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.
“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:
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.
The strange thing about that call is the word choice. “Hostile Takeover.” Now, as a matter of literally meaning, this implies some sort of struggle for power. Perhaps even an armed struggle. Something like a coup d’etat.
But the term “hostile takeover” is more often used in business. You might be familiar with the “vulture capitalism,” a charming term that Rick Perry popularized in 2012 to describe the kind of “hostile takeovers” that Mittens Romney was famous for executing as a corporate raider:
Jindal’s background as a bloodless corporate consultant (McKinsey alum) shouldn’t surprise in the double meaning in this term. Jindal is of course signaling that this takeover will be through his usual privatization obsession. The only way he knows how to govern. Not shrinking government. Just outsourcing it.
I’ll be honest. I don’t like you. I’ve never liked you. Maybe it’s your awkward folksiness or your generally amateurish disposition. It’s hard to say, really. I must admit, though, that when you were elected, I felt reasonably confident that you could handle the job. I thought to myself, “Well, he’s not my guy, but at least he’s smart and moderately competent.” Holy shit, was I wrong.
I realize you’re not as dumb as you pretend to be. My guess is that you decided at some point that intellectual integrity is a political liability. And maybe you’re right. Maybe everything about politics militates against intelligent discourse. Maybe, as a matter of strategy, it’s safer to do nothing and appear smart to stupid people than it is to actually lead. I honestly don’t know.
Exactly who is donating to Bobby Jindal’s 501(c)4 group? And why?
Originally posted on CenLamar:
Last Friday, against the vehement and public urging of his own Attorney General and nearly one hundred of the nation’s most respected legal experts, Governor Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 469 into law. Quoting his press release (bold mine):
Governor Jindal said, “This bill will help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment, and I am proud to sign it into law. It further improves Louisiana’s legal environment by reducing unnecessary claims that burden businesses so that we can bring even more jobs to our state. The bill will also send future recovered dollars from CZMA litigation to coastal projects, allowing us to ensure Louisiana coastal lands are preserved and that our communities are protected.”
If you’re wondering who, exactly, the law benefits, all you need to do is keep reading Jindal’s press release, which contains this amazing confession. Quoting (again, bold and…
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THE OTHER LAMAR HITS IT OUT THE PARK
Originally posted on CenLamar:
“A lot of people mentioned to me how omnipresent BP lobbyists were, more than the other major oil companies were (though all of them showed plenty of interest), so much more that it got a lot of people wondering, `What’s in the bill for them?’ It certainly got us wondering.” – John Barry, June 5, 2014
“As our analysis shows, SB 469 fails to protect the local governments whose concerns your letter concedes are at issue and puts at risk billions of dollars of local government claims against BP. And, here, it should be noted that BP heavily lobbied for the passage of SB 469 – a fact strongly suggesting that the now known consequences of SB 469 were not unintended at all.” – Robert Verchick, June 4, 2014
“They (BP) didn’t lobby me, because they knew my position. But they lobbied several of my colleagues.” – State Representative John Bel…
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But really making it in modern American politics for “Bobby” Jindal might have finally happened. Yes, Jindal’s got himself an honest-to-goodness, sleazy, corrupt, conflict-of-interest, family scandal on his hands:
Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t disclose in his newspaper column this week supporting for-profit colleges in their fight with the Obama administration that his brother, attorney Nikesh Jindal, represented the schools’ association in an earlier legal fight with the administration...
“I think that it is pretty embarrassing such facts come out after the fact rather than before,” said Kevin Cope, president of the LSU Faculty Senate and a critic of the for-profit institutions.
Nothing says good ole, sleazy American politics than a politician publicly shilling for his brother’s legal clients.
But this isn’t the first time the Jindal family has been caught with their political and financial wires crossed.
The Jindal family matriarch has been a State Employee under her son, the Governor, pulling down six figures in the state’s IT department:
Raj G. Jindal is the governor’s mother and she pulls down a cool $117,915 per year as an Information Technology (IT) Director 3 in charge of workforce support and training. We assume she is a valuable, capable employee. But that’s not the point here. It’s the perception, stupid (with apologies to Bill Clinton).
One might think the governor, as a show of good faith, would ask his mom, an employee of 30-plus years and certainly eligible for retirement, to lead by example, and step down to benefit someone who really needed a job. Even if she were not eligible for retirement benefits, what a PR move it could be for the governor.
