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Archive for the ‘BESE’ Category

The Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agenda, as we have shown here on numerous occasions, promotes unyielding opposition to any legislation that smacks of benefits to workers, the unemployed and the poor.

Among other things, ALEC, led by the Koch brothers, pushes legislation that:

  • Opposes an extension of unemployment benefits;
  • Undermines the rights of injured workers to hold their corporate employers accountable
  • Promotes for-profit schools at the expense of public education;
  • Opposes consumers’ right to know the origin of food we consume;
  • Opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage;
  • Limits patient rights and undermines safety net programs including, of all things a call to end licensing and certification of doctors and other medical professionals.

While the effort to end licensing and certification of medical professionals might play into the hands of State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R-D-R-Opelousas) and his affinity for witch doctors, such a move probably would not work to the benefit of the average patient.

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/12/30/louisianas-chameleon-legislator-sen-elbert-guillory-republicandemocratrepublican-is-candidate-for-lt-gov/

And while ALEC vehemently opposes any legislation that might remotely resemble benefits to the poor or which might invoke that hated word welfare, the organization’s agenda remains something of a paradox when one takes a step back and examines the spate of corporate welfare programs enacted by willing accomplices in the highest reaches of Louisiana politics.

Generous tax exemptions, credits, and incentives have proliferated to an extent not even imagined by the injured or unemployed worker trying to provide for his family—while generating few, if any, real benefits in the way of new jobs.

Probably the most glaring abuse of the incentives offered by our Office of Economic Development are the absurd tax dodges meted out to the movie industry and for what—being able to boast that we’re now recognized as Hollywood East.” That offers little encouragement to the guy trying to pay for a mortgage, a car payment, education of his kids, and health care if he’s hurt or can’t find a job.

By contrast, LouisianaVoice has found a few federal farm subsidy payments to several “persons of interest” which may come as a surprise to Louisiana’s great unwashed. Then again, maybe not.

For example, we have former legislator (he served in both the House and Senate) Noble Ellington, two years ago appointed to the $130,000 per year position of Deputy Commissioner of Insurance despite his having no experience in the field of insurance.

Ellington, a Republican from Winnsboro, also served until his retirement from the legislature as ALEC’s national president and even hosted the organization’s annual convention in New Orleans in 2011 so it stands to reason that he would, on principle alone, reject out of hand any form of welfare—even such as might be to his own financial benefit.

Not so much.

From 1995 to 2012, Ellington received $335,273 in federal farm subsidies while sons Ryan Ellington and Noble Ellington, III, received $89,000 and $25,223, respectively—nearly $450,000 for the three.

Granted, the senior Ellington made his fortune as a cotton merchant so we suppose that qualifies him to the subsidies—except for his position as National President of ALEC which is diametrically opposed to welfare. Oops, we forgot; that’s diametrically opposed to welfare for all but the corporate world. Our bad.

And then there’s Ellington’s successor to the Louisiana House, Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro), who introduced a bill during last year’s session that would have required the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to “adopt rules and regulations that require all public high school students beginning with those entering ninth grade in the fall of 2014, to successfully complete at least one course offered by a BESE-authorized online or virtual course provider as a prerequisite to graduation.”

If that’s not corporate welfare, in that it guarantees a constant revenue stream in the form of state payments to private concerns offering those Course Choice courses, we will shine your shoes free for a year.

During the same time period, 1995 to 2012, Pylant received nearly $104,400 in federal farm subsidies.

His occupation prior to his election to the Louisiana House? He was sheriff of Franklin Parish.

Another ALEC member, State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi), also received $472,952 in federal farm subsidies for the same time period as Ellington and Pylant.

Thompson holds an Ed.D. Degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University) and lists his occupation as educator and developer.

Other ALEC members, their occupations and federal farm subsidies received between 1995 and 2012:

  • Bogalusa Democratic Sen. Ben Nevers—electrical contractor, $20,000;
  • State Rep. Andy Anders (D-Vidalia)—salesman for Scott Equipment, $34,175;
  • Rep. Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro)—Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, “independent businessman” and also has a background in education, nearly $2600—a pittance by comparison but still indicative of the mindset of the ALEC membership when it comes to applying a heaping helping of double standard to the public trough.

To be completely fair, however, it should be pointed out that Nevers introduced a bill this session (SB96) that called for a constitutional amendment that would make health care available under Medicaid to all state residents at or below 138 per cent of the federal poverty level—an effort that sets him apart from those who parrot the standard ALEC position on medical care for the poor. Of course his bill failed in committee by a 6-2 vote today (April 23) after Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) moved to defer action.

Perhaps voters will remember Claitor’s compassion for those without health care in this fall’s (Nov. 4) congressional election.

Two other legislators and two political appointees of Gov. Bobby Jindal who are not members of ALEC also combined to receive nearly $561,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012, records show. They are:

  • State Rep. Richard Burford (R-Stonewall)— dairy and beef farmer, $38,000;
  • State Rep. John Morris (R-Monroe)— attorney, $11,625;
  • Robert Barham of Oak Ridge—Secretary, Department of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, $489,700;
  • Lee Mallett of Iowa, LA.—member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, $21,600.

All but Burford and Mallett reside in the 5th Congressional District formerly represented by Rodney Alexander (R-Jonesboro), who now heads the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 5th District includes the Louisiana Delta which make up one of the largest row crop farming communities of any congressional district in the nation.

Accordingly, the $289,000 paid out to recipients in 2012 was easily the highest of Louisiana’s six congressional districts, more than double the 4th District represented by John Fleming and accounting for 50.6 percent of the statewide total.

For the period of 1995-2012, the 5th District also ranked highest in federal farm subsidies with the $23.7 million paid out representing 31.2 percent of the total and ranking slightly ahead of the 3rd Congressional District of Charles Boustany, which had $21.1 million (27.8 percent).

Of the $292.5 billion paid in subsidies nationwide from 1995-2012, the top 10 percent of recipients received 75 percent of all subsidies, or an average of slightly more than $32,000 per recipient per year for the 18-year period reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA records also reveal that 62 percent of all farms in the U.S. received no subsidy payments.

