’s race.
Alford reports that the VitterPac has already made its first moves across the chessboard:
A new web-only media buy from the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, overseen by Charlie Spies of the D.C.-based law firm Clark Hill, turns the spotlight on state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. The banner ads thank Donelon, who doesn’t seem to be facing any real opposition, for “standing up to the federal government and fighting to protect Louisiana families from skyrocketing flood insurance rates.”
Like Vitter, who Spies has long said would be the center of the super PAC’s universe, Donelon cannot coordinate activities with the fund; by law it must act independently of candidates and campaigns. The other distinguishing characteristic of a super PAC is its ability to raise unlimited dollars on the federal level, and presumably, due to a recent court decision, on the state level.
The fund’s sudden interest in Donelon, of all politicians, and federal flood insurance provides voters and the Louisiana press with a deus ex machina, or rather a politically expedient explanation for a curious thread from the developing race for governor. While Vitter cannot use money from his federal Senate campaign account to run for governor (he has a separate state account for that), the senator did direct a $100,000 donation from his federal war chest to the super PAC that was largely created in his name for his gubernatorial bid.
Alford misses the fact that Vitter has given $1 MILLION dollars more to his own SuperPac, but that’s besides the point. Alford suggests that, in fact, without “coordination,” VitterPAC is beginning to coordinate a ticket of pro-Vitter candidates while simultaneously throwing off the “this is just a David Vitter shadow campaign” scent that is otherwise plain as day.
The full extent to VitterPAC’s nefarious plans is not yet known, perhaps even to the lawyers behind the thing. This is uncharted territory, and with more than a year to go before election day, there’s far more road to travel.
THE SILVER FOX IN THE HOUSE!
Originally posted on CenLamar:
Last Thursday, I drove down to Baton Rouge to interview the Cajun Prince, the Silver Fox, former four-term Louisiana Governor, former Louisiana State Supreme Court Justice, former United States Congressman, former federal inmate #03128-095, former reality television star, and current candidate for Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District, Edwin Washington Edwards. Like him or loathe him, it’s indisputable that, since his very first election- 60 years ago- to the Crowley City Council, Edwin Edwards has remained an irrepressible, unforgettable political figure.
His life’s story, which is exhaustively documented in Leo Honeycutt’s authorized biography, reads like a Greek or Shakespearean tragicomedy. Depending on who you ask, Edwin Edwards is either the most beloved politician in Louisiana history or the epitome of political corruption. He is either a good and decent man who was unfairly targeted and railroaded by his ideological foes or a loathsome and ethically bankrupt politician who ultimately became a victim of…
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Need more evidence of money’s influence on legislation? We break down contributions between ayes and nays on SB 469
Breaking it down. Dollar for oily, greasy dollar.
Originally posted on Louisiana Voice:
Gov. Bobby Jindal, with the signing of House Bill 799, has continued his assault on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E), underscoring the importance and power of special interest money over the welfare of the state.
HB 799, authored by Rep. Stuart J. Bishop (R-Lafayette), bars the Louisiana attorney general from hiring plaintiff attorneys on a contingency-fee basis to pursue litigation against corporations like Chinese dry wall manufacturers responsible for millions of dollars in damages to new homes in Louisiana, pharmaceutical companies accused of price fraud at the wholesale level and of selling pharmaceutical products not approved by the federal government, companies found to be improperly handling underground storage tanks, or tobacco companies whose seven top executives (to evermore be known as the “seven dwarves”) lied under oath to Congress in saying nicotine was not addictive.
Bishop cited fees of $51.4 million paid state-contracted attorneys in a case against…
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According to the political press, Bobby Jindal launched another one of his embarrassing broadsides against the awful “DC establishment,” calling for a “hostile takeover” of DC by enraged teahaddists.
Jindal is, as usual, intentionally misreading the popular sentiment. Yes, people hate DC. But not because it is too liberal, or too activist. But because it is terribly broken in the era of tea party politics.
However, here in Louisiana, there is a growing resentment brewing. The signals of a “hostile takeover” are much clearer. Where? Well, let’s just let David Vitter tell it:
Louisiana’s junior senator, who is assembling his 2015 campaign for governor, repeatedly said at a Press Club of Baton Rouge meeting that he was not criticizing Jindal or “here to grade anyone.”
He did take a couple of potshots at the governor, though.
If elected governor “This will be my last political job, elected or appointed, period,” he said.
Jindal often is criticized for what some interpret as trying to make points toward a run for president and spending too much time in states that have presidential primaries and caucuses, rather than taking care of the state’s needs.
“I’m not even running to gain a cameo appearance on ‘Duck Dynasty,’ as intensely jealous as I am about that,” Vitter joked, referring to Jindal’s recent appearance on the reality television show filmed near West Monroe.
Vitter said he wouldn’t exclude the possibility, as Jindal has, of accepting federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover more of the working poor. Currently, 240,000 Louisiana residents make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not to qualify for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu calls it “the Jindal Gap” because Jindal refuses to accept the federal funds that would provide their health care.
Chas Roemer, a Republican and president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, told Bridges, “There’s been no interaction with the governor except through the press. I find it offensive. This is not a part-time job. This is not one that can be done from New York or Washington, D.C., or wherever his latest fundraiser is.” Roemer added he hadn’t met with Jindal in a year.
John White, Ed Reformer in chief and Jindal’s boytoy also hates Jindal these days:
John White, the state’s top education official, said Tuesday that educators deserve to know that Louisiana is committed to following through with its adoption of Common Core academic standards, taking an implicit swipe at lawmakers who have tried to derail implementation and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is still threatening to do so.
Speaking to thousands of teachers gathered in New Orleans for a conference on the transition, White said, “You deserve clarity, you deserve a long-term plan, you deserve not to have standards and curriculum and assessments tossed about in the morning headlines like they can be changed with the waving of a magic wand.”
Treasurer John Kennedy is no fan either, as Jindal just vetoed his key legislative accomplishment:
I’m disappointed in the Governor’s veto of HB 142 allowing money to be wasted on frivolous contracts. We’ll be back next year. #LALege
— John Neely Kennedy (@JohnKennedyLA) June 20, 2014
Whomever runs for Governor in 2015 will be running against Bobby Jindal.
So, there is a revolution brewing. Not against DC. But against the tyrannical rule of Bobby Jindal, part-time Governor.