Archive for the ‘Charters’ Category

If you like the way Mack Ford treated and taught the children at New Bethany Home for Boys and Girls in Arcadia, you’ll love the education reforms being put in place for Louisiana by Gov. Bobby Jindal, Superintendent of Education John White and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer.

Though many of the students at New Bethany never received their high school diplomas as promised, Ford employed the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum for whatever teaching that occurred at the facility.

And though the home closed more than a decade ago, students’ claims of beatings and rapes at New Bethany recently resurfaced when it was learned that two former board members—Ford’s son-in-law and grandson, Timothy Johnson and Jonathan Johnson, respectively— were working in the campaign of 5th District congressional candidate State Sen. Neil Riser, the candidate who is Jindal’s personal choice.

On Tuesday, Jonathan Johnson, Ford’s grandson who has worked for retiring 5th District Congressman Rodney Alexander since 2003 and who now works for Riser as an unpaid volunteer, was asked about the propriety of Riser’s allowing two men tainted by the reports of beatings and rapes at New Bethany. “This doesn’t involve him (Riser),” he said.

Jonathan Johnson never denied the beatings and rapes occurred. Instead, he said, “I was twelve when that happened.” He also denied that he ever served on the New Bethany board. But minutes of a board meeting on June 30, 2001, obtained by LouisianaVoice indicate otherwise.

Called for the purpose of “disposing of properties owned and operated by New Bethany Home for Girls, Inc.,” the minutes identify board members “acting on behalf of New Bethany Home for Girls, Inc.” They include Timothy Johnson (Jonathan Johnson’s father and Mack Ford’s son-in-law), Jonathan Johnson, Maxine Ford, Douglas Gilmore and Thelma Ford (Mack Ford’s wife and the board’s vice president and secretary).

As for the manner in which the property of New Bethany Home for Girls, Inc., was disposed of, records on file in the Bienville Parish Courthouse indicate little, if anything was actually liquidated. Instead, records show the home’s property was simply transferred to New Bethany Baptist Church—a paper transaction that kept control of the property in Ford’s name.

New Bethany Baptist Church is in the New Bethany Home for Girls compound, situated inside a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. Former residents of New Bethany said only residents and staff members—no outsiders—ever attended New Bethany Baptist Church.

And while the home officially closed its doors in 1998 (though some claim that a few girls remained there until 2004), LouisianaVoice found several Independent Fundamental Baptist churches across the country (including at least one in Louisiana) that continued providing financial support for Ford’s “ministries” long after the home closed and services at New Bethany Baptist Church were no more.

Among those churches which continued sending financial assistance to Ford:

  • Calvary Baptist Church, Sulphur, Louisiana, W.T. Darnell, pastor;
  • New Testament Baptist Church, Centralia, Illinois, Don Smith, pastor;
  • Faith Baptist Church, Spokane, Missouri, James Mohler, pastor;
  • Berean Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Ronnie Baity, pastor;
  • Gloryland Baptist Church, Lincolnton, North Carolina, Macon Ballard, pastor.

Baity, asked why his church continues to send money to a “mission” that no longer exists, said, “How this church spends its money is none of your business since you don’t help pay the bills.”

And though this is by no means an indictment of all church-affiliated schools, three traits prominent among many—far too many—fundamental Christian schools, including New Bethany, are child abuse, sexual abuse and fundamental Christian textbooks like the ACE curriculum, A Beka Book, and Bob Jones University (BJU) Press that teach such interesting things as:

  • Solar fusion is a myth;
  • A Japanese whaling boat found a live dinosaur;
  • Humans and dinosaurs co-existed;
  • The earth is only 10,000 years old;
  • The Ku Klux Klan tried to be a means of reform in some areas of the country;
  • God used the “Trail of Tears” as a means to bring many American Indians to Christ;
  • It cannot be shown scientifically that man-made pollutants will one day reduce the depth of the atmosphere’s ozone layer;
  • God has provided certain checks and balances in creation to prevent many of the global upsets predicted by environmentalists;
  • The Great Depression was exaggerated by propagandists, including John Steinbeck, to promote a socialist agenda;
  • Only 10 percent of Africans can read or write because Christian mission schools have been shut down by communists;
  • Unions have always been plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free-enterprise system that hardworking Americans have created.

The list of schools participating in the 2013-2014 Louisiana Scholarship Programs is peppered with church-affiliated schools, some two dozen of which employ one or more of the three curriculums cited earlier. Each was state approved by BESE, White and by virtue of his support of White and Roemer, Jindal.

  • Delhi Charter School: Until public opinion (and a threat of a lawsuit by the ACLU), Delhi Charter instituted a policy of forcing a female student to take pregnancy tests if the school suspected she might be pregnant. The policy was adopted after a 17-year-old student became pregnant by a school football player and was asked to leave the school. The boy was subjected to no disciplinary action.
  • Claiborne Christian School, West Monroe: Scientists are “sinful men” who exclude God in explaining the world. “Any stories that go against a biblical view of live in this series of books are skipped and are not read in the class.”
  • Faith Academy, Gonzales: Employs ACE textbooks. Students “defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible verses (sic) traditional scientific theory.”
  • Northeast Baptist School, West Monroe: Uses A Beka and BJU science textbooks.
  • Union Christian Academy, Farmerville: Relies “heavily” on the BJU curriculum, as well as “selected materials that have been approved by the administration.”
  • Victory Christian Academy, Metairie: Uses A Beka and BJU curricula.
  • Northlake Christian Elementary School, Covington: Teaches from A Beka materials.
  • Northlake Christian High School, Covington: Student handbook includes policy against admitting prospective students and staff who do not meet “Biblical standards.”
  • Gethsemane Christian Academy, Lafayette: Uses ACE, A Beka and BJU curriculum.
  • Jehovah-Jireh Christian Academy, Baton Rouge: Uses A Beka curriculum.
  • Greater Mt. Olive Christian Academy, Baton Rouge: Uses A Beka curriculum.
  • Faith Christian Academy, Marrero: Uses A Beka curriculum.
  • Lafayette Christian Academy, Lafayette: Uses BJU and A Beka curricula.
  • Cenla Christian Academy, Pineville: Uses BJU and A Beka curricula.
  • Family Worship Christian Academy, Opelousas: employs A Beka curriculum.
  • Trinity Christian Academy, Zachary: uses A Beka for high school science.
  • Old Bethel Christian Academy, Clark: Uses A Beka curriculum.
  • Eternity Christian Academy, Westlake: uses ACE curriculum.