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“I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months. It wasn’t an easy decision, and the unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning.”

—Iwan Streichenberger, Chief Executive Officer of inBloom, in announcing the decision to terminate efforts to gather and store confidential student information in a massive data bank controlled by Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates.

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We are back from an extended Easter break and the first thing that landed on our desk was an interesting story of national import and one in which LouisianaVoice played a small but important role more than a year ago.

It was on Feb. 20, 2013, that we broke a story which almost immediately (among bloggers, that is; the mainstream media continued to ignore the impact of our revelations for several more months) produced state repercussions against John White and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/20/doe-emails-reveal-secretive-programs-ties-to-gates-rupert-murdoch-and-fox-news-network-agency-in-general-disarray/

That story, of course, was about the agreement between LDOE and inBloom, headed by Rupert Murdoch and supported in large part by a hefty cash infusion of $100 million by Bill Gates, that called for InBloom to provide sensitive personal data on hundreds of thousands of Louisiana school children—with no guarantee from inBloom that the data would not be susceptible to intrusion or hacking.

Yesterday, April 21, 2014, just 14 months after our initial story, came the word that inBloom was shutting down. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/inbloom-student-data-repository-to-close/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

What was Murdoch’s motive for this ambitious program” Well, we’ll let him tell you in his own words: “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.” http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/blog/jeb-bushs-education-nonprofit-really-about-corporate-profits?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+itpi-blog+%28ITPI+Commentary+Feed%29

Yesterday’s news, welcome as it certainly is, is nevertheless tempered somewhat by two nagging questions:

  • What becomes of all that data inBloom has already received from state school systems across the U.S., Louisiana included?
  • Does one realistically believe that Murdoch and Gates are going to just walk away from a “$500 billion sector” in the U.S. economy?

The answers, in order, are: who knows and not likely.

Subsequent to our posting our original story, White attempted to assuage the public concern about “parking” private student data in the inBloom “garage,” announced on April 19 that he was withdrawing student information from the InBloom database. When inBloom responded by claiming Louisiana was “still part of inBloom community,” LouisianaVoice made a public records request three days later (April 22) in which we asked for “the official letter or email that you sent to inBloom to cancel the data storage agreement…”

White ignored our request and LouisianaVoice filed suit and the case was settled prior to trial with LDOE having to fork over our legal costs plus $3500 in fines. What we finally got was a statement from LDOE saying, “…the Department is not in possession of any public record(s) responsive to the above-written request.” http://louisianavoice.com/2013/05/10/holy-missing-documents-batman-doe-has-no-record-of-inbloom-agreement-cancellation-for-student-data-parking/

The information we literally stumbled upon was contained in 119 pages of emails we had requested from LDOE. (Also among those emails was that now-infamous, somewhat creepy exchange between Peter Gorman, senior vice president of Wireless Generation, the newly-formed education division of Murdoch’s News Corp., and Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White in which White confided to Gorman, “Dude—you are my recharger.”)

The story of Louisiana’s plans to take part in Murdoch’s scheme actually broke a month before our initial story, but included Louisiana only peripherally. A New York non-profit organization calling itself Class Size Matters, in January 2013 made mention of the fact that Louisiana would be participating in the data collection move a month before, but no one in Louisiana (White’s small circle of sycophants at LDOE) had any knowledge of what was taking place with this confidential student information.

When our story about Louisiana’s intentions to contribute personal student data to inBloom broke, friend and fellow blogger Jason France of The Crazy Crawfish (an announced candidate for Chas Roemer’s seat on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) immediately re-blogged our post. In quick order, others, like Diane Ravitch, formerly assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush and now an activist against many national education programs like Common Core, helped the story go viral.

As of April 2, 2014, Class Size Matters announced that each of the nine states originally listed as inBloom’s “partners,” including New York, had either pulled out completely, put data sharing plans on indefinite hold or made data-sharing voluntary on the part of individual school districts. Some local New York school superintendents even wrote letters to inBloom, demanding that their data be deleted, a request that inBloom rejected.

When it was launched, inBloom announced that the nine states were “partners” in the data-sharing plan. After protests from parents and privacy advocates, however, three states pulled out completely. The three states were identified as Colorado, North Carolina and Louisiana.

“Because of the egregious over-reaching of the Gates Foundation and inBloom,” said Class Size Matters in a prepared statement posted on its web page, “parents throughout the country have now been awakened to the myriad threats to student privacy…all in the name of ‘personalized learning.’” http://www.classsizematters.org/inbloom_student_data_privacy/

All of which clearly and unquestionably illustrates the importance of reporting the real news, the real issues, as opposed to simply printing press releases and asking questions instead of accepting elected officials’ and bureaucrats’ condescending assurances as gospel—and of the effectiveness of concerted efforts on the part of a determined citizenry to work toward a common goal.

Are we (LouisianaVoice and Crazy Crawfish) proud? Are we bragging? Are we entitled to grab a small share of the credit?

Damn right.

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On Dec. 7, 2010, Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, announced that Louisiana and Indiana had joined Oregon in adopting the Discovery Education Science Techbook as a digital core instructional resource for elementary and middle school science instruction. https://www.discoveryeducation.com/aboutus/newsArticle.cfm?news_id=663

Thanks to a sharp-eyed researcher, Sissy West, who writes a blog opposing the Common Core curriculum, we have learned that on Nov. 30, seven days before the deal between the state and Discovery Education was made public, State Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) purchased Discovery Communications stock, according to financial disclosure records filed with the State Ethics Board. http://nomorecommoncorelouisiana.blogspot.com/2014/03/crisis-of-confidence.html

Appel is a major proponent of education reform in Louisiana, including the controversial Common Core curriculum.

He also is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and was in a unique position to know not only of the pending deal between Discovery Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) as well as the company’s agreement with Indiana and Oregon, as well as Texas and Florida.

