BATON ROUGE (CNS)—From Shreveport to New Orleans, from Amite to Alexandria, they’re beginning to catch on to the smoke and mirrors act of snake oil salesman Piyush Jindal, masquerading as governor of Louisiana and wannabe shining star—but now a fading star—of the national Republican Party.
And the picture isn’t a pretty one, at least from Piyush’s perspective—if, that is, he is even aware of the growing tide of resentment over his failed programs. Those failures run the gamut: from the $250 million wash-away berms in the Gulf of Mexico to the rejection of more than $800 million in federal grants for broadband internet, early childhood development and a high-speed rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans to nightmarish cuts to higher education, state hospitals and Medicaid.
The question of his understanding of the depth and breadth of the problems is a matter of open speculation. One of his handlers recently described Jindal as “delusional.”
Definitions of the term vary somewhat in their wording but all say essentially the same thing:
• “A fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact;”
• “A false personal belief that is not subject to reason or contradictory evidence…”
• “A false belief or opinion;”
• “A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence…”
If Jindal doesn’t see and appreciate the looming consequences of his programs, i.e. school vouchers, budget cutbacks, privatization, hospital closures, then at least the readers of the Shreveport Times appear to understand and to come to grips with the dilemma of a disconnected governor.
A poll of Times readers this week asked one simple question: “How would you grade Jindal’s performance as governor?”
The term “grade” is significant here when one considers Jindal’s own penchant for “grading” Louisiana’s public schools in an apparent effort to categorize as many as possible as “D” and “F” schools to clear the way for new, mostly for-profit charter and online virtual schools and for his ill-conceived voucher/scholarship program, all of which rip money from local public school districts, leaving them in a deeper fiscal chasm than before.
The results of that poll late Friday afternoon showed, out of 866 votes cast, 593 (68.5 percent gave Jindal an F. Another 138 (15.0 percent) gave him a D. So, 83.5 percent of respondents gave him either a D or and F. Only 70 (8.1 percent) gave him an A while 33 (3.8 percent said he warranted a B and 32 (3.7 percent) gave him a C.
Jindal’s grading method for schools says that any school with a C, D, or F grade is considered failing and eligible for parents to move their kids out to a voucher school. Accordingly, 87.3 of respondents say he simply doesn’t measure up.
(Of course the poll is unscientific, but it certainly is interesting to know that he was re-elected with 66 percent of the vote of 20 percent of voters who went to the polls and now 68.5 percent see him as an utter failure.
Just to make sure there was no stuffing of the ballot box, we attempted to vote twice to see if we could. We could not, so the results, though unscientific, are significant because north Louisiana, along with the Florida parishes, is considered one of the areas of the state where he is strongest.
Taking the results of that poll into account, perhaps we should consider the implementation of a “charter” or “virtual” governor or perhaps vouchers could be issued for Louisiana’s citizens to select another governor if we are unhappy with the one we have.
Of course, like school vouchers, that would not preclude one over the other.
In other words, we would still have Jindal as the public governor, but we also would have a private governor of our choosing who would be accountable to no one.
Wait. We already have that.
The Monroe News-Star also has challenged the governor and his superintendent of education John White on the matter of what is and what is not public record. That publication has filed a lawsuit over records White has claimed are part of the “deliberative process,” a term that never existed before Jindal took office.
Gambit, a New Orleans publication, recently published a column with the headline: “Jindal’s got the job he wants? Prove it, Governor.”
The article asked the not-so-rhetorical question of why, if he truly had the “best job in the world,” would he spend so much time away from Louisiana?
Pointing out as others have recently that there are plenty of problems to occupy Jindal’s attention, Gambit submitted a “Bobby-do” list of tasks for the governor to tackle now that he has been officially eliminated from Mitt Romney’s vice presidential veepstakes:
• Keep Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SLH) open. In 2009, Jindal shut down the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH), justifying the move by pointing out that its patients could receive the care they needed at SLH in Mandeville. Gambit asked where can those patients turn to now for treatment, Mississippi? With the closure of SLH scheduled for October, an entire region of the state—the most populous region of the state, it might be pointed out—will have no public mental health hospital.
• Address the catastrophic cuts to higher education with something more than your rhetorical “do more with less” mantra.
• Put real accountability into the public school voucher program. This program, passed by Jindal and now administered by his hand-picked superintendent of education (we’ll get to him presently), is an unmitigated disaster worthy of a Three Stooges or Marx Brothers comedy.
Except that this scenario is not funny.
Which brings us to White and his traveling dog and pony show which has played to less than enthusiastic reviews thus far.
First of all, White should have the good sense not to stroll late into a meeting with a parish school board (already a hostile audience) in open shirt with sleeves rolled up, dressed, in the words of one observer, “like he was attending a corn husking party,” complete with half-unzipped pants.
Is this really the image the leader of the state’s educational system wishes to convey in a public meeting of local elected officials? Apparently so.
Kevin Crovetto, a Ponchatoula High School teacher, got in what was possibly the best zinger of the night when he said if White and his staff were judged by the same standards proposed for teachers, they would be rated “ineffective.”
The Tangipahoa Parish School Board was, predictably, equally unimpressed.
Board member Al Link said that under the new teacher evaluation system, teachers will be held accountable for the academic progress of their students while the responsibilities of the student and parents are not addressed.
The state continues to put mandates on teachers, jumping from one mandate to another, to the point that teachers are finding it impossible to do their jobs, Link said, adding that the state now is saying some teachers are not meeting expectations so now their jobs are being given to persons who are not certified.
White responded by saying that he is “not keen” on certification and that anyone who is a college graduate and who is “proficient” should be allowed to teach.
Yet florists, plumbers and auctioneers are required to be licensed in Louisiana.
And just who is in charge of determining proficiency?
When Crovetto and others questioned White about the new voucher program that allows students who qualify to attend private schools and charter schools—at the expense of public school systems, White, incredibly, responded by indicating he cared little about the financial drain on public schools so long as voucher students get an education.
Let that sink in, folks. The head of Louisiana’s public education system says he is unconcerned about the financial hardships imposed on local school systems so long as voucher students get an education—at places like:
• Delhi Charter where, until public pressure forced a change in policy, a girl even suspected of being pregnant could be forced to submit to a physical by a doctor of the school’s choosing;
• Light City Christian Academy in New Orleans where the founder of the school calls himself “Apostle” and “Prophet;”
• New Living Word School in Ruston, which does not even have books, teachers, or classroom space and where the state recently circumvented the local building inspector to issue a building permit for a construction project to expand the facility (remember Willie Stark in All the King’s Men and the collapse of the school fire escape?);
• Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake that teaches that the Loch Ness Monster is real as a means of supporting the fundamentalist theory that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. It also uses textbooks that teach that American slave owners were benevolent, kind-hearted overlords, that the Ku Klux Klan was a “reform” organization that protected women and children, that the “Trail of Tears” was responsible for the conversion of many American Indians to Christianity;
• BeauVer Christian School in DeRidder that couldn’t grasp the proper spelling of “Scholarship” on its sign advertising free vouchers.
And, let us not forget, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs), who says she is all about teaching the Christian beliefs of our forefathers in charter schools and vouchers for Christian schools but was opposed to vouchers for an Islamic school in New Orleans.
All these factors are part and parcel of the administration of a governor who more and more, exhibits signs of a growing disconnect with reality.
• Delusional: a false belief based upon a misinterpretation of reality.