Blog Archives

Jindal and His Vouchers

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.

Lombardi’s Entirely Fictional Fable

Former LSU System President John V. Lombardi is now a fiction writer. At his blog at Inside Higher Ed, he describes the struggles of a corrupt authoritarian, though fictional, small nation in great detail: 

Imagine a small, developing country of perhaps 3 million people. Like many other small developing countries, our imaginary nation is rich in natural resources, its economy has prospered on the export of agricultural crops and benefited from the revenue generated by petroleum production, refining, and support services. Its history, like some of its counterparts in the developing world, reflects a constant structural economic weakness covered by a colorful culture, truly creative and charming people, and an often dramatic sequence of past events.

He goes on to describe the political leadership as a “populist authoritarian government led by individuals in search of advancement to more prosperous and internationally significant posts.” Again, entirely made up. (What is this guy smoking, right?) Some of his writing is clearly influenced, quite peripherally, by the whimsy of Louisiana. But certainly not his description of the regime’s response to opposition: 

When confronted with opposition, the regime mobilizes its sycophantic adherents and paid partisans to discredit, isolate, and eventually drive out any people with an ability or opportunity to address the real issues and consequences of the regime’s behavior. The technique, developed with great political skill, involves three fronts.

The first is the effort to co-opt anyone with an independent perspective. These individuals receive coveted appointments to government boards, association with the regime’s powerful people, and assurances that the regime will protect their business and personal interests. This works quite effectively with some people, although others choose not to participate, and normally responsible individuals become dependents of the regime, bound to provide whatever support the regime requires.

When this strategy fails, as it often does with independent agency officials of some visibility, the regime turns to a form of more direct engagement. In this second mode, representatives of the regime explain to the official that the better tactic for success during these years would involve a collaborative arrangement with the regime. That collaboration would provide support and regime protection for the official, permitting continued leadership of the agency. But to achieve this protection and collaboration, and to ensure that the agreement to work together is of substance, the regime requires a test of loyalty. This loyalty test requires the official to dispose of close associates whose work the regime dislikes. Absent those associates, the regime’s messengers promise but do not guarantee the official a secure role as a significant leader under the regime’s protection.

This message of threat disguised as offer is usually delivered by reputable business leaders associated with the regime who also maintain a relationship with the non-conforming official. Should the official appear at all reluctant, the regime then reinforces the message by mobilizing their most trusted direct political operatives to echo the message.

When this second more direct approach fails, the regime moves to the third stage and mobilizes its dependents, especially those connected in one way or another to the non-conforming official, and identifies a method to remove the dangerous behavior of regime independence. This involves a conspiracy to exile the offending official, preferably to another nation. Recognizing the transparency of this maneuver, the regime activates its media experts and develops a slanderous rationale for the forced exile. A few courageous people object, but others fall silent, for the price of failing to cooperate with the regime is now clearly revealed.

Wow – so imaginative! A little fiction writing is always a good way to distract from the trials and tribulations here in Louisiana.

DuBos: Pro-Segregation Bill is Wrong for Louisiana

Clancy DuBos said it best on WWL today:

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.


Progressive Louisiana Republican?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Integrated school-based social services – See above. It also makes sense to package these services because of the potential cost efficiencies for the taxpayers.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Ed Reform: What Comes Next? (Part II)

In our first post on the ramifications of Jindal’s education reform package, we discussed what is likely to happen once the radical reforms become law:

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.

Sen. Crowe aka "Creepy Crowe"

Now if Jindal and his legislative lackeys have their way (and they will — who would stop them?), charter schools will be free to discriminate against prospective students in a variety of ways.

SB217, offered by State Senator A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell) and championed by the friendly folks with the Louisiana Family Forum, would strip several categories of protection from the current Education Department provision governing charter school contracts, including sexual orientation, English language proficiency, and athletic and academic performance.

So, a Christian charter school could freely deny admission to gay students — you know, so “the gay” wouldn’t rub off on the straight kids. And a charter school could pop up offering admission only to the best athletes in the community. Finally, any charter school could accept only those students deemed “academically qualified.” Taxpayer money stripped from the public schools would then go to charter schools who could recruit the best students and would thus show higher achievement.

Read the article in today’s Baton Rouge Advocate.

Affordable Care Act Unlikely to Be Struck Down By High Court

With the stroke of a pen, Barack Obama expanded healthcare for millions, cut long term costs, and made insurers work harder for us.

As the Supreme Court enters the second day of oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act, tea baggers are praying and hoping that the Court takes a turn for political hackery. Unfortunately for those poor souls, it doesn’t look likely:

National Journal surveyed former Supreme Court clerks and lawyers who have argued cases before the high court about the health care law, and the consensus was that the Affordable Care is likely to prevail. One respondent said, “I don’t think this case will be nearly as close a case as conventional wisdom now has it. I think the Court will uphold the statute by a lopsided majority.

