Our brain-dead legislature just doesn’t get it.
The House earlier this month approved and sent to the Senate HB 650 which calls for reorganization of the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE).
The vote was 57-39 (with nine not voting), with an assortment of oblivious characters who have their collective heads where only their proctologists can find them.
Why, you ask?
Simple. Superintendent of Education John White has been illegally running DOE since he arbitrarily “reorganized” the department nearly a year ago—months before House approval of the reorganization bill.
Apparently it’s not enough that sweeping educational “reforms” were approved last year that sent the entire department spiraling into the depths of scandal (see Course Choice, FastPath, Fast Start, Rod Paige, etc.), botched teacher evaluations (see Value Added Model), failure (see RSD school grades), potential violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (see InBloom, Agilix, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdock, News Corp., Wireless Generation, etc.), six-figure salaries for out-of-state appointees with little to no educational experience and no willingness to even register their cars in Louisiana or get Louisiana driver’s licenses (see past, present and future John White appointees), and numerous legal setbacks (see voucher funding, public records lawsuits).
White came into office nearly 18 months ago preaching failure and he has certainly illustrated that concept in crystal clear, unmistakable clarity.
Last July 9, White issued a DOE news release in which he announced the appointment of a team of District Support and Network Leaders—a major reorganization implemented a month after adjournment of the legislative session and which put the proverbial cart well ahead of the horse.
And apparently few in the legislature took notice, not even on April 11 of this year when Deputy Superintendent of Policy Erin Bendily told the House Education Committee that the department was still operating under the old structure as approved by previous legislation as Senate bill 80 (Act 302) of 2011.
Among those either blissfully ignorant (as in the case of Ruston Republican Rob Shadoin, who declined to comment on the DOE violation of student and teacher privacy laws or on the fraudulent Course Choice registrations because he did not know enough about the issues) or who simply did not care were 14 members of the House Education Committee.
The only Education Committee members voting against HB 650 were Democrats John Bel Edwards of Amite, Edward Price of Gonzales, Pat Smith and Alfred Williams, both of Baton Rouge.
Among the changes implemented by White sans legislative approval:
• A new organizational chart which has been in place since Sept. 10, 2012;
• Abolishment of the offices of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Literacy, College and Career Readiness, Departmental Support and Innovation;
• Addition of five Network Leaders at salaries of $130,000 and up (not part of the DOE organizational chart approved by the legislature during the administration of former Superintendent Paul Pastorek).
An open letter to state senators written “on behalf of concerned DOE employees” said the department “has recently seen an explosion in the number of unclassified staff.”
The letter said a large number of the new hires have “minimal experience” in the education field and bring little practical experience and seem not to be committed to long-term stays in Louisiana.
“At the same time, DOE is systematically eliminating classified personnel with substantially more experienced, more local knowledge, and more local commitment. This strategy costs the state significant money, as new unclassified hires have frequently been paid substantially more than classified staff that have performed largely the same work,” it said.
“The classified staff (who) have been affected are primarily Louisiana citizens who have served the people of this state competently and are actively registered voters in their respective communities.
“They are being replaced by persons, primarily from out-of-state, with lesser experience, fewer credentials, and less dedication, diligence and competence. We do not believe that this personnel strategy will serve the long-term best interests of Louisiana schools and districts and we urge the (Senate Education) Committee to seek further information on the number and responsibilities of unclassified staff before proceeding with this bill,” the letter said.
The letter also expressed “serious concerns” regarding the number of educational functions and initiatives which are being stricken from the previous legislation and not specifically enumerated in HB 650.
“These include dropout prevention, federal programs, nutritional programs, teacher certification, required subject matter content and professional development.
“The only thing being added is the Office of District Support. Yet, its responsibilities are very vaguely worded and do not seem to explicitly include the programs being removed,” it said.
Moreover, it said, the functions of the Office of District Support are defined as serving districts’ lowest-performing schools. “Is DOE saying that services will be cut to all schools that are not the lowest-performing?” the letter asks. “The responsibility for supervising the quality of all programs in every school district is a duty of the Louisiana Department of Education.
“We urge the committee to look very closely at what DOE is hoping to achieve with this reorganization and that the Legislature hold DOE to strict accountability. DOE has not always acted in good faith during reorganization,” the letter said.
House members voting for HB 650, largely regarded as a power grab attempt by White and Gov. Jindal, were:
Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles); Bryan Adams (R-Gretna); John Anders (D-Vidalia); Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans); Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia); John Berthelot (R-Gonzales); Robert Billiot (D-Westwego); Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette); Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans); Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond); Richard Burford (R-Stonewall); Henry Burns (R-Haughton); Timothy Burns (R-Mandeville); Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport); Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge); Simone Champagne (R-Erath); Charles Chaney (R-Rayville); Patrick Connick (R-Marrero); Gregory Cromer (R-Slidell); Michael Danahay (D-Sulphur); Gordon Dove (R-Houma); Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro); Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge); Raymond Garofalo Jr. (R-Chalmette); Jerry Gisclair (D-Larose); Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge); Lance Harris (R-Alexandria); Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville); Cameron Henry (R-Metairie); Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe); Paul Hollis (R-Covington); Mike Huval (R-Breaux Bridge); Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge); Patrick Jefferson (D-homer); Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette, who likes to know if teachers take annual or sick leave to come to Baton Rouge); Christopher Leonard (R-Belle Chasse); Joseph Lopinto III (R-Metairie); Nick Lorusso (R-New Orleans); Jay Morris (R-Monroe); Stephen Ortego (D-Carencro); Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell); Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge); Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula); Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro, who wants to force high school seniors to take at least one Course Choice course as a prerequisite to graduation—30,000 graduating seniors at $700 to $1200 tuition per course; do the math); Eugene Reynolds (D-Minden); Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux); Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette); Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales); John Schroder (R-Covington); Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport); Rob Shadoin (R-Ruston); Karen St. Germain (D-Plaquemine); Julie Stokes (R-Metairie); Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge); Major Thibaut (D-New Roads); Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City), and Lenar Whitney (R-Houma).