Louisiana’s chapter of New Leaders Council just announced the 2013 class of Fellows for what will be their 4th annual statewide institute. The impressive, diverse group includes educators, attorneys, business and non-profit leaders, public servants, activists and social entrepreneurs.
Since 2010, NLC has conducted progressive leadership training for small groups of emerging young leaders. There is a rigorous selection process for the free program which is part of national network of chapters. In the Institute, Fellows meet monthly over five weekends to learn “political entrepreneur” skills – which emphasizes the application of risk-taking in the civic arena to achieve political goals.
NLC has a likewise impressive list of backers and alumni. The national alumni page includes current and aspiring elected officials, including State Representative Ted James of Baton Rouge who was part of the inaugural Louisiana class in 2010. Donors include former Governor Kathleen Blanco who also served as the chapter’s initial honorary co-chair.
While NLC has been operating across the country quietly since 2005, people are starting to take notice. In fact, last Sunday, the discussion on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show included New Leaders Council. Washington Monthly also published an article in September that sums up NLC’s work well:
The NLC is strikingly different from the typical DC think tank or policy shop focused on electioneering or fighting in the cable news trenches. For the last six years, its main operation is to run a kind of mini-graduate school in cities across the country for up-and-coming progressive political entrepreneurs, or “Fellows,” as they call them. In five weekends over five months, a class of around twenty fellows take classes in things like business, media and communications, campaign management, or political strategy. These fellows then serve as a network of communication and support as they move into their careers throughout the country.
And the NLC’s goal is not just to build a stable of potential congressional candidates—it has its eyes on every potential position of influence nationwide: city councils and school boards, boards and chairmanships of corporations, and of course state and national elected offices. The idea is to “infiltrate and take over all the levers of power—public and private, national and local,” says the NLC’s Executive Director Mark Riddle.
While local media and political commentators write off Louisiana as a permanent conservative stronghold, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact progressive groups like New Leaders Council can have.
As Bobby Jindal basks in the glow of VP speculation, his school voucher plan continues to garner national, as well – just not the positive kind.
From a Washington Post blog:
One of those schools is the church-affiliated New Living Word School, which was approved to increase its student enrollment from 122 to 315 — even though it doesn’t have the space, computers or the teachers to handle the students, according to the News-Star.
This means that this school will have 100 more voucher slots than any other school in Louisiana. The state Department of Education chose schools to qualify for vouchers without visiting any campuses.
According to the News-Star, Rev. Jerry Baldwin, the school’s principal and pastor of New Living Word Ministries, said that construction will begin this summer on a metal school building though he isn’t sure when it will be done. Current students now attend class in rooms used by the church’s Sunday school. If the new building is finished by the fall, he said, new students can hold class in the church gym.
The school’s mission, according to its Web site, is: “The mission of NLWM School is to provide a foundation built on biblical principles that will create an atmosphere for scholastic advancement and spiritual development.”
The school, Baldwin was quoted as saying, is moving forward “on faith.”
Education historian Diane Ravitch also reported on her blog that another school, the Eternity Christian Academy in Calcasieu Parish, will benefit from the voucher program. It now enrolls 14 students but has said it will take in 135 new students, a move that will result in some $1 million in taxpayer funds.
Of the 125 schools approved to accept taxpayer funds under Louisiana’s new school voucher law, 115 (92%) are affiliated with a church or other religious organization.
From Americans United:
Louisiana has an incredibly bad record when it comes to taxpayer aid to religious schools.
Back in the 1920s, Gov. Huey Long pushed a bill through the legislature giving textbooks to Catholic schools at taxpayer expense. The state has been the site of repeated efforts to siphon tax dollars away from public schools into the coffers of religious schools ever since.
The Jindal administration released the list of schools which will participate in the voucher program starting this fall. Nine are private yet not directly connected with a religious purpose, and one is a public school. Almost all are religious and located in urban areas along the I-10 corridor. Here’s some additional data:
- 380,000 = Total estimated eligible students statewide
- 7,450 = Total number of slots
- 125 = Total number of participating schools
- 115 = Religious private schools
- 9 = Non-religious private schools
- 1 = public school
- ~12 = Participating schools in North & Central Louisiana
- 33 = Parishes with approved schools
- $8,500 = taxpayer money per voucher
“I can tell you that this is not a Louisiana agenda. This is a national agenda to do away with public education as we know it.” Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs
Apart from potential lawsuits which would challenge the vouchers on religious grounds, there may be more legal battles on the horizon for Jindal’s vouchers. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers opposed the voucher program citing the unconstitutional routing of public Minimum Funding Program (MFP) dollars into private hands. The union, led by President Steve Monaghan, has promised a lawsuit against the state on these grounds.
Another interesting development comes from one of the most conservative parts of the state. The St. Tammany Parish School Board approved a resolution to possibly challenge the education reform package on several constitutional grounds, in coordination with the Louisiana School Board Association and other school boards across the state. One of the principal grounds is also the routing of public school MFP funding into private schools – something that deprives school boards of much-needed funds. The folks in St. Tammany say that suing the state is the only way they can fight to save their public school system.
(Reposted and updated to reflect the Senate’s shameful vote.)
Politics. Money. Re-election. Selfishness. Fear. General spinelessness. Any other guesses?
Whatever it was, it wasn’t their conscience. No one with a good conscience can vote for a bill that robs money from the public education system in Louisiana – that gives taxpayer-funded handouts to the rich and makes inflated promises of hope to the poor. This vote is inexcusable.
Without further adieu, let’s see the roll call of Democrats who gave Bobby Jindal a sweeping victory (and dealt a major blow to our public schools) on his landmark education reform legislation.
