By Robert Mann
Like so many business leaders, the Indiana ice cream executive was sure he knew what ailed his state's education system. Schools weren't being run like corporations. "If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools," Jamie Vollmer told a group of teachers in 1991, "I wouldn't be in business for long."
Vollmer explained that schools, themselves, were antiquated and that educators were loath to accept accountability for their actions.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 10, 2013
Re: Zachary S. (“Zack”) Kopplin, Citizen versus John White, in his Official Capacity as Superintendent of the Department of Education, a Department of the Executive Branch of the State of Louisiana
Baton Rouge, Louisiana—On Monday, September 9, 2013, education activist Zack Kopplin filed suit against Louisiana Superintendent John White and the Department of Education in order to compel White to release a series of public records concerning the school voucher program, teacher evaluation methodology, the Louisiana Science Education Act, the influence of lobbyists on policymaking, and policies related to the retention and destruction of public records.
Blogger Lamar White pummels Louisiana school chief John White in a weekend letter to the editor to the Times-Picayune, crushing his absurd claims that the voucher program is nothing but an embarrassing, unconstitutional boondoggle created to deprive public schools of critical funding:
On July 1 The Times-Picayune reported, “out of the 117 schools participating in the state’s student voucher program … only one violated rules for using taxpayer money.” Although it is true only one school, New Living Word in Ruston, was removed from the program for “violating rules,” the two audits actually reveal that Louisiana’s voucher program is plagued by an alarming and systemic disregard for accountability, transparency and competence.
The Times-Picayune failed to note 107 of the 117 schools (or 91.4 percent) could not or would not furnish records related to their expenditure of taxpayer dollars, primarily because these schools did not maintain separate accounts for voucher funds. The independent auditor could not effectively determine whether those voucher schools were in compliance. Despite Superintendent John White’s claims to the contrary, the audit also revealed at least 13 schools were overcharging voucher students, a clear violation of the rules.
Lamar goes on to smoke out White’s spin as a desperate ploy to avoid the scrutiny this program deserves:
Superintendent White’s spin on this story is brazenly disingenuous; the two audits did not demonstrate the Department of Education’s commitment to “accountability.” If anything, in claiming that 116 of the 117 audited schools were in compliance, Superintendent White is implicitly promoting a system devoid of accountability and ripe for abuse. If New Living Word School had been savvy, it would have simply deposited its voucher money into its general account, and no one would be the wiser.
The people of Louisiana deserve better. Instead of reinvesting in our shared civic institutions and re-dedicating ourselves to a robust, competitive and quality public education system, we are draining millions of precious dollars into fly-by-night church schools, many of which refuse to teach basic science. Fundamentally, this issue is not about political ideology; it’s about priorities and results. Sen. Bob Kostelka, a Republican, recently lamented Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of $4 million in critically important services for the developmentally disabled. “Yet he (Jindal) put $30 million to $40 million more in the school voucher program that is unworkable,” Kostelka said. As we now know, the voucher program is not only unworkable, it is completely unaccountable.
Lamar White Jr.
Bob Mann gives a little context on the Jindal Gold Standard of accountability and ethics, especially in light of his DOE’s squandering of at least $600,000 MFP dollars on a sham “school” through the corrupt and unconstitutional voucher program:
Would you pay $6,300 in tuition to send your child to a private school with uncertified teachers, insufficient computers and no proper classrooms, and at which the “teaching” occurred mostly by plopping students in front of televisions to watch lessons on DVDs? Of course you wouldn’t. But the Louisiana Department of Education would.
And worse, White continued to lie to Louisiana about the results of “independent” audits conducted of the voucher schools. While the audits were mostly incomplete, White trumpeted them as absolving the voucher schools of corruption. Quite the opposite:
In fact, the audits revealed that the afore-mentioned standard “could not be completed for forty-nine of the fifty-one private schools reviewed.” One audit is littered with the following statement, concerning the records of dozens of voucher schools: “We were unable to perform the procedures because the school did not have a separate checking account or other procedures to account for scholarship expenditures separate from other expenditures.”
Most of the schools were also unable to verify that their “expenditures do not constitute gross irresponsibility and are not individually enriching.” These are not insignificant findings except, apparently, to White. The state will spend about $45 million in the current fiscal year on vouchers for about 8,000 students.
To suggest that the audits uncovered “no violations” is a bit like saying that since I didn’t file my taxes for the past five years, and because the IRS can’t yet determine if I actually paid any taxes, there’s no problem.
For those “accountability” and “excellence” loudmouths in the Education reform movement, this should serve as a bitter pill of irony. White’s lack of accountability is embarrassing. And he should pay the price.
"Financial Irresponsibility and Incompetence": Louisiana Superintendent John White Perfectly Describes School Voucher Program
Yesterday, after more than a year of sustained criticism in the state, national, and even international media, Louisiana Superintendent John White (no relation) announced the Department of Education was banning the New Living Word School in Ruston, Louisiana from participating in the so-called Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program (the SSEEP), more commonly known as the school voucher program. Under the direction of Governor Bobby Jindal and the majority Republican state legislature, Superintendent White is responsible for rolling out and implementing the most expansive school voucher program in the nation's history, a program that potentially qualifies as many as 56% of Louisiana students.
Diagraming the foibles of clowns like John White and Bobby Jindal might be our raison d’etre, we admit. Yet, it goes without saying that there’s an awful lot of elite slobbering over clowns like Jindal and Bloomberg on this issue, and that needs to be held in check.