So while Jindal bemoans “government control” of Louisiana’s education system, he apparently has no problem with fundamental church schools gaining control of students’ minds through curricula that conflict with scientific knowledge—and doing it with state funding.

Anyone who has the ability to see through Jindal’s “reform” package has to be asking whatever happened to the doctrine of separation of church and state.

And that doctrine appears to be the only real difference between the Mack Fords and Lester Roloffs of the world, who steadfastly refused state funding to avoid the necessity of state licensing (and state supervision) and those Christian schools who crowd their way to the public trough for a share of state funding to support their curricula that border on mind control.

Can anyone say “Stepford students?”

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—The Walton Family Foundation, already the largest single donor to Teach for America (TFA), recently committed an additional $20 million to recruit, train and place an another 4,000 unqualified teachers in America’s classrooms.

That includes $3 million to the New Orleans region, administered by one Kira Orange Jones who sits on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) which just happens to be the agency that contracts with TFA for those novice teachers.

In case you live in a cave, the Walton Family Foundation is the benevolent offshoot of Wal-Mart, one of the most successful retail businesses in American history but which is alone responsible for the demise of more neighborhood mom and pop stores than any one factor since the Great Depression—all while enjoying the benefit of almost $100 million in various tax breaks in 19 Louisiana cities, according to incomplete figures that do not include newer state stores.

More on that later.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics, apparently kept in the dark as to Jones’ title of Executive Director of the New Orleans TFA regional office, ruled that her serving on BESE was not a conflict because her salary was not affected by the contracts with the state.

The ethics board member—its vice chairman—who lulled the board into believing she was a mere rank and file employee of TFA, has since resigned after it was revealed that he had his own conflict as a legal counsel for Tulane University which also had a contract with TFA.

LouisianaVoice recently obtained through a public records request of the Department of Education (DOE) copies of three separate contracts between DOE’s Recovery School District (RSD) and TFA. Two of those contracts, dated in September of 2009 and 2011, were signed by Kira Orange Jones, complete with the notation beneath her signature identifying her as “Executive Director.”

Exercising a bit more caution in 2012, the contract was signed by Michael Tipton, Jones’ boss.

Those contracts, by the way, called for the state to pay TFA up to $5,000 per teacher provided for RSD—up to 40 teachers—and RSD would then be required to pay their salaries.

TFA alumnus Jack Carey, vice president of the greater New Orleans program said the money would fund more than 500 positions in the 2013 to 2015 school years, though with the state paying that generous “finder’s fee,” and local school boards paying the salaries, it’s rather difficult to imagine why an additional $3 million is needed other than to surmise the whole TFA thing is one gigantic scam designed to line someone’s pockets. That “someone” would be someone other than Louisiana teachers who have invested thousands of dollars on bachelor’s, master’s, and plus-30s and even Ph.Ds., but suddenly find themselves taking a back seat to those who train for five weeks over the summer to become teachers.

But it’s not only established teachers who take a dim view of TFA. Many of TFA’s own alumni are critical of the organization to which they once pledged their loyalty.


One former TFA teacher now says that the organization glosses over issues of race and inequality but “fits very nicely into an overall strategy of privatizing education and diminishing critical thinking.”

Whenever a TFA teacher begins to questions the motives and intent of the program, “The staff would get together and talk about how to handle these people,” another former TFA member says. “They’d plunk him down with groups of ‘stronger corps members’ to improve his attitude” by “trying to further indoctrinate others and myself.”

Yet another dissident said he no longer recognized TFA. “All I see is a bunch of liars who are getting themselves rich and powerful. They just can’t stop lying.” He added that TFA refuses to recognize established evidence that a child’s socioeconomic level at birth better predicts his future tax bracket and educational attainment than how well her teachers prepare him for standardized tests.

“We really get to know what schools across our community need in the way of high-quality teachers,” Carey said, “and we work with them over the course of a year to understand their needs and help make great matches.”

Wow. How noble.

But perhaps Mr. Carey has not taken a trip down to the Ninth Ward to George Washington Carver High School.

I have.

Has Kira Orange Jones toured Carver High?

I have.

Washington Carver High School is the alma mater of Marshall Faulk, Heisman Trophy runner-up at San Diego State and all-pro running back for the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams (where he won a Super Bowl).

But you’d never know it.

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the entire Ninth Ward, the school still has not been rebuilt. Today, it consists entirely of T-buildings. Superintendent of Education John White’s annual report, released last February, lists Carver as among the schools scheduled for new construction. Even though the proposed construction is to be funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), no steps have actually been taken to start construction other than the naming of two architectural firms. No contractor, though, eight years post-Katrina.

