Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Charters’ Category

As we face the end of eight years of ineptitude, deceit, and whoopee cushion governance, LouisianaVoice is proud to announce our first ever election of John Martin Hays Memorial Boob of the Year.

There are no prizes, just a poll of our readership as to whom the honor should go in our debut survey.

Hays was publisher of a weekly publication called appropriately enough, the Morning Paper in Ruston until his death last year. He relished nothing more than feasting on the carcasses of bloated egos. He single-handedly exposed a major Ponzi scheme in North Louisiana, sending the operator to prison. That got him some major ink in the Atlanta Constitution and the New York Times.

The problem of course, is trying to narrow the field to make the final selection manageable.

The obvious choice for most would be Bobby Jindal, but there are so many other deserving candidates that we caution readers not to make hasty decisions. After all, we wouldn’t want to slight anyone who has worked so hard for the honor.

So, without further ado, here are the nominees, along with a brief synopsis of their accomplishments.

  • Bobby Jindal: Mismanaged the state budget for an unprecedented eight consecutive years. At least there’s something to be said for consistency. In his eight-year reign of error (mostly spent in states other than Louisiana) he managed to cut higher education more than any other state; he robbed public education to reward for-profit charter schools and virtual schools; he gave away the state’s Charity Hospital system (he awarded a contract to the new operators—a contract with 50 blank pages which is now the subject of what is expected to be a prolonged legal battle; he appointed political donors to prestigious boards and commissions, including the LSU Board of Supervisors which, under his direction, fired two distinguished doctors, the school’s president and its legal counsel; He trumped up bogus charges against the director of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) to appease mega-donor Tom Benson and to appoint the husband of his children’s pediatrician to head up the agency; he forced state offices to pay higher rent in order to again accommodate Benson by signing a costly lease agreement with Benson Towers; rather than consider alternative ideas, he simply fired, or teagued, anyone who disagreed with him on any point; he refused Medicaid expansion, thus depriving anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 low-income citizens needed medical care; he tried unsuccessfully to ram through pension reform that would have been devastating to state employees; he insisted on handing out contract after contract to attorney Jimmy Faircloth who is still searching for his first courtroom victory after receiving well more than $1 million in legal fees; he spurned a major federal grant that would have brought high-speed broadband internet to Louisiana’s rural parishes; he stole $4 million from the developmentally disadvantaged citizens so he could give it to the owner of a $75 million Indianapolis-type race track—a family member of another major donor and one of the richest families in the state; he abandoned his duties as governor to seek the Republican presidential nomination, a quest recognized by everyone but him as a fantasy; he ran up millions of dollars in costs of State Police security in such out-of-state locations as Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina; he had the State Police helicopter give rides to his children, and the list goes on.
  • Attorney General Buddy Caldwell: All he did was completely botch the entire CNSI contract mess which today languishes in state district court in Baton Rouge; He consistently turned a blind eye to corruption and violations of various state laws while ringing up what he thought was an impressive record of going after consumer fraud (Hey, Buddy, those credit care scam artists are still calling my phone multiple times a day!); and his concession speech on election night was one for the books—a total and unconditional embarrassment of monumental proportions.
  • Kristy Nichols: What can we say? This is the commissioner of administration who managed to delay complying to our legal public records request for three entire months but managed to comply to an identical request by a friendly legislator within 10 days; We sued her and won and she has chosen to spend more state money (your dollars, by the way) in appealing a meager $800 (plus court costs and legal fees) judgment in our favor; it was her office that came down hard on good and decent employees of the State Land Office who she thought were leaking information to LouisianaVoice (they weren’t); she first reduced premiums for state employee health coverage in order to free up money to help plug a state budget deficit all the while whittling away at a $500 million reserve fund to practically nothing which in turn produced draconian premium increases and coverage cuts for employees and retirees (and during legislative hearings on the fiasco, she ducked out to take her daughter to a boy-band concert in New Orleans where she was allowed to occupy the governor’s private Superdome suite.
  • Troy Hebert: appointed by Jindal to head up ATC which quickly turned in a mass exodus of qualified, dedicated agents; he used state funds to purchase a synthetic drug sniffing dog (hint: there is no such thing as a synthetic drug sniffing dog because synthetic ingredients constantly change; this was just another dog, albeit an expensive one); he launched a racist campaign to rid his agency of black agents; while still a legislator, he was a partner in a firm that negotiated contracts with the state for hurricane debris cleanup.
  • Mike Edmonson: Oh, where do we start? Well, of course there is that retirement pay increase bill amendment back in 2014; there is the complete breakdown of morale, particularly in Troop D; then, there was the promotion of Tommy Lewis to Troop F Commander three years after he sneaked an underage woman into a casino in Vicksburg (he was subsequently fined $600 by the Mississippi Gaming Commission but only after first identifying himself as the executive officer of Troop F and asking if something “could be worked out.”); allowing Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux to take advantage of a lucrative buyout incentive for early retirement (which, in her case, came to $46,000, plus another $13,000 of unused annual leave) only to retire for one day and return the next—at a promotion to Undersecretary. She was subsequently ordered to repay the $56,000 but thanks to friends in high places, the money has never been repaid (maybe incoming Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne would like to revisit that matter); consistent inconsistency in administering discipline to officers who stray—such as attempting unsuccessfully to fire one trooper for assaulting a suspect (even though the suspect never made such a claim) while doing practically nothing to another state trooper who twice had sex with a woman while on duty—once in the back seat of his patrol car.
  • David Vitter: what can we say? The odds-on favorite to walk into the governor’s office, he blew $10 million—and the election. His dalliance with prostitutes, his amateurish spying on a John Bel Edwards supporter, an auto accident with a campaign worker who also headed up the Super PAC that first savaged his Republican opponents in the primary, turning Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle irreversibly against him and driving their supporters to Edwards’s camp. In short, he could write the manual on blowing an election.
  • The entire State Legislature: for passing that idiotic (and most likely illegal) budget on the last day of the session but only after Grover Norquist was consulted about the acceptability of a little tax deception; for allowing Jindal to run roughshod over them on such matters as education reform, hospital privatization, pension reform and financing recurring expenses with one-time money; for being generally spineless in all matters legislative and deferring to an absentee governor with a personal agenda.