But Nikesh Jindal, the Governor’s brother, is familiar with covering his brothers bases. In a 2009 interview, Nikesh stumbled and fumbled when the subject of the Jindal family faith came up, no doubt cautious not to spoil the carefully crafted image crafted of “Brady Bunch” good Catholic convert Bobby.
Today, Nikesh Jindal is a thirty-year-old lawyer in Washington. He went to Dartmouth and Yale — “Quite a shock for a southern boy,” he said on the phone recently with a chuckle. Unlike Bobby, he has no southern accent. Nikesh remembers fondly the family’s one-story, three-bedroom house in a “small little neighborhood where you knew all the people on the street.” When asked if his family ever got together with other Hindu families to worship during holidays, Nikesh, who has never before been interviewed, became flustered. “I’ll have to think about it and get back to you on that,” he said. (All requests for an interview with Amar and Raj Jindal were declined.)
It’s fascinating to note how well-constructed the “Bobby” Jindal image has been over the years. The assiduous avoidance of any “foreign” (i.e. non-southern-christian-white) biographical items bolster’s Jindal’s cultural appeal to his old, white, intolerant base.
Jindal’s spent a lot of time attempting to burnish the ultimately “american” white boy image. This obvious overcompensation is fascinating. It is so clear, even to Jindal, that his political base could not, and would not, accept Jindal for whom he really is, for where he really came from, and from his true American story.
Perhaps now, with the eruption of family political sleaze, Jindal will finally find the acceptance he so desperately craves. Nothing says genuine American politics like a commingled family political drama, complete with slimy conflicts of interest.
Congrats “Bobby,” you might have finally made it.
Yesterday, to the shock of many, the Senate Finance flippantly moved $4.5m in funding for disabled folks to a private auto track. Apparently, your outrage seemed to work, as the fund transfer was partially “cured”, although you’d be wrong to think that meant the millionaire wasn’t getting his $4.5m in free track improvements.
Not this Legislature. Not this State.
Instead, the Senate retained the little bonus for Laney Chouest’s NOLA Motorsports track, but instead made sure they found the extra money to make it up to the disabled folks.
You get to have your pie and eat it too!
Apparently, Senator Donahue, he of “The answer to your question, Sen. Claitor, is yes,” fame, had a lot of trouble reading the Jindal Administration script on the budget today in the chamber. Keen eyed observer CBForgotston was watching:
The Senate easily adopted the budget with nary a word of protest! It’s all good, says Emperor Jindal.
Who knows what other fun little giveaways lurk in the dark matter of the Legislative Budget.
The Louisiana Legislature is poised to take $4 million of your tax dollars away from supporting disabled Louisianians in order to give it to a corporate indycar event at a private racetrack owned by a multi-millionaire. That is not spin:
“We’re taking money away from the disabled community and giving it to motor sports?” Claitor asked during the committee meeting.
“The answer to your question, Sen. Claitor, is yes,” said Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, the committee’s chairman, in response.
After the meeting, Donahue said he was optimistic that more money could be found for services for people with disabilities as the budget advances through the legislative process. Money had to be put toward IndyCar, he said, because Jindal had promised $4.5 million in upgrades to NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale as part of the deal to lure the event to New Orleans.
NOLA Motorsports is owned by Laney Chouest, a multi-millionaire co-owner of Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO). He seems like a fine enough chap, one devoted to building a world class racetrack. Now, of course, he’s done it with his own fortune. Good for him. He even opened it to the public, so normal folks could go racing or go-karting around his prize.
But the idea that we need to pay for $4m in “track improvements” to “lure” a billion-dollar national racing league to New Orleans for a race almost no one cars about, INSTEAD of patching our meager budget for the disabled, is absolutely sick. Just because Jindal “promised” the billionaire owners he’d scoop some tax dollars up for them. Absolutely sick.
This combines the worst of crony-capitalism with the height of heartless Ayn Randism. Government giving money to a massive corporation for a playboy, rich-man’s sport instead of taking care of the disabled. This is your government. This is what they’re doing with your hard-earned dollars they collected in taxes. Blowing it on a private racetrack. You betcha.
Where is your tea party now?