The Discovery Education Techbook is touted as a “Core Interactive Text” (CIT) that “separates static text from a fully digital resource.” http://www.discoveryeducation.com/administrators/curricular-resources/techbook/K-8-Science-digital-textbook/index.cfm

Appel’s financial disclosure form indicates his Discovery Communications stock purchase was between $5,000 and $24,999. APPEL REPORT PDF

Discovery Communications is traded on NASDAQ and on the date of Appel’s purchase, the company’s shares opened at $40.96 and closed at $40.78.

And while there was no significant movement in the stock’s prices on the date of and the days following Discovery’s announcement of the agreement with BESE, the stock hit a high of $90.21 per share on Jan. 2 of this year, meaning Appel’s profit over a little more than three years, on paper, was in excess of 100 percent. Put another way, he doubled his investment in three years. The stock closed on Thursday (March 27) at $75.72, still an overall gain of 85 percent Appel.

The most significant thing about Appel’s Nov. 30, 2010, purchase of the Discovery Communications stock is the volume of shares traded on that date. More than 7.5 million shares of Discovery Communications stock were traded that day, more than double the next highest single day volume of 3.1 million shares on Aug. 1, 2011. Daily trading volume generally ran between 1.1 million and 1.9 million shares in a monthly review from December 2010 through March of this year. http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=DISCA&a=10&b=30&c=2010&d=02&e=28&f=2014&g=m

While there is no way to know with any certainty, it is possible that the Discovery Education’s Techbook deals contributed to the surge of trading activity on Nov. 30.

Appel’s 2012 financial report reveals that he also purchased between $5,000 and $24,999 of Microsoft stock on June 4, 2012, the same date that the Louisiana Legislature adjourned its 85-day session. MICROSOFT

Ten days earlier, on May 25, the Louisiana Legislature approved the implementation of Common Core in Louisiana after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation poured more than $200 million to develop, review, evaluate, promote and implement Common Core.

www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database

And while no one is suggesting that Appel is involved in any type of illicit behavior or insider trading, the timing of his stock purchases might raise a few eyebrows. It could appear to some as more than coincidental—and ill-advised—that such transactions and official state actions would occur in so close a timeframe not once, but twice, and would involve a single individual who promoted Common Core legislation and who served as chairman of a key legislative committee that dealt with education issues.

Perception, as they say, is everything.

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The more we look at that contract between the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (DED) and LR3 Consulting, the more unanswered questions arise.

LR3, you may remember from our Feb. 5 post, is run by Lionel Rainey, III, who also happens to be the PR spokesperson retained by those who wish to form their own city of the St. George area of East Baton Rouge Parish, separate and apart from the city of Baton Rouge.

If one didn’t know better (and we truly did not initially), Rainey could easily be taken as the leader of the movement since local television news reports on the pullout efforts invariably feature him reciting the proponents’ talking points. Turns out he’s just a hired gun.

(Proponents, by the way, don’t like the term pullout because, they say, the St. George area is not within the Baton Rouge city corporate limits in the first place, so technically, it is not a pullout or secession; it’s simply a movement to incorporate the currently unincorporated area as a city of its very own.)

Before LR3, there was 3 Lions Consulting which was awarded a three-year contract (July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2015) by DED to “establish a database of potential trainees for continued pre-hire training using a customized assessment instrument to determine skills proficiencies based on individual company requirements” for DED’s Louisiana FastStart program (LFS) at a contract cost of $699,999.

In other words, Contract No. 713974 called for 3 Lions to compile a data base of potential employees for Louisiana plants and businesses—the same thing that the Louisiana Workforce Commission had been doing and which it still does.

But barely three months into the contract and after being paid just under $31,000, Jeff Lynn, LFS executive director, sent a one-paragraph letter of termination to 3 Lions partner Stanley Levy, III. “In accordance with the terms of our contract…Louisiana FastStart hereby provides you with the required five (5) day written notice to terminate our agreement, effective Oct. 19, 2012…”

The reason given for the termination was a two-word message scribbled on DED’s performance evaluation: “Ownership change.”

Levy apparently had parted company with his partner, precipitating the contract cancellation. His 3 Lions partner? Lionel Rainey, III, who had incorporated his new business, LR3, only a month before. LR3 was subsequently awarded an even bigger three-year contract ($717,204) on Oct. 20, 2012, just one day following the termination date of the 3 Lions contract.

The LR3 contract, to run from Oct. 20, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2015, again calls for the “development, establishment and/or delivery of a database of potential trainees for continued pre-hire training using a customized assessment instrument to determine skills proficiencies based on individual company requirements.”

Through January 13 of this year, DED had paid LR3 $186,880.

But the LR3 contract, like that of 3 Lions before it, is broken into three yearly maximums of $217,204 the first year and $249,999 in each of the second and third years.

For 3 Lions, the payment maximums were $169,999 the first year and $249,999 in each of the second and third years.

This was done, according to DED Communications Director Gary Perilloux, so as to avoid the necessity of issuing a request for proposals (RFP) and thus avoid “competitive bidding or competitive negotiation.”

The issuing of service contracts is permissible so long as the “total contract amount is less than $250,000 per twelve-month period,” according to Title 39, Section 1494.1 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes which then goes on to say, “Service requirements shall not be artificially divided so as to exempt contracts from the request for proposal process.”

Section 1499 of the same title says, “The head of the using agency or the agency procurement officer shall negotiate with the highest qualified persons for all contracts for professional, personal, or those consulting services for less than fifty thousand dollars, or those social services qualifying under R.S. 39:1494.1(A) at compensation which the head of the using agency determines in writing to be fair and reasonable to the state (emphasis DED’s). In making this determination, the head of the using agency shall take into account, in the following order of importance, the professional or technical competence of offerers, the technical merits of offers, and the compensation for which the services are to be rendered, including fee. Negotiation of consulting services for $50,000 or more or social services not qualifying under R.S. 39:1494.1(A) shall be conducted in accordance with Part II, Subpart B hereof. [RFP]

To justify the contract, an undated letter was sent to Sandra Gillen, since retired as the Director of the Office of Contractual Review, by DED contracts reviewer Chris Stewart which certified that “The services (being contracted for) are not available as a product or a prior or existing professional, personal, consulting, or social services contract.”