The football weight room is pathetic, consisting of three or four weight benches any other school would have thrown out years ago. There is no cover for the foam padding on the benches—padding that is crumbling. And the players’ lockers consist of plastic bins scattered across the floor—easy pickings for anyone who wanted to steal a watch or an i-Pod.

No one visiting the T-building weight room would ever believe that an NFL Super Bowl player once escaped the Desire Housing Project by playing his high school ball here.

Despite these conditions, George Washington Carver made it to the quarter-final round of the state high school football playoffs last year.

But far worse than the deplorable athletic facilities eight years post-Katrina is the fact that incredulous as it may sound, the school has no library.

Let that sink in. There is a public high school in Louisiana today that does not have a library.

Yet John White and Bobby Jindal and BESE President Chas Roemer would have us believe they’re all about education.

Gov. Jindal, Superintendent White, Chas Roemer, BESE member/TFA Director Kira Jones: what say you to the revelation that a public high school has allowed to exist under your watch that has no library? A school comprised exclusively of T-buildings? We’d love to hear your take on this. But please don’t hide behind Kyle Plotkin or your respective public relations sycophants in your response. (Surely is quiet; are those crickets we hear chirping?)

And so the Walton Family Foundation goes about with its press releases that glorify its generosity on behalf of education.

In truth, the Walton Family Foundation is all about the Waltons. TFA is simply the vehicle by which the Waltons try to put on their civic face. They are probably among the least civic minded of all.

Remember those patriotic television ads of a few years back when Wal-Mart was all about “American made” products? How long has it been since you’ve seen one of those ads? But we do hear about Bangladesh sweat shops collapsing on workers even as they turn out products for Wal-Mart.

And we hear plenty about how Wal-Mart exploits its U.S. workers with low wages and no benefits—all so it can keep corporate earnings up and competition out.

Wal-Mart is all about tax credits and making money. Here are 20 examples of economic development subsidies in 19 Louisiana cities, subsidies that total $96.5 million (the figures are probably higher because it’s virtually impossible to get updated figures from the Louisiana Department of Economic Development):

  • Abbeville: $1.665 million;
  • Alexandria: $2.5 million;
  • Bossier City: $1.7 million;
  • East Baton Rouge: $1.385 million;
  • Hammond: $1.365 million;
  • Monroe (Supercenter): $840,000;
  • Monroe (former discount store) $3.09 million;
  • Natchitoches: $1.5 million;
  • New Orleans: $7 million (estimate);
  • Opelousas (distribution center): $33 million;
  • Port Allen: $1 million;
  • Robert (distribution center): more than $21 million;
  • Ruston: more than $947,000;
  • Shreveport: $6.3 million;
  • St. Martinville: $3.725 million;
  • Sulphur: $1.8 million;
  • Vidalia: up to $1.65 million.

Wal-Mart’s expansion has been made possible to a large extent by the generous use of public money. This includes more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments, though the precise figures aren’t always available.

That’s because in Ruston, for example, the total subsidy was more than $947,000. That included a $647,000 enterprise zone tax break, plus $300,000 from the city in infrastructure improvements around the site through a state grant. But the city also made $12 million in road improvements throughout the area through a sales tax increment financing district. But since the district includes neighboring developments and because other area businesses benefitted from the road improvements, the benefits to Wal-Mart were impossible to quantify.

In addition, Louisiana Wal-Mart stores also receive about $5.4 million a year from a state policy that allows stories to keep a portion of the sales tax they collect from customers.

So, while the Walton Family Foundation gives itself a metaphoric pat on the back with its news release trumpeting its $20 million gift to TFA ($3 million allocated to Louisiana), it conveniently ignores how it has managed more than a billion dollars in tax dodges (nearly $100 million in Louisiana)—money that could have been used to support education.

Like perhaps permanent buildings, including a library, at George Washington Carver High School.

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The announcement has already gone out in the Department of Education (DOE) and on Monday, an official layoff plan will be presented to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission.

We hope the commissioners will consider the fate of affected employees who have families to support and mortgages, tuition, and car notes to pay before approving the plan in the same routine manner as with recent layoff plans.

That, after all, is the most damning aspect of this entire administration: the fact that human lives are affected adversely in the name of greed, power and ego. They are people who have names and faces. They have human emotions just like the rest of us. They go to work, come home and mow the lawn. They fish on weekends and perhaps coach their kids in softball, baseball and soccer. They sit beside us at church and in the movie theater.

They grew up believing that if they studied hard in school, made good grades, acted as responsible citizens and worked hard at their jobs, they would realize the American dream of a home, a family, and the opportunity for their children to do better than they.

That may be the way it’s turning out for some, but for the most part, state workers today are living with the same fears of insecurity as the rest of us. The administration of Bobby Jindal is doing everything in its power, through a compliant and pitifully weak legislature, to thin the herd, as it were, of the most vulnerable state employees—those with no one to speak on their behalf—by firing thousands of decent, hard-working employees and gutting the retirement of those who remain.

And what about the private citizen, those who do not work for the state? Yes, you have a dog in this hunt, too, whether you know it or not, whether or not you are willing to pull yourself away from Duck Dynasty or American Idol long enough to get involved.

It is your children whose public education is being destroyed before your very eyes. It is their tuition costs that are soaring because Gov. Bobby Jindal, perhaps the weakest—and at the same time, most power hungry and ambitious—governor this state has seen for at least 100 years insists on keeping taxes low for his constituents and corporate entities who contribute heavily to his campaigns. Altogether, tax breaks, exemptions and incentives have been handed to these supporters on a silver platter to the tune of some $5 billion a year in breaks.