BOBBY JINDAL DEMOCRATS
This reminds me of a time when state law also did not protect black people. State lawmakers back then tried the same thing that Senator Crowe is trying now — to use discriminatory state laws as an excuse for violating federal laws.It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.
I never thought I would write the words in the title consecutively. But one Republican legislator is showing that he’s not your cookie-cutter conservative nor is he a pawn of the Jindal machine (like almost all Republicans and many Democrats in Baton Rouge today).
Ladies and Gentlemen…meet Joe Harrison:
Joe, as we will appropriately call him, has been a leading voice of common sense and reason against Jindal’s attack on public education. As the article on NOLA.com called to our attention this morning, Joe has offered The Harrison Plan for education reform – a stark contrast to the Jindal plan and the the only tangible alternative offered thus far (that we know of). Ok, Democrats, pay attention.
Joe’s plan has 6 parts across 7 bills:
- Team teaching for K-4 – While it may be impractical to require that the same teachers follow a group of students for 5 years straight, his heart is in the right place as far as fostering a system in which teachers develop close relationships with kids. And I like the idea of partnering teachers with differentbackgrounds or areas of expertise. It is good to see a proposal that puts the focus back in the (public school) classroom.
- Mandated parental involvement – While this won’t always work, I think the idea is a good one. I’m not sure you can make a parent care if he or she doesn’t already, but it is important to find ways to get public school parents more actively involved. Overall, I doubt a bill like this would ever pass.
- Integrated school-based healthcare – The cycle of poverty is a big cause of poor performance in schools across Louisiana. Many children need a combination of health and social services, as the problems they face in these areas are directly related to how prepared they are to learn at school. So, it only makes sense that these services are offered on campus.
- Integrated school-based social services – See above. It also makes sense to package these services because of the potential cost efficiencies for the taxpayers.
- Requirement that school districts spend at least 80% of MFP on classroom instruction – As Joe says, “It’s as simple as ABC and 1,2,3.” Far too much is spent at the district level on administrative costs. This bill would force local school boards to put the money where it can best help students.
- Mandatory inclusion of the “founding principles” in high school history courses – This is a nonstarter. For starters, the term “founding principles” can mean different things to different people. I’m not sure what the thought was here, but I do agree that we need to beef up civics education.
Regardless of the details (or as some of our legislators would say, “irregardless”), the focus of the Harrison Plan is on improving public schools in practical ways. This is what education reform should be about — not about giving taxpayer dollars away to the private sector. Kudos to Joe for his courage and leadership! We need more folks like him in Baton Rouge.
Education reform in Louisiana as offered by the Jindal machine this year is a foregone conclusion. It will happen. All of it. Two weeks from now, the legislative session will be in virtual lame-duck status, Jindal allies holding their heads high and foes wondering what just hit them. The Governor and his aides will have claimed the spoils of a mandate and taken to the national airwaves to burnish Bobby’s credentials for President (and likely a spot on the ticket this year).
Results be damned, Louisiana’s public education system will be radically and most likely permanently changed. The thousands of families, many wealthy, who already send their children to parochial and private schools will relish their new tax credits, while a small number of families will attempt to use their new “scholarships” (vouchers) to claim one of the few available spots in private schools.
Immediately after the legislation passes, profit-seeking corporations and individuals will rush to create new charter schools and private academies to take advantage of the taxpayer funds that will stream like water through a breached levee into the private sector. Not only that, churches and “community organizations” will follow suit in poor neighborhoods, establishing “pop-up” schools and marketing school “choice” to the local population. The motivation of easy profits with with little or no accountability other than “customer satisfaction” will fuel this phenomenon, and parents with little education themselves will be convinced to pull their children out of public schools in favor of these new neighborhood schools established by churches and other seemingly-trustworthy groups. Money will go to slick marketing with little regard given to curriculum or teacher quality.
Thousands then millions of taxpayer dollars will drain from the public coffers leaving the state with even less money to support and improve public schools. As a result, local school boards will struggle to fill holes, retain teachers, and solve problems with less funding. The already weak foundation of the Louisiana public school system will slowly erode away.
Fantastic investigative reporting by our friend Tom Aswell over at Louisiana Voice uncovering more of the slimy politics behind the curtain of Jindal’s “reform” agenda:
Believe in Louisiana, a Baton Rouge Political 527 non-profit corporation, has been running television ads throughout the state in support of Jindal’s education reform legislation.
Believe in Louisiana is headed by Rolfe McCollister, publisher of the Baton RougeBusiness Report and former chairman of Jindal’s 2007 transition team and treasurer of his most recent campaign for governor. McCollister also made five separate contributions to Jindal’s first two gubernatorial campaigns totaling $17,000.
Also making five contributions totaling $8,500 was Business Report President Julio Melara. Melara also is president of two other Baton Rouge publications,1012 Magazine (for Interstates 10 and 12 that run through Baton Rouge) and225 Magazine (Baton Rouge is in telephone Area Code 225).
Before entering the publishing business Melara worked as an advertising salesman for a New Orleans radio station.
Within weeks of becoming governor in January 2008, Jindal appointed Melara to the Louisiana Superdome Commission.
Jindal’s education reform package is not his own any more than prison privatization or the overhaul of state employee retirement can be claimed by him as original ideas. He has his marching orders and ALEC is calling the shots [hyperlink ours].
I appologize for not posting as much as I should. But we have been busy kicking of our 2012 season of Blue Mondays. Below you can find the full episode that was released this past Monday. Every other week we have a new show and I will be posting them here as well but we would also appriciate a “LIKE” over on our show page here.
Let us know what you think! Our YouTube Channel will also have shorter clips from the show and you can find that here. Let us know what you think and what topics you would like to see us cover in the future!