Constitutional Law expert Jack Balkin has even stronger words:

The challengers to the health care mandate have filed their Supreme Court brief – the definitive statement of the case against the mandate, drawing on the strongest arguments that have been made against it by advocates and federal judges, and authored by conservative superlawyer Paul Clement. It is astoundingly thin and weak. A standard admonishment to young lawyers is that they should address the very strongest arguments on the other side, instead of substituting weak caricatures of their opponents’ views. Yet the brief does this repeatedly.

…As I’ve noted in a different context, when a lawyer as good as Clement makes arguments this bad, it tells you a lot about how desperate his case is.

Read Balkin’s piece in its entirety. If the Court upholds the law, grab the popcorn because a conservative immolation of epic proportions is on the way.

Meanwhile, erstwhile Democrat turncoat AG Buddy Caldwell is in DC to “observe” the arguments at the Supreme Court:

This will literally help shut this country down,” Caldwell said at the Supreme Court.  “We absolutely cannot suffer this kind of devastating loss for our economy.”Caldwell says the constitution doesn’t authorize Congress to force citizens to buy a product or service from a private, for-profit enterprise.

Of course, Caldwell doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about at all. Turning to a much brighter legal mind, Balkin counters:

As I’ve explained elsewhere, the argument for the mandate’s constitutionality is very simple. Congress has the power, under the Commerce Clause, to regulate insurance, and so to mandate that insurers cover people with preexisting medical conditions. (The brief does not dispute this.) Under the Necessary and Proper Clause, it may choose any convenient means to carry out this end. The mandate is clearly helpful, and may even be absolutely necessary, to Congress’s purpose. Therefore it is constitutional. Full stop.

The Court will likely announce its decision at the end of their term in June or July.

Education Reform: What Comes Next?

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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.

Jindal & His “Reform” Bedfellows

ALEC legislative shenanigans in WisconsinFantastic 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].

Read the rest of this excellent article here.

Dirty Politics with Education Reform

FIRST: In case you missed it, noted education reform expert Diane Ravitch was in Lafayette recently speaking to the Louisiana School Boards Association about Jindal’s education reform plans. She wrote about her thoughts on the proposed reform:

The bill is as punitive as possible with respect to public education and teachers. It says nothing about helping to improve or support them. It’s all about enabling students to leave public schools and creating the tools to intimidate and fire teachers. This “reform” is not conservative. I would say it is radical and reactionary. But it is in no way unique to Louisiana.

Gov. Jindal is in a race to the bottom with other Republican governors to see who can move fastest to destroy the underpinnings of public education and to instill fear in the hearts of teachers.

You can read the rest of her scathing comments here – she closes with some good questions:

Why does the media let them get away with it? Why does anyone think that this will be good for our society in the short term or the long term? Why have the monied interests decided to privatize large swaths of public education? What happens to our democracy when the public sector is effectively whittled away or purchased by big money?

SECOND: Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Louisiana BAEO (Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities). This group is helping push Jindal’s reforms statewide among the African-American community, but let’s just skip the bullshit and see it for what it is — an organization pushing for the commercialization of education that is playing dirty politics in the process. Let’s check out the evidence.

LaBAEO’s leader is Eric B. Lewis, a black Republican activist and “consultant” from Baton Rouge. It seems he owns “Sable International,” a consulting firm through which he provides business advice to companies hawking education services while simultaneously pushing the legislation that would push more black kids into for-profit charter schools.

Here’s a release encouraging parents to attend an “educational conference” hosted by LaBAEO that says the following:

In addition to its support of the SSEE program, LaBAEO has worked closely with allies to create awareness and support for charter schools, homeschooling, magnet schools, and supplemental educational services or afterschool programs. LaBAEO has been committed to providing parents with information on a range of existing and emerging educational options in Louisiana.

When pitching the same “educational conference” to SES providers (supplemental education services – a cottage industry that has emerged since the passage of No Child Left Behind), LaBAEO called it what it was — a way to make money off parents -

LaBAEO is hosting the perfect opportunity for SES providers servicing schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana  to engage parents and market their services (Brand Awareness).

It is difficult to say this isn’t another case of dirty politics when the guy trying to pitch Jindal’s plans to the black community is an active Republican operative. Here is Eric Lewis’ Republicans for Black Empowerment page.

Some African-American Democrats seem all too eager to jump on this bandwagon. State Representative Patrick Williams stood next to Lewis when he held a press conference in Shreveport in February and has worked closely with the organization.

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