It is the state that suffers at Jindal’s bumbling, self-righteous refusals to accept federal Medicaid funds, broadband internet funds, federal funds for a passenger rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and federal funds for early childhood development.

His reason? He doesn’t like to accept federal funds with the strings that are attached. Well, he certainly accepts massive federal funding to pay for hundreds of contracts awarded by DOE when it fits his agenda. He has no problem accepting billions in federal highway funding dollars. And despite his protestations to the contrary, he had no problem accepting federal stimulus money to dole out to local governments at Protestant churches during his first term of office.

By the way, does anyone happen to know the number of churches he has visited since his re-election?






Yea, not one.

He also has had no problem with accepting hurricane relief funds. Of course, he probably would have been ridden out of the state on a rail had he declined those funds at a time they were so desperately needed. But the Road Home Program, run by his appointees, has a less than stellar record in administering hundreds of millions of federal funds as evidenced by a recent audit that found that more than $100 million may have been misspent.

So now we’re looking at a significant layoff at DOE. The notice went out to DOE employees on Friday (that’s when news releases that cast the administration in a bad light are most likely to be issued).

Early word is some three dozen employees will get the axe, to become effective on May 30.

“This layoff is being proposed due to a reduction of state funds of $3.4 million in the Operating Budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.

But wait. They’re trying to save $3.4 million?

A printout of DOE employees reveals a list of fairly hefty salaries of unclassified (appointed) employees in both DOE and the Recovery School District (RSD).

There are 54 employees of DOE and RSD who earn $100,000 or more per year for a total payroll of $6.7 million.

The breakdown shows there are 32 RSD unclassified employees earning a total of $3.66 million and 22 DOE unclassified employees earning $100,000 or more with a total payroll of another $3 million.

And that is just those making more than $100,000. There are 86 who make $90,000 or more in both DOE and RSD and only six of those are classified employees—all in DOE.

Let’s take a look at some of the individuals, their job titles and salaries.

Recovery School District:

• Neeta Boddapati—Administrator, Other Pupil: $95,000;

• Clara Bradford—Clerical Other Special Programs: $95,000;

• Ronald Bordelon—Administrator, Chief Officers: $150,000;

• Edwin Compass—Director: $125,000;

• Nicole Diamantes—Administrator, Other Special Programs: $105,000;

• Patrick Dobard—RSD Superintendent: $225,000;

• Gabriela Fighetti—Administrator, Regular Programs: $117,000;

• James Ford—Administrative Superintendent: $145,000;

• Lona Hankins—Director: $131,000;

• Helen Molpus—Administrative Chief, Officers: $115,000;

• Dana Peterson—Administrative Superintendent: $125,000;

Bear in mind that even with all the high salaries and impressive sounding titles that go with them, the RSD has an abysmal record:

• All 15 direct-run RSD schools were assigned a letter grade of “D” or “F.” compared to only one of the five (20 percent) Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) direct-run schools.

• Of the 42 charter RSD schools, 33 (79 percent) received a “D” or “F” compared to none of the 11 charter schools run by the OPSB.

• Of the 5422 students attending direct-run RSD schools, 100 percent received a “D” or “F.”

• Of the RSD students attending charter schools, 15,040 (76 percent) attend schools with grades of “D” or “F.”

DOE—State Activities:

• Erin Bendily—Deputy Superintendent: $140,000;

• Nicholas Bolt—Fellow: $105,000;

• James Bowman—Director: $148,000;

• Kenneth Bradford—Director: $110,000;

• Hannah Dietsch—Assistant Superintendent: $130,000;

• Howard Drake—Liaison Officer: $160,000;

• Joan Hunt—Executive Counsel: $125,000;

• Gary Jones—Executive Officer: $145,000;

• Kerry Laster—Executive Officer: $155,000;

• David “Lefty” Lefkowith—Director: $146,000;

• Kunjan Narechania—Chief of Staff: $145,000;

• Stephen Osborn—Assistant Superintendent: $125,000;

• Elizabeth Scioneaux—Deputy Superintendent: $132,800;

• Jill Slack—Director: $124,000;

• Gayle Sloan—Liaison Officer: $160,000;

• Melissa Stilley—Liaison Officer: $135,000;

• Francis Touchet—Liaison Officer: $130,000;

• John White—Superintendent: $275,000;

• Heather Cope—Director: $125,000.

If John White sincerely wished to save $3.4 million, he could probably do with fewer liaison officers, directors and “fellows,” whatever that is.

White has deliberately brought in a bevy of highly-paid, appointees whose credentials, like those of Lefkowith, might have little to do with education and more to do with political loyalty.

But then, White was himself brought in by Jindal to do the governor’s bidding—even before his official appointment.

Jindal’s first attempt at installing White was rejected by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and he was not officially appointed superintendent until after a new board took office in January of 2012. But that did not stop White—and Jindal—from moving forward with their agenda.

In December of 2011, with Ollie Tyler ostensibly serving as acting superintendent, personnel changes were in the offing in the department when White announced to the staff members involved in the proposed changes, “Nothing gets done until I say so.”

That’s confidence.

That’s arrogance.

That’s the way things are done in this administration. Disregard of the law has become the order of the day.

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Gov. Bobby Jindal was adamant during his campaign for governor about stemming the outflow of Louisiana’s brightest college graduates from the state.