But wait. Not so fast.

LouisianaVoice has found yet a third contract with Covalent, LLC, for an even larger amount–$749,997—awarded more than a month after the LR3 contract.

That contract, divided into three equal maximum payments of, wait for it… $249,999, calls for the “development, establishment, and/or delivery of a database of potential trainees for continued pre-hire training using a customized assessment instrument to determine skills proficiencies based on individual company requirements.”

In other words, Covalent’s contract calls for it to perform services which are identical to those of first 3 Lions and then of LR3.

And yes, there is that same letter from Chris Steward to Gillen’s successor, Pamela Rice which certifies that “The services (being contracted for) are not available as a product or a prior or existing professional, personal, consulting, or social services contract.”

But…but…what about the LR3 contract?

Good question. It looks as though someone misrepresented the facts with that certification. DED now has two firms performing services that appear to be duplications of work being done by LWC—and neither of the contracts which combine for almost $1.5 million, was awarded on a competitive bid basis.

Apparently, Covalent is performing some work, though not nearly as much as LR3. From Jan. 3, 2013 through May 30, 2013, Covalent has been paid a grand sum of $35,465—and nothing since May 30. That’s a far cry from the $249,999 allowed under its contract.

All of which raises the obvious question: Why do these firms require such massive contracts and why did DED find it necessary to break them up in apparent violation of state statutes just so it could make the contract awards to whom it wanted?

And why did DED desire the services of Rainey over Levy to the point of cancelling the 3 Lions contract so it could award a second no-bid contract to Rainey’s new company? And why, only six weeks after awarding Rainey a $717,000 contract did DED contract with Covalent for $749,997 to perform the same services as Rainey?

What were the backgrounds of Levy and Rainey? And why did they terminate their partnership, especially when it cost Levy a nice, fat state contract?

For openers, LouisianaVoice found records that show LR3 was on the payroll of State Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington) since November of 2012 and has received $16,250 in 11 monthly payments of $1,250, one payment of $1,875 and another of $625. All payments were made at least a year after the 2011 elections.

3 Lions, before the dissolution, also appears have spread its services around. The firm received $5,600 from John Conroy in 2012 before Conroy dropped out of the Baton Rouge mayor’s race; $8,000 from State Treasurer John Kennedy, $34,000 from Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer during Roemer’s campaign for re-election in 2011, and $52,600 from Secretary of State Tom Schedler during his 2011 campaign for re-election.

While Rainey and LR3 got the $717,000 contract with DED and a $20,000 contract with the Secretary of State’s office, Levy, with his new company, Fuse Media, has only managed a modest $49,825 post-LR3 contract to “develop a strategic communications plan, video series and animated PowerPoint slides for the Governor’s Office of Coastal Restoration.”

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In the relative short existence of LouisianaVoice, we have deliberately avoided antagonizing the so-called mainstream media. First of all, we really don’t even like that term and second, we saw no reason to go out of our way to make additional enemies now that we have been removed from Gov. Jindal and John White’s Christmas card lists.

But today’s (Jan. 15) shameless publication—without proper vetting—of what obviously was a verbatim press release either from Jindal or White’s offices, perhaps both, does a serious disservice to The Advocate’s credibility and is nothing less than an insult to its readers’ intelligence.

The nine-paragraph story, credited to the Capitol News Bureau, is nothing more than a puff piece extolling Louisiana for having the best “policy environments” (whatever that may be) for improving public schools. http://theadvocate.com/home/4857391-125/studentsfirst-group-rates-louisiana-education

While the story does attribute the report to an outfit calling itself StudentsFirst and while it did mention in passing that StudentsFirst is headed by Michelle Rhee, it was woefully inadequate in explaining what—and who—StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee are.

A maximum of five to 10 minutes of research would have shone a glaring light on both that would have gone far in putting this hoax of a story into its proper perspective.

We feel The Advocate owed that much to its readers.

And it failed. Miserably.

If you think we are feeling smug about this, think again. Investigative reporting, in our simplistic definition, simply means telling the full story. We are truly saddened to see a publication fail so glaringly in its duty to inform fully.

StudentsFirst has poured funds into the campaigns of Board of Elementary and Secondary Education candidates but more important, Rhee was forced out as head of the Washington, D.C. school system in 2010 after reports of widespread cheating on standardized testing surfaced. The episode turned into one of the biggest student test score cheating scandals in the nation and was the subject of a Frontline story on LPB on Jan 8, 2013.

We first reported on this organization and its leader on that date almost exactly a year ago at http://louisianavoice.com/2013/01/08/1st-in-education-reform-%CF%80-yush-john-white-release-glowing-report-from-michelle-rhees-less-than-credible-studentsfirst/ and at http://louisianavoice.com/2013/01/13/%CF%80-yush-white-hawk-yet-another-national-study-lauding-la-education-reform-oops-part-of-study-gives-state-an-f-grade/

Our friend Jason France over at the Crazy Crawfish blog also called out Jindal and White on the (forgive the bad pun) whitewash. http://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/1013/

At the time, we commented that we were “being asked to believe Jindal and White when they regurgitate a highly suspect report churned out by Michelle Rhee.”

Some things, apparently never change and now the State Capital’s daily newspaper is allowing itself to be used in such a sordid, unabashed manner.

Shameless. Shameless and sad.

And now, a few hours after first writing this post, we learn that the Lafayette Advertiser ran essentially the same self-serving press release—with no questions asked. The Advertiser even included quotes from Jindal meant to give us all that warm fuzzy feeling. http://www.theadvertiser.com/article/20140114/NEWS01/301140013/Louisiana-ranks-first-nation-education-reforms

At least Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss did a little digging and debunked Rhee and her report, saying that the report “has no solid evidence to back it up” and that The report card “wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that she (Rhee) remains a force in the public education debate and is able to attract major money from private donors.” Strauss also noted that the fact that criteria used in arriving at the grades are not a factor in improving student achievement “doesn’t seem to matter.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/14/michelle-rhee-gives-the-nation-a-d-in-school-reform/

Good to know there are still a few real reporters out there.

