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White flags of cowardice waving at Louisiana Capitol

Perhaps a false flag, but definitely a white flag.

Something Like the Truth

By Robert Mann

It was a week for waving white flags. By the look of things at the Louisiana Capitol, you’d have thought Gov. Bobby Jindal and state legislators were debating in semaphore. If so, the words they spelled with their bright pennants were “surrender” and “cowardice.”

First on deck were members of the Senate Finance Committee. When the state’s top higher education adviser, Tom Layzell, showed up to testify Monday, he lamented Louisiana’s pitifully low college graduation rate. When he finished, the white flags began to flutter. Committee members — unwilling to support any serious reinvestment in the state’s colleges and universities — conceded their fecklessness.

“We’ve broken every piggy bank and trust [fund] that’s out there,” Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, complained, seeming to dismiss Layzell as a starry-eyed dreamer. Mills said he doubted there would be “any new funding coming to higher ed.” Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville…

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New Leaders Council Names 2013 Fellows

NLC training 2012

NLC Fellows at a training in 2012 – photo courtesy NLC-Louisiana’s Facebook page

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.

Jindal Vouchers’ Price Tag

There is a staggeringly large amount of money at stake in Governor Jindal’s voucher plan (HB-976). How much?

$1.9 Billion every fiscal year.

Here’s how you get that number.

First, everyone agrees that about 53% of Louisiana public school students will be eligible for vouchers because they attend public schools that are graded at the C, D, or F performance levels. That is about 380,000 students.

Since the plan is for the ‘money to follow the student’ (Louisiana Constitution be damned!), that means the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding would be tapped to provide that money. The state’s portion of the MFP averages out to just over $5,000 per student, but varies from parish to parish. But, $5,000 is a safe, conservative estimate.

So, take your $5,000 per student and multiply that by the number of students (380,000) and you get the number shown in the check above — One billion, nine-hundred million dollars.

Oh, the Governor and his friends say, don’t worry! There’s not room for that many students to be admitted by private schools.

Right, but $1,900,000,000 is a mighty nice pool of money to help incentivize the creation of a heck of a lot more private schools. And, that money will be available every fiscal year.

Over five years, Jindal’s voucher plan will make $9.5 Billion available to schools that don’t exist right now. Over the next ten years, that will become $19 Billion. Every penny of that is Louisiana taxpayer dollars (again, in violation of Article VII, Section 13 of the Louisiana Constitution). All of it will be going into the coffers of school operators who will not have the performance of their schools assessed or graded and who will not have to hire certified teachers to staff those classrooms.

Get ready to see an explosion of new private school openings in Louisiana in coming years if the Jindal voucher plan goes into law. It’s guaranteed to be good for the school operators and their investors — even contractors.

They’re so happy they can hardly count.

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