To show his commitment to keeping Louisiana talent at home, he promptly brought in several out-of-staters to fill key roles. Most prominent among those was Paul Vallas of Chicago by way of Philadelphia to head up the Recovery School District (RSD) and then as Vallas’s successor, John White of New York.

Jindal subsequently shoved Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek aside in order to promote White to head up the Department of Education (DOE).

So much for that rosy bit of political rhetoric from Jindal.

Now White himself has brought in a host of non-residents whose job it is to decide how nearly 700,000 public school students in Louisiana will be taught, what they will be taught, where they will be taught, when they will be taught and even who will teach them.

And LouisianaVoice has learned that five of those, including his Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, a Deputy Superintendent, and one who, alternately, has been called “Deputy Superintendent,” “Director,” and “Director of the Office of Portfolio,” are not even registered to vote in Louisiana.

A fifth, Hua T. Liang of New Orleans, is an administrator with the Pride College Preparatory Academy in New Orleans, a former charter taken over by RSD. His salary is $110,000 a year.

Chief of Staff Kunjan Narechania, http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/20/doe-emails-reveal-secretive-programs-ties-to-gates-rupert-murdoch-and-fox-news-network-agency-in-general-disarray/ she of the email to White informing him that Charlotte Danielson of the Danielson Group of Princeton, N.J., was “being a pain again” over DOE’s decision to use only five of 22 components of Danielson’s teacher evaluation system, came to DOE from Chicago but has neither registered to vote here nor has she registered her vehicle, which still carries Illinois plates, in Louisiana, thus depriving the state of vehicle registration fees.

Her qualifications for serving as Chief of Staff to the Louisiana Superintendent of Education at a salary of $145,000 include a stint as Vice President of Design, Teacher Support and Development for Teach for America (TFA), the billion-dollar organization bent on taking over public education nationwide and staffing the nation’s schools with teachers with only five weeks’ summer training.

But, hey! That’s a strong recommendation; John White, after all, came from TFA.

Likewise, Deputy Chief of Staff Nicholas Bolt ($104,000), http://www.educationpioneers.org/what-we-do/alumnus-bio?cid=0034000000U6gC4AAJ an alumnus of Education Pioneers, came from the New York City Department of Education and resides here now, helping to determine the fate of the state’s education system but, like Narechania, has neither registered to vote nor removed his out-of-state tags in favor of a Louisiana plate.

Then there is Michael Rounds, the Deputy Superintendent who is being paid a cool $170,000 a year. http://louisianavoice.com/2012/11/06/nothing-but-the-best-for-doe-john-white-hires-170000-deputy-central-to-kansas-city-32-million-bid-controversy/ Like his boss John White, Rounds is a 2010 alumnus of the Eli Broad Superintendents Academy which critics say turns out superintendents who use corporate-management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers’ job protections, cut parents out of the decision-making process and introduce unproven reform measures.

The academy, founded by billionaire businessman Eli Broad, offers a six-weekend (not week, weekend) course spread over 10 months. There are no qualifications that students have any experience in education—just that they have a bachelor’s degree.

Rounds resigned his Kansas City position a year ago following an investigation by a local television station into bid irregularities involving a $32 million renovation project for Kansas City schools—only to turn up as one of the top officials charged with day-to-day decisions impacting our school children. And he doesn’t even vote here.

But Rounds’ prior employment record pales in comparison to the career track our old friend David “Lefty” Lefkowith of Los Angeles. http://louisianavoice.com/2012/10/10/dave-lefty-lefkowith-more-than-a-motivational-speaker-hes-a-political-operative-looking-for-privatization-dollars/

No one knows precisely what Lefkowith’s actual title is, but he is paid well for whatever it is he does. He is listed as a Director, but also has been identified as a self-proclaimed Deputy Superintendent and Director of the Office of Portfolio. One of his primary responsibilities is to push DOE’s Course Choice program but he has cut a wide swath through the upper tier of political power in the state of Florida.

Working with the now defunct Enron Corp. several years ago, he attempted, along with an associate of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to corner the water marketing rights in the state. Following that, he became a motivational speaker through his company, The Canyon Group.

He went straight from a $35,000 contract with DOE to his new status as employee.

But Lefkowith is not only a non-voter in Louisiana; he doesn’t even choose to live here.

Unlike Deirdre Finn, http://louisianavoice.com/2012/09/25/education-loading-up-with-badly-needed-pr-types-at-six-figures-meanwhile-charter-school-vultures-are-circling/ a former deputy chief of staff for Jeb Bush, who works as public relations hack for the department—but from her home in Tallahassee, Florida—at $12,000 per month, Lefkowith does work in Baton Rouge but resides in Los Angeles and commutes back and forth, making some wonder how he affords to do that because, even at his $146,000 salary, commuting each weekend to and from Los Angeles by air is a far cry from the short interstate drive from Gonzales or Denham Springs or U.S. 61 from St. Francisville.

But except for Lefkowith, one still might expect the others to at least register to vote here.

That doesn’t seem to be asking too much considering the fact that these people have waltzed into Baton Rouge to take over one of the two largest state agencies (DHH being the other) so they can dictate the educational fate of our children—and teachers, many of whom have more years of classroom teaching than these carpetbaggers have been living.

The very fact that they have chosen to ignore this very foundation of democracy reveals their character and their motives. This isn’t about the children or education, never has been; it’s about fortunes to be made from public educaton. Rupert Murdoch said it all when he said public educaton was a $500 billion market waiting to be exploited. http://www.nationofchange.org/rupert-murdoch-us-education-system-1318783996

Still, one would expect that members of an oligarchy would have the decency to at least pretend to be sufficiently civic minded to register to vote in the state they care nothing for but which they’ve taken over by decree.