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Give Gov. Bobby Jindal credit: He, along with a gaggle of Louisiana politicians, is all over A&E Network like…well, like a duck on a June bug over the Phil Robertson flak stemming from his comments about gays and blacks in that GQ interview. http://theadvocate.com/home/7889023-125/gov-jindal-responds-to-ae

Without going into the full story (you can get that from virtually any news source, from ABC-TV to local newspapers), suffice it to say Jindal has already spent almost as much time on this issue as on that sinkhole in Assumption Parish—or even staying at home to address other Louisiana problems, for that matter.

And while offering moral support for Robertson, Jindal has had little to say in defense of his boy-child State Superintendent of Education John White in the wake of a devastating state audit of the Jindal administration’s showcase school voucher program or of a controversial employment questionnaire required of applicants by a Baton Rouge private academy that has received more than $1.4 million in state funds.

Bernard Taylor, on the other hand, acted promptly and decisively to head off attempts by a local organization claiming connections to Jindal and White and headed by a man recently arrested for misuse of Baton Rouge city transit system funds to gain access to the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Okay, that’s a lot to digest in one gulp so let’s take ‘em one at a time, beginning with Taylor and an outfit called Empowering Students for Success.

Empowering Students for Success http://www.educatingourfuture.org/, founded earlier this year to help prepare students for new Common Core standards, is headed up by one Montrell “MJ” McCaleb.

The organization’s web page features separate photos of McCaleb with Jindal and White and also contains an impressive list of corporate sponsors that includes Cane’s Chicken, Infiniti of Baton Rouge, Subaru of Baton Rouge, IBM, the Baton Rouge Advocate, Acura of Baton Rouge, Piccadilly Restaurants, Sprint, Coca-Cola, Kleinpeter Dairy, and the National Urban League.

The problem is McCaleb’s most recent gig was as a member of the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) board of directors until his resignation for health reasons and later arrested after being accused of using nearly $1,500 in bus system funds to pay his private satellite TV and cellphone bills over a three-month period earlier this year. http://theadvocate.com/home/7057877-125/former-cats-board-member-booked

An email sent to EBR school principals by Taylor assistant Jamie Manda, said, “It is our understanding that Montrell McCaleb may contact you or email you to request an appointment to discuss services he provides through his organization, Empowering Students.

“Dr. Taylor asked me to let all principals know that under no circumstances has he given permission for Mr. McCaleb to contact you on his behalf about his program.”

But…but…but he’s got photos of him and Jindal and him and White on his web site.

What more does a guy need to get a foot in the door?

Well, if you want to teach for Hosanna Christian Academy, you’ll need to provide quite a lot of potentially embarrassing personal information.

Besides the customary name, address, phone number, date of birth, and professional qualifications, the questionnaire also asks for the applicant’s marital status, general state of health, religious beliefs, if the applicant smokes or drinks alcohol, is sexually active, lives with a non-relative of the opposite six, and whether or not he or she engages in homosexual activity.

The application form then requires the applicant’s signature on a statement of faith based on Bible scripture. Here is the link to that questionnaire:HOSANNA EMPLOYMENT QUESTIONAIRE (Yes, we know questionnaire was misspelled, but it’s a pdf file and we couldn’t change it.)

Before we get too far into this thorny issue, let’s understand we have no objection to a church-affiliated school setting rigid standards for hiring personnel—so long as the school is completely self-sustaining and not reliant in part or in whole on public funding.

But Hosanna received more than $1.4 million in state funding in the 2012-2013 school year from the state’s scholarship (voucher) program for 284 voucher students, according to an audit of the voucher program released last week by the Legislative Auditor’s office.

That has prompted protests from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT).

LFT President Steve Monaghan said no public funding should be sent to schools “that pry into a person’s life.”

State regulations governing hiring practices of schools receiving voucher dollars are vague, perhaps deliberately so as to allow greater leeway for church affiliated schools to receive public funds but to still act like private schools.

Monaghan said he will ask the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to look into Hosanna’s hiring practices as well as those of other private schools with voucher students.

Josh LeSage, headmaster of Hosanna, said the school is within its legal rights in asking the questions of job applicants. “We are not breaking any laws,” he told the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Vouchers are offered as state aid to students attending C, D and F public school so that they may attend the private schools.

The problem with that theory is that 45 percent of Louisiana’s voucher students still attended D and F rated schools last year, according to data released last month by the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE).

The figures are incomplete because the department only released data on 20 percent of the 118 schools in the program, raising concerns about the lack of accountability in voucher schools.

Those concerns were echoed in a 27-page report by the Legislative Auditor’s office that said, among other things, “…there are no legal requirements in place to ensure nonpublic schools that participate in the (voucher) program are academically acceptable.”

The report further said the DOE review process “lacks formal criteria to ensure that schools have both the academic and physical capacity to serve the number of scholarship students they requested.”

That would reinforce reports last year by LouisianaVoice that New Living Word School in Ruston had been approved for far more vouchers than the school could accommodate. Even after the initial approval of 315 vouchers was reduced because the school had no computers are desks, it still was approved for 58 vouchers for which it was paid a whopping $447,300 by the state.

The audit report indicates that New Living Word overcharged the state by $395,520 and was subsequently removed from the scholarship program.

New Living Word was not the only one. The report says that auditors found that DOE overpaid or underpaid 48 of the 118 participating schools (41 percent) in the 2012-2013 academic year, leaving us to wonder just who is running DOE.

But rather than belabor the details of the audit, here is the link to the report so that you may read it for yourself:00036AA0

The rank and file employees of DOE are doing their best under extremely trying circumstances. Many classified employees were laid off and replaced by highly paid unclassified (non-civil service) employees brought in from out of state and who knew little to nothing about running the state’s largest agency. As a result, programs have been started, halted, re-started, changed, amended and scrapped as the young, inexperienced administrative personnel flail about in an effort to cobble together a policy for the department.

