Monthly Archives: March 2012

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.

Naming Names

Bobby Jindal’s school vouchers bill passed the Louisiana House late into the night after 12 hours of debate – see the roll call vote to know how your legislator voted (link updated).

This bill is the opposite of progress – yet 12 “Democrats” voted in favor. We don’t know what motivated them, but we can guess.

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 sided with Bobby Jindal (and against public schools) on this landmark education reform legislation.

BOBBY JINDAL DEMOCRATS

Neil Abramson of New Orleans

Jeff Arnold of New Orleans

Austin Badon of New Orleans

Robert Billiot of Westwego

Jim Fannin of Jonesboro

Dalton Honore of Baton Rouge

Girod Jackson III of Harvey

Patrick Jefferson of Homer

Walt Leger III of New Orleans

Helena Moreno of New Orleans

Ledricka Thierry of Opelousas

Patrick Williams of Shreveport

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.

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