Yes, one would expect that.

But one would be wrong.

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State District Judge Mike Caldwell, who earlier threw out parts of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform law that limited the authority of local school boards has dealt another crushing blow to the Louisiana’s gonenor’s* overreaching education revamp.

Caldwell had earlier left intact the provision that made it more difficult for teachers to attain job protection via tenure but on Monday agreed with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and reversed his previous ruling, saying that the entire bill must be declared unconstitutional because too many different items were crammed into it.

In previous court cases, Judge Tim Kelley, Caldwell’s contemporary in the 19th Judicial District which is East Baton Rouge Parish, had struck down the method by which the state, through Jindal’s school voucher program, planned to pay private-school tuition with public funds.

Both Kelley and Caldwell are Republicans and Kelley’s wife served as Jindal’s commissioner of administration during most of his first term.

Prior to those two rulings, a federal judge knocked down the proposed voucher program, saying that it had the potential to disrupt a desegregation consent decree in Tangipahoa and possibly other districts.

Another 19th Judicial District Judge, Republican Tim Morvant, ruled back in January that a 401(k)-style retirement plan for future Louisiana employees was unconstitutional because it had received only a simple majority of legislative votes instead of the required two-thirds vote.

The administration has said in each case that it would appeal and repeated that assertion following Monday’s ruling but all in all, it’s not been a good few months in court for Jindal and his attorney, Jimmy Faircloth.

But at least all those appeals will keep the meter running for Faircloth.

*Gonenor is a hybrid word coined by one of our readers (we only wish we could take credit) that combines the words “gone” and “governor,” which, when combined, implies (correctly) that Gov. Jindal is often absent from the state.

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“Currently our 500 corps members work with nearly 45,000 students in the state of Louisiana. Our 1,000 alumni run schools, continue teaching in classrooms, are setting policy and otherwise influencing the debate for educational change in a positive direction.”

—Teach for America, describing its public purpose in its application for a $5 million appropriation in NGO funding from the Louisiana Legislature.

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Budgetary constraints coupled with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s general reluctance to approve non-government organization (NGO) funding requests have resulted in a declining number of requests in each of the past four years—from almost 450 in 2010 to just 90 last year and 80 this year (not counting the obvious $12 trillion joke request from the prankster in Georgia).

But Teach for America (TFA) apparently is not discouraged by the realities of fiscal austerity.

Among those 80 requests for funding by NGOs this year was one from TFA for a $5 million appropriation.

So, why would TFA need a $5 million appropriation from the state?

According to the project summary submitted with its application, the money would apparently be used to provide 550 to 700 teachers and 1,000 alumni who would serve as teachers, leaders and “positive change agents (whatever that is) in the lowest income schools throughout the greater New Orleans and greater Baton Rouge areas, central Louisiana, Acadiana and the Louisiana Delta.”

But wait. LouisianaVoice has come across three state contracts with TFA totaling almost $1.6 million to recruit, train and place 570 TFA teachers in the Delta region of Louisiana and the Recovery School District.

First, such an appropriation would seem to raise the obvious question of potential violations of federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws by awarding contracts for the hiring of specific applicants to the exclusion of other equally or better qualified applicants.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), http://www.eeoc.gov/ for example, recently:

• Settled a disability discrimination lawsuit against Dillard’s, Inc., which had forced employees to disclose personal and confidential medical information in order to be approved for health;

• Sued a discount tire store, claiming that the store does not hire women in management positions and other positions because of their gender;

• Sued Texas Roadhouse restaurants for age discrimination because the restaurant did not hire applicants age 40 and older;

• Sued Bass Pro for racial discrimination because the store does not hire African-Americans or Hispanic applicants and for retaliation against employees who complained about discrimination.

Louisiana’s colleges and universities each year turn out about 600 graduates in elementary education alone. These are students who pay increasingly higher tuition to complete a minimum of four years of education and student teaching (longer, if advanced degrees are pursued) in order to become certified teachers to educate our children.

But the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) apparently is willing to dole out $1.6 million to TFA in order to give preferential treatment to 570 individuals whose only qualification is a five-week crash course with no certification.

So who are these 570 TFA teachers (or if you go by the NGO funding application, 500 teachers and 1,000 alumni) “who serve as teachers, leaders and positive change agents” and where are they employed?

A public records request to DOE by LouisianaVoice produced a list of 529 TFA teachers scattered across Louisiana over a three-year period—and not all of those in the “lowest income schools.” Nor was there any way of know how many names on the list provided by DOE are still employed, given the relative short tenure that has become indicative of TFA.

The largest number of TFA teachers (208) was found in various charter schools, followed by East Baton Rouge Parish (83). Some, however, were found in more affluent areas such as Jefferson Parish (19) Zachary (1), West Feliciana Parish (2).

Other school systems and the number of TFA teachers employed included:

• Acadia (1);

• Ascension (22);

• Avoyelles (16);

• City of Baker (9);

• East Feliciana (29);

• Pointe Coupee (20);

• St. Helena (14);

• St. Landry (3);

• Vermilion (1);

• Madison (10);

• Plaquemines (7);

• St. Bernard (32);

• St. James (5);

• St. John the Baptist (13).

TFA’s NGO application summary said that its historical size of operation was 200 teachers and 100 alumni.