Were their efforts not so pathetic and wasteful, it would be light comedy to watch. Instead, John White and his minions are nothing short of tragic, pitiful excuses of pseudo educators who know only how to drive Enterprise rental Escalades and Jeep Cherokees on the state dime 24/7.

And while White himself must ultimately shoulder the blame for the procedural morass the department has become under his watch, it is David “Lefty” Lefkowith who is the poster child for all that is wrong with the voucher system. That is, after all, his job at DOE: he is in charge of the program—when he’s not jetting back and forth between Baton Rouge and his home in Los Angeles.

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© 2013

You’d think that John White would’ve learned from others’ mistakes.

He is, after all, the Louisiana Superintendent of Education and one of the definitions of education is the act or process of educating or being educated, according to our handy dandy Free Online Dictionary which also defines education as the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process.

Education.com further defines education as “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

It was only four years ago that the news broke that Paul Vallas, White’s predecessor at the Recovery School District had taken 30 personal trips to his hometown of Chicago between 2007 and 2009 in a state-owned Dodge Durango in violation of state regulations governing use of state-owned vehicles.

He even took one of those trips to appear on a Chicago TV station to announce his intent to run for governor and while he did make the announcement, he never ran for that office. He currently is a candidate for lieutenant governor in next year’s election.

The use of the Durango for personal trips did not become public knowledge until the vehicle was involved in an accident in Chicago and the Louisiana Office of Risk Management received a claim for damages from the Department of Education (DOE). Vallas was en route to a press conference to discuss a constitutional convention for Illinois at the time of that accident.

Then-State Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Vallas’s superior, said he was unaware that it was against regulations for Vallas to use the state vehicle for such trips, an incredulous claim at best.

Vallas subsequently moved on to Hartford, Conn., (where he would ultimately be deemed by a state judge to be unqualified and directed out of office) and was replaced by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s choice, John White. When Pastorek was booted, White was then promoted to State Superintendent.

So, the precedent was clearly there for White to see and to learn from. Certainly he was perceptive enough to avoid that particular pitfall. Pastorek, after all, had to pony up about $4,000 (an amount that also covered $946 in fuel costs) in reimbursement to the state on Vallas’s behalf though it was never made clear why Vallas himself was not held accountable for the costs.

So White would never repeat that mistake, would he? Of course not. We’re not going to catch DOE employees running all over creation in state-owned vehicles, no siree.

That’s what Enterprise Car Rental is for.

John White’s expenditures on Enterprise rental cars make Vallas look like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Remember that Vallas accounted for an estimated $4,000 in documented personal travel in a state vehicle over a period covering nearly three years, including fuel costs.

Seven current DOE unclassified employees with combined annual salaries totaling north of $1 million have tallied more than $63,700 in car rental fees in just over a year—and that does not even include fuel.

And while state regulations stipulate that only compact or intermediate vehicles may be rented by state employees at monthly fees not to exceed $680, some employees have been cruising around town in vehicles like Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Jeep Compass, GMC Terrain, Nissan Murano, Chevrolet Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade at monthly rentals as high as $1,450.

And with the exception of a couple of skipped months, the vehicle rentals, while charged on a monthly basis, would appear to be on a permanent basis for the employees, each of whom has been on the job for less than two years.

The records could be incomplete because LouisianaVoice initially requested the records on Oct. 18 only for the months of July 1, 2012 through Oct. 18, 2013. The records were only made available on Wednesday, Dec. 11, nearly two months after they were first requested.

State law requires that public records be produced on demand unless they are unavailable. In such case, the state must respond immediately as to when the records will be available within three working days of the request.

LouisianaVoice has made a supplemental request for Enterprise car rental records for each of the seven employees for their entire tenure at DOE as well as a complete record of fuel costs for the rental vehicles.

Neither White nor his Chief of Staff Kunjan Narechania responded to an email request from LouisianaVoice asking them to justify the issuance of permanent rental cars to state employees in light of the state’s ongoing budgetary problems.

Of course no story of DOE chicanery would be complete without the participation of our old friend David “Lefty” Lefkowith.

He is, as might be expected, one of the Enterprise Seven.

You will remember the ubiquitous Lefty as the motivational speaker who worked with pre-collapse Enron and Jeb Bush’s administration in an ambitious but unsuccessful effort to corner the market on drinking water in the state of Florida.

He next showed up first as a contract worker for DOE and then as the head of the Office of Portfolio for the department at $146,000 per year. He currently works with the department’s course choice program which has had its own image problems.

Despite Jindal’s oft-proclaimed goal of keeping the best and brightest Louisiana citizens in Louisiana, the administration seems hell bent on going outside the state for its talent and Lefty is no exception. He has maintained his residence in Los Angeles and actually commutes from that city to his day job at DOE. He apparently works only four days a week and heads west on Fridays and returns Sunday night or Monday morning.

Of course when he is in town he needs a vehicle to get around Baton Rouge and to take him to and from New Orleans International Airport each weekend. Records show he rents his Enterprise vehicles on a weekly basis, usually for four days at a pop (Monday through Friday) with sometimes a couple of hours extra thrown in.

Incomplete records show that he has spent about $6,000 on car rental fees (not counting fuel, of course) since Oct. 14, 2012. LouisianaVoice has requested complete records dating back to his date of employment with the department and including the cost of fuel for his vehicles.

To his credit, it should be pointed out that Lefkowith generally stuck to the compact car requisite rate of $32 per day for his rentals. On those occasions when he did upgrade, it was only to $36 per day—unlike some of his co-workers who did not appear to even attempt to stay within the state-approved rate mandates.

