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.