But just as described by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine, http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine natural disasters or emergencies have opened the doors for takeovers of local governmental entities by for-profit investors.

“…After Hurricane Katrina and with the incredible opportunities for educational change in Louisiana, Teach for America was asked by the state and private philanthropists to grow larger to provide the necessary human pipeline for schools and districts,” TFA’s application summary says.

Incredible opportunities? Human pipeline? Interesting how education has come to be seen in such terms.

“Using millions in national philanthropic dollars, Teach for America grew from 200 teachers and 100 alumni to our current scale.

“This $5 million matches the giving levels of our neighboring state of Mississippi and is in line with the needed funds to continue operating in Louisiana,” it said.

“Teach for America is currently leveraging state funds more than 10 to 1 by raising more than $11 million in private funds for our operations in Louisiana. An increase in state funding allows us to continue this work and allows us to attract even more private donations in the years to come.”

And just how would this $5 million be used?

The proposed budget provided on the application gives the following breakdown of expenditures:

• Contracts: $0;

• Acquisitions: $0;

• Major Repairs: $0;

• Operating Services: $0;

• Other Charges: $0;

• Salaries: $0;

• Professional Services: $5 million.

In describing its public purpose, TFA said it “recruits, selects, trains and supports teachers and leaders for the lowest income schools and school districts in the state of Louisiana and around the country.

“Teach for America is tapping a previously untapped base of talent and attracting America’s top recent graduates to teach in schools that need their support the most,” TFA said in its application. “We are ensuring that these teachers achieve excellent results immediately and are working to channel their energies towards long-term impact within education and within the state of Louisiana.

“Currently our 500 corps members work with nearly 45,000 students in the state of Louisiana. Our 1,000 alumni run schools, continue teaching in classrooms, are setting policy and otherwise influencing the debate for educational change in a positive direction.”

Running schools? Setting policy?

And all this time, we thought the Louisiana Department of Education was doing that

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Whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks, be it on Fox News, CNN, to fellow Republican governors or at a rare press conference such as the one held on Thursday, his threefold purpose always seems to be to inflate weak ideology, obscure poor reasoning and inhibit clarity.

His less-than-masterful tax plan for the state, which he admitted to reporters is like so many of his ill-conceived programs in that it actually remains a non-plan, might well be entitled “The Dynamics of Irrational and Mythical Imperatives of Tax Reform: A Study in Psychic Trans-Relational Fiscal Recovery Modes” (with apologies to Calvin and Hobbes, our all-time favorite comic strip).

It’s not certain what drives him to wade off into these issues (see: hospital and prison closures, higher education cutbacks, charter schools, online courses and vouchers, state employee retirement “reform,” and privatization of efficiently-operating state agencies like the Office of Group Benefits) but his actions are probably precipitated by deeply ingrained biological, psychological and sociological imperatives that have triggered a reduced functionality in the cerebral cortex (Pickles).

Or it could be some depraved attempt to inflict vengeance on society because his two imaginary childhood friends teased him and wouldn’t let him play with them.

And though he insists he has the job he wants, we can’t help but wonder if he isn’t even now casting a covetous sidelong look at the advantages of plundering (Frazz) in case his presidential aspirations fail to materialize.

The reason for all this speculation is brought on by his admission in that ever-so-brief (less than 12 minutes or six question, whichever came first) press conference Thursday that the administration does not have a proposal as yet to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes despite his well-publicized announcement that he wants to scrap state income taxes for individuals and corporations (especially corporations) in a “revenue neutral” way that would most likely involve increased sales taxes.

But he doesn’t have a proposal yet.

Are you listening, legislators? He doesn’t have a proposal yet. That means the onus is going to be on you and if he doesn’t have his way with you (as he has for the past five years—and you can take that any way you please), he’s going public with the blame game.

If everything goes south, you don’t really think he’s going to take the blame, do you?

He doesn’t have a proposal yet. Now we see where State Superintendent John White gets his prompts on running the Department of Education. White has not submitted a completed plan for any project begun at DOE since he took over; everything—vouchers, charters, course choice—is in a constant state of flux. He announces rules, retracts, readjusts, re-evaluates only to lose a lawsuit over the way his boss proposed to fund state vouchers.

Jindal doesn’t have a proposal—for anything. His retirement “reform” package for state employees was a disaster from the get go. Even before he lost yet another court decision on that issue in January, the matter of whether or not the proposed plan for new hires was an IRS-qualified plan—meaning a plan the IRS would accept in lieu of social security—remained unresolved.

He didn’t have a proposal: let’s just do it and see later if the IRS will accept it. Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.

Remember when he vetoed a bill two years ago to renew a five-cent tax on cigarettes because, he said, he was opposed to new taxes (it was a renewal!)? Well, now he’s considering a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. “That’s the way it should be.”

But isn’t he the same governor who closed hospitals and prisons without so much as a heads-up to legislators in the areas affected.

Isn’t he the same governor who rejected a federal grant to make boardband internet available to rural areas of the state but had no alternative plan for broadband?

Isn’t he the same governor who continues to resist ObamaCare at the cost of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding to provide medical care for the state’s poor?

He said he is looking at different ways to protect low- and middle-income citizens.

By increasing the state sales tax by nearly two cents on the dollar? By rejecting another $50 million federal grant for early childhood development? By shuttering battered women’s shelters and attempting to terminate state funding for hospice? By pushing for more and more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Louisiana citizens? By appointing former legislators to six-figure state jobs for which they’re wholly unqualified while denying raises to the state’s working stiffs? Yeah, that’ll really protect the low income people of the state.