Following is an itemized list of the remaining six employees, number of months they have driven an Enterprise rental car, the type cars and the total cost (In some cases, the make of vehicle was not provided):

  • Kerry Laster, Executive Officer ($135,000)—nine months, from Nov. 2, 2012 through Aug. 20, 2013 (no record for Feb. 9 to Mar. 4, 2013): GMC Terrain, Hyundai Tucson, Cadillac Escalade (four months), Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer (two months)—$11,205;
  • Melissa Stilley, Liaison Officer ($135,000)—12 months, from Aug. 13, 2012 to Sept. 5, 2013: Malibu, Jeep Liberty, Jeep Compass, Dodge Journey (three months), Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Edge (four months)—$13,550;
  • Warren Drake, Liaison Officer ($160,000)—12 months, from Sept. 10, 2012 to Sept. 5, 2013: Honda Accord, Kia Sorento, Ford Flex, Grand Cherokee (nine months)—$8,160;
  • Gayle Sloan, Liaison Officer ($160,000)—12 months, from Sept. 4, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2013 (no record for December of 2012); Chevrolet Impala (three months), Toyota Camry, Jeep Liberty (seven months), Jeep Patriot—$9,060;
  • Francis Touchet, Liaison Officer ($130,000)—15 months, from July 11, 2012, to Sept. 16, 2013; Nissan Altima (two months), Nissan Murano (seven months)—$11,800;
  • Gary Jones, Executive Officer ($145,000)—12 months, from Sept. 17, 2012 to Sept. 13, 2013; Nissan Sentra (nine months), Ford Fusion (three months)—$7,980.

The free use of a rental car on a year-round basis could pose another problem besides the obvious criticism that might come from the Legislative Auditor.

These Enterprise rentals are not the occasional rentals for quick one- or two-day trips on departmental business; they are perks by every definition of the word—used year-round, nights and weekends, for personal use as well as the occasional business-related trip.

And perks are taxable in-kind income.

Or at least they should be…unless DOE neglected to report the in-kind payments and the employees neglected to report them on their tax returns.

If that is the case, then DOE and the seven employees could have some explaining to do to the IRS and the Louisiana Department of Revenue, that is if Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield should be inclined to pursue the matter.

But don’t count on that.

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If public humility is your thing, all you have to do is appear before a state legislative committee or state commission unprepared to provide answers to even the most basic of questions.

That’s what happened last Friday in two separate legislative committee rooms during meetings of the State Bond Commission and the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) during discussions of capital outlay projects and BA-7 requests, respectively.

BA-7s are budget request forms used to make changes in revenues and/or expenditure line items during the year. Agencies submit them to the Division of Administration (DOA) Budget Office and if approved there, they are placed on the monthly agenda of the JLCB for consideration.

Bond Commission Chairman State Treasurer John Kennedy was particularly rankled over the shifting of construction projects to be replaced by $5 million in capital improvements to the LSU Health Sciences Building in Shreveport which is being taken over by Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF).

After Mark Moses of State Facility Planning and Control submitted changes to the commission, Kennedy said, “In July, you said the list was top priority and shovel ready. Now you’re saying they are not. What changed?”

“Cash flow needs have changed,” Moses said. “We’re shifting money. Eighteen projects are complete and on 76 others, there has been no activity and if the need is not there, we shift the dollars.”

“Why did you say in July that they were top priority?” Kennedy asked again. “The problem is if we replace them with something else, the original projects go to the back of the line. We’re shutting 90 projects down even though we have already spent money on some of them and now we’re sending those projects to the back of the line.”

Kennedy then launched into his ongoing criticism of the privatization of the Louisiana Medical Center at Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. “We’re making $5 million in capital improvements to the Health Science Center. Who’s going to own that?”

Liz Murrill, DOA chief legal counsel, said, “We own the building. They (BRF) are leasing it.”

“We’re spending $4.8 million on scanner clinical and research imaging equipment for Biomedical Research Foundation…”

“This is a non-state entity. The dollars are being used for a public purpose,” Murrill said.

“Like an NGO (non-government organization)? We’re just giving it to them?”

“We’re providing money for this piece of equipment,” she said.

“Do we require them to file quarterly reports?”

“It’s contemplated it will be used for a public purpose,” she said, failing to answer his question.

Kennedy then asked if the legislative auditor would be able to audit the expenditure of the funds to which Murrill said, “I assume so, just as with any capital outlay projects.”

“One of the conditions of the agreement is there would be no public record,” Kennedy said, referring to a clause in the certificate of agreement between the LSU Board of Stuporvisors and BRF which says, “Financial and other records created by, for or otherwise belonging to BRF or BRFHH (BRF Hospital Holdings) shall remain in the possession, custody and control of BRF and BRFHH, respectively,” and that “such records shall be clearly marked as confidential and/or proprietary,” and thus protected from Louisiana public records laws.

“A public record is a public record,” Murrill said somewhat tentatively. “We have procedures to decide what is public record.”

“Who decides what’s public?” Kennedy asked.

“It depends on who gets the request.”

“Do you have a problem adding a condition to these purchases on the legislative auditor’s being able to audit the purchases?”

“I think that’s the case now,” Murrill said.

“Why are we buying this for the Biomedical Center instead of LSU?” Kennedy asked.

Mimi Hedgecock of the LSU School of Medicine—and formerly Jindal’s policy advisor—said the purchase was part of the partnership with BRF prior to the certificate of agreement between LSU and BRF.

“Is it accurate to say we have not picked an operator of the hospital yet?” Kennedy asked. “The testimony before the Louisiana Joint Budget Committee was they (BRF) were going to pick an operator. We’re entering a 99-year lease and don’t know who is even going to run the facility. The legislature has no say. How can we audit if we don’t know who’s running it? We can’t audit HCA (Hospital Corp. of America).

“This makes a mockery of the capital outlay procedure,” Kennedy said. “You’re supposed to be building a priority of projects. In July, you cam to us and said these projects were absolutely top priority and (were) shovel ready. Now they’re not shovel ready or top priority. Now we have new projects and these projects are going to the back of the line. I don’t think this is a good way to do business.”

Joint Budget Committee

Things got even testier at the Joint Budget Committee, thanks to the amateurish performance of witnesses appearing on behalf of the Recovery School District (RSD), just another ongoing embarrassment for the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE).

The fun began when committee member Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro), who also serves as House Appropriations Committee chairman, questioned RSD’s claim to having $34 million in self-generated funds for the projects it was submitting.