We don’t suppose that teachers unions want to hear this, but they’ve lost too many battles in this war to be held in any high esteem. We’re not interested in carrying water for well-meaning, but strategically tone-deaf, education unions on this point or any other. We can tell what’s right.
What is clear is that there’s a whole lot of snooty “experts” and “policy wonks” going around slapping each other on the back while slurping big gulps of corporate shill cash. These elitist tools wave around one-pagers on “reform” with key buzzwords they themselves don’t even understand. “Charters,” “Choice,” “Excellence,” “Teacher evaluations,” “Testing,” they exclaim!
How about this buzzword, you human paraquats: POVERTY. Poor kids can’t learn as easily or as thoroughly as rich ones because their lives are messed up by the crushing lack of basic resources. And thanks to other elitist fucktards, austerity is ripping even the most basic sustenance from the mouths of babes. David @ Salon has more:
Reality, though, is finally catching up with the “reform” movement’s propaganda. Withpoverty and inequality intensifying, a conversation about the real problem is finally starting to happen. And the more education “reformers” try to distract from it, the more they will expose the fact that they aren’t driven by concern for kids but by the ugliest kind of greed — the kind that feigns concerns for kids in order to pad the corporate bottom line.
John White is likely to be gone by the end of June but Louisiana will still have its work cut out cleaning up the messes he will leave behind. Some of those messes off the top of my head are:
It’s all about a choice. School choice rings from the hills as the clarion call from reformers. “Parents need a choice,” they say smugly, while counting their private foundation grant cash in their skinny jeans. And who could argue? Choice sounds great. It’s like Burger King: school anyway you want it.
So some parents got a choice. Without information. With smug sloganeering about superior private schools, filled with visions of their children studying philosophy in wood-paneled prep academies. Instead, they got snowed in a White-out:
As Gov. Bobby Jindal tries again to fund his controversial school voucher program, new test scores indicate that many of the current students educated with public money in private schools are not thriving. Or at least they aren’t yet.
Released Wednesday, LEAP scores for third- through eighth-graders show only 40 percent of voucher students scored at or above grade level this past spring. The state average for all students was 69 percent.
For accountability purposes, students attending private schools at taxpayer expense take the same standardized tests as their peers in public schools. In 2011, when the voucher program operated only in New Orleans, students averaged 33 percent proficiency.
Now seven schools in Jefferson and Orleans parishes have results so low — less than 25 percent of voucher students proficient for three years running — that they have been barred from accepting new voucher students in the fall, as per state policy. In Orleans, the schools are Life of Christ Academy, the Upperroom Bible Church Academy, Bishop McManus, Conquering Word Christian Academy Eastbank and Holy Rosary Academy. In Jefferson, they are Faith Christian Academy and Conquering Word Christian Academy.
From failing schools to failing schools. A difference without a distinction. Choosing without a choice. And John White sees the writing on the wall. As the walls of Jindal’s Education reform sandcastle tumble down in the courts and legislature, White is out the door:
Rumors have persisted for several days now that White would be leaving his post at the end of the current legislative session, which must adjourn by June 6.
Those rumors reached a new pitch on Wednesday with word that White would be headed “for Duncanland” in June.
For those unfamiliar with the Obama cabinet, “Duncanland” would be Washington where Arne Duncan serves as Secretary of Education. Before joining the Obama administration, Duncan served as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools whence controversial former Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas came. White succeeded Vallas as RSD superintendent before being elevated to his current post by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) at the behest of Gov. Bobby Jindal in January of 2012.
BESE President Chas Roemer, contacted about the report that White was headed for Washington, said he had not heard any such report.
To the escape hatches! No ed reformer hack left behind!
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, Louisiana, because Bobby J’s crackpot voucher scheme just took a death blow from the Louisiana Supreme Court. By a vote of 6-1, the Supreme Court invalidated the voucher payment plan, citing the fact that using MFP funds to pay private school tuition was unconstitutional. Read more:
The key issue is whether the source of public school aid — it is called the Minimum Foundation Program, called MFP — can be used to pay for vouchers, which finance tuition and some mandatory fees.
The ruling struck down the MFP funding mechanism that the Louisiana Legislature overwhelmingly approved last year.
State Superintendent of Education John White said earlier that the voucher aid alone costs about $22 million per year.
The state is facing a $1.3 billion shortfall for the upcoming financial year to maintain aid for state services at current levels.
White has said he is confident that, even if vouchers were struck down, state officials would find a way to continue the aid.
He did not spell out specifics. White is in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.
The ruling said: “We agree with the district court that once funds are dedicated to the state’s Minimum Foundation Program for public education, the constitution prohibits those funds from being expended on the tuition costs of nonpublic schools and nonpublic entities.”
Johnny WHITE is surfing his CV for some new gigs. This ship is going way, way down.
Voucher-proponents are rightly dumbfounded, but insist the state will continue to pay for them. With a $1.3 state budget deficit, you can bet that ain’t going to happen.
Voucher oucher indeed.
Today, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal finally admitted, for the very first time, that the controversial Louisiana Science Education Act, which he signed into law during his first year in office, was designed and intended to allow public schools the ability to teach creationism as legitimate scientific theory.
Jindal made his comments to NBC News correspondent Hoda Kotb, during tail end of an interview at the Education Nation conference in New Orleans.