“It’s way too early to make decisions on what’s in and out of the plan,” he said of the soon-to-be proposed (we assume) income tax re-haul.

Well, Governor, it’s your job to make decisions, to come up with a proposal to present to the legislature so House and Senate members may have sufficient time to debate the issues—unlike your sweeping education package of a year ago.

In your response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this week (not your disastrous response in 2009 in which the Republican Party subjected you to national ridicule), you said, “With four more years in office, he (Obama) needs to step up to the plate and do the job he was elected to do.”

That’s right, folks. You can’t make up stuff this good. The response is so easy that it’s embarrassing but here goes:

Pot, meet Kettle.

In retrospect, drawing on comic strip for inspiration when writing about Jindal somehow seems entirely appropriate.

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“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

—Fox Network magnate Rupert Murdoch, commenting in 2010 on the enormous business opportunity in public education awaiting corporate America. 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
“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business.” said “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies.”

—Donald Cohen, chairperson for In the Public Interest, commenting on coordinated efforts by corporations, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and ALEC to pass legislation favorable to corporate investors in public education. http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/node/2747

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Any lingering doubts about the connection between public education, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and for-profit education providers may have been erased once and for all with the release of thousands of emails that demonstrate that an educational foundation begun by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is “distorting democracy” by molding state education policies to benefit the foundation’s private corporate donors.

Stories about the emails were published in Wednesday’s Orlando Sentinel http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-bush-foundation-criticism-20130130,0,7386113.story but no Louisiana newspapers had picked up the story.

Donald Cohen, chairperson of the nonprofit In the Public Interest, 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 released the emails, which included correspondence between Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a second group Bush founded called Chiefs for Change, whose members are current and former state education leaders who support Bush’s education reform agenda.

He said the emails “conclusively reveal that FEE staff acted to promote their corporate funders’ priorities, and demonstrate the dangerous role that corporate money plays in shaping our education policy. Correspondence in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Louisiana paint a graphic picture of corporate money distorting democracy.”

That agenda includes school choice, online education, school accountability systems based on standardized tests, evaluating teachers on the basis of student test scores and giving schools grades of A-F on the basis of those test scores.

Louisiana Education Superintendent John White is a member of Chiefs for Change.

Some of the emails released by Cohen included correspondence between FEE and White and White’s predecessor, Paul Pastorek.

The emails provide conclusive evidence that FEE staff promoted their corporate funders’ interests in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Louisiana. Those interests coincide with the agenda promoted by ALEC’s pay-for-play operation. Corporate donors work closely with state legislators and state education policy makers at ALEC conferences, seminars and annual meetings, according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy.

The emails between FEE and state education officials show that FEE, at times working through its Chiefs for Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders in such a way as to enhance profit opportunities for FEE’s corporate funders.

Bush’s organization is supported by many of the same for-profit school corporations that also provide funding for ALEC. Those corporations vote as equals with ALEC legislators on templates to change laws governing America’s public schools.

FEE also receives financial backing from many of the same conservative foundations striving to privatize public schools that also bankroll ALEC. FEE and ALEC lobby for many of the same changes to state laws, changes which benefit their corporate benefactors.

FEE and ALEC also have many of the same “experts” who serve as members or staff employees and the two organizations also collaborate on the annual ALEC education “report card” which grades states’ allegiance to their policies.

FEE acted as a conduit for ALEC model legislation for Maine Gov. Paul LePage which removed barriers to creating online K-12 schools and in some cases, required online classes.

LePage’s agenda was eerily familiar in its call for eliminating class size caps, student-teacher ratios, eliminating the ability of local school districts to limit access to virtual schools and allowing public dollars to flow to online schools and classes.

The emerging importance of education as a corporate cash cow was underscored in 2010 when Rupert Murdoch, who has his own education division called Amplify, said, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

Amplify is one of FEE’s corporate donors, as are K12, the Pearson Foundation and McGraw-Hill.
Last February, FEE CEO Patricia Levesque urged state education officials to introduce StubHub, a communications tool, into their states’ schools. Jeb Bush is an investor in StubHub.

An April 26, 2011, email indicated that FEE, through Chiefs for Change project, had engaged John Bailey, a director of Dutko Grayling. Levesque wrote to Pastorek only two weeks before his resignation as state superintendent:

“John Bailey, whom you met over the phone, will be on the call to provide an update on reauthorization discussions on the Hill. He is going to be on contract with the Foundation to assist with the Chiefs’ DC activities in light of Angie’s departure.

Dutko has been accused of working with industry front groups in the past,” Levesque wrote. “For example, Dutko worked with AIDS Responsibility Project (ARP), an industry-supported effort described by an HIV/AIDS policy activist as a ‘drug industry-funded front group.’”

Cohen’s organization also uncovered FEE documents indicating the foundation reimbursed Pastorek and White, the two men who have led the state’s education department under Gov. Bobby Jindal, for their travel to Orlando and Washington, D.C., for events sponsored by FEE and the Chiefs for Change.

Dutko Grayling a K Street lobbying firm in Washington which has been struggling to maintain its position as one of the top firms in the nation’s capital.

“These emails show a troubling link between Jeb Bush’s effort to lobby for ‘reforms’ through his statewide Foundation for Florida’s Future, his national Foundation for Excellence in Education, and the powerful corporations who want access to billions of our tax dollars by re-shaping public education policies just to create markets for themselves—none of which are in the best interest of our children,” Public Interest quoted a Florida parent as saying.

“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business, said Cohen. “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and (to) promote policies that enrich the companies.”

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