“Explain how you self-generated $34 million,” he said. “It’s unusual for RSD to self-generate that many dollars.

The breakdown given was $27.13 million in new market tax credits, $3.37 million from insurance proceeds and $4.05 million from Harris Capital funding for construction of Wheatly and McDonough 42 schools.

Fannin responded that the way the budget was presented was “confusing.” He said he was seeing too many “other” expenditures on the BA-7 submitted by RSD. “You have legal expenses of $800,000,” he said. “I never saw legal expenses of $800,000 to rebuild two schools.”

“Those legal fees pay for 82 schools—the entire master plan,” said RSD spokesperson Annie Cambre.

But it was Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans) who peppered the RSD types with a barrage of withering questions—withering because the RSD representatives were woefully ill-prepared with answers much as State Superintendent John White has been since his appointment in January of 2012.

Murray asked about the expenditure of $375,000 in funds for engineering and architectural costs before RSD had authority to spend the money. “Are we using any of this $375,000 to pay them already?” he asked.

“Most were paid from multiple fund sources,” responded a young, unidentified red-headed RSD representative who more resembled a high school FBLA member than a public education professional.

“Let me ask my question again,” Murray said. “Are we using any of this $375,000 to pay them already?”

“For some of them, yes. Some are eligible from FEMA, some not,” said Red.

“Then why are we just now getting this request if we’re already using the money?”

“We already had some authority but we just realized we need additional authority.”

Murray, beginning to show his exasperation, then asked, “How much of the $375,000 have we spent so far?”

“I don’t know,” said Red. “I can get that for you.”

“It disturbs me that we’re spending money without authority to do so,” Murray said. “Let’s go to the legal expense of $800,000. How much of that have we spent?”

“Again, I don’t have that exact number,” said Red. “I can get that for you.”

“Mr. Chairman,” Murray said to committee Chairman Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville), “can we get them to come back next month when they have answers?”

“That would seem appropriate,” said Donahue. “There’re a lot more questions than answers.”

Bordelon, in a last-ditch effort to salvage the request said, “It’s important that everyone understand the timing of the Wheatly-McDonough projects. There will be several thousand students affected by any delay. The New Market tax programs and closing times are specific. Timing is of the essence.”

“We’d like to help you guys,” Donahue said, “but when you come here you don’t have sufficient information to answer questions. I don’t know how you think we can approve something when you can’t answer questions about the money you’re asking for that you’ve already spent and how many dollars are involved.”

“We were utilizing previously granted authority,” Bordelon said.

“I appreciate that,” Bordelon said, “but on the other hand, you’re already spending it and didn’t come for authority to do that until you started spending the money. And when members ask how many dollars have already been spent, and you can’t answer, that’s a problem.”

“It was my understanding we were operating under previously granted authority,” Bordelon persisted.

“That’s not what was said,” Bordelon said. “That was not the testimony. The testimony was you were already spending that money but you don’t know how many dollars were spent.”

Murray’s motion to defer action until next month passed unanimously and Murray then had one last word of advice to Bordelon.

“You say this is going to affect ‘several thousand students.’ I’m pretty familiar with Wheatly and McDonough 42. You don’t have several thousand students in those two schools. We want you, when you come before this committee, to tell us accurate information.”

Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) added, “When you come back, be prepared to discuss the oddly round legal expenses and issues related to that.”

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Another day, another embarrassing SNAFU on the part of John White and his dysfunctional Louisiana Department of Education.

For that matter, you may have to include our favorite Department of Education (DOE) administrator, Lefty Lefkowith, when handing out the stink weed bouquets for the department’s infamous course choice program.

That’s the program Lefkowith was being paid $146,000 a year to set up and run between his weekly commute to and from Los Angeles.

Now, thanks to the superb digging of the Monroe News Star’s Barbara Leader, we learn that athletic scholarship for Louisiana university students may be in jeopardy because the NCAA has not approved 17 of the 19 course choice providers for Louisiana college athletes.

Uh-oh. Just another day of putting out brush fires at DOE. Remember New Living Word School in Ruston? That was the school initially approved by DOE for 315 vouchers last year despite the fact it had no classrooms, no desks and insufficient staff.

Of course, if you read the department’s Course Choice Overview and Fact Sheet, you read on the very first page that “Course providers had to pass an intensive four-step selection process.”

House Concurrent Resolution 153 by Rep. Patrick Jefferson (D-Homer) and Sens. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) and Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) during the 2013 legislative session urged the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) “to study issues relative to the enrollment of students by course providers and the approval of course providers…”

That resolution noted that the DOE website “states that course providers must ‘pass an intensive four-step selection process’…”

Despite that four-step process and DOE’s “rigorous review” which began in August of 2012, Leader said an email last month from DOE Director Ken Bradford to White indicated that 17 of the 19 listed providers were not NCAA-approved. http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20131018/NEWS01/310180037

Course Choice, overseen at one time by Lefkowith, who works only four days a week at a salary of $146,000, allows high school students who attend a C, D or F-ranked school to enroll in online courses from state-approved private providers if their schools do not offer courses needed for them to graduate.

White told Leader on Friday that virtual classes offered by providers are often used by athletes to complete high school academic requirements. Eligibility problems have never arisen in the past, he said.

That was then. This is now.

Bradford, in his email, said, “Just wanted to put this on your radar. The Choice Academic team is working with our providers to ensure they get approval/authorized with the NCAA for their core offerings. Doomsday scenario for us is that a kid takes a course, gets a scholarship and then walks on to (sic) campus and NCAA will not clear him and the scholarship is in jeopardy.”

Somehow, John White, BESE and doomsday scenario just seem to go together.

Not to diminish the damage this would inflict on affected players, but if this little crisis du jour ends up costing the eligibility of key LSU players or worse yet (in the hearts and minds of Tiger football fans, anyway), causes LSU to forfeit any or all of its wins, the fecal matter will surely hit the oscillating air redistribution device. And the collateral damage might even be felt up on the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

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