Those are our nominees but only after some serious paring down the list.

Go to our comments section to cast your vote in 25 words or less. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 18.

As much as you might like, you are allowed to vote only once.

 

Read Full Post »

 

510JOmRSyJL._SY300_[1]

 

A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of America’s Public Education (Information Age Publishing, 404 pages) is a new book by St. Tammany Parish high school English teacher Mercedes Schneider that should be required reading by both proponents and opponents of the current drift in education from public to private, from non-profit availability to all students to for-profit institutions available to the select few.

Before we get too far into our review of this book, there are two things you should know about Mercedes Schneider:

  • The emphasis is on the first syllable of Mer’ Ce-deez; she’s not a car, nor was she named for one.
  • Don’t ever make the mistake of trying to schmooze her with B.S., especially when it comes to issues involving public education. She will call you out the same way she called out an ill-prepared Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President (BESE) Chas Roemer following his debate with Diane Ravitch in March of 2013. Ravitch had already run circles around Roemer in their debate and he was simply no match for Schneider in the question-and-answer session that followed. It would have been comical had it not been for the position of such serious responsibility conferred upon Roemer by voters in his BESE district.

And when she does call you out, that caustic and at the same time, delightful St. Bernard Parish accent comes shining through like a lighthouse beacon slicing through a foggy night.

The publisher of an education online blog called At the Chalk Fence, She has moved her debate from her ongoing fight with Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White to a national forum and is now calling out such self-proclaimed education experts as former New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein, whom she calls “the viral host of the corporate reform agenda,” Teach for America (TFA) founder Wendy Kopp, disgraced Washington, D.C. school chancellor and later founder of StudentsFirst Michelle Rhee, vagabond school reformer and former Superintendent of Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) Paul Vallas, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the “Big Three Foundations: Gates, Walton and Broad.”

A thorn in the side of Jindal, White, and Roemer of long-standing, she turns her attention to the national educational debate in Chronicle. With an appropriate nod to Ravitch as her mentor and the one who was always available when needed for advice, Schneider peppers her targets with a barrage of statistics that refute the unrealistic theories advanced by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and TFA who insist meaningful education reform can be accomplished with inexperienced teachers and administrators, for-profit charters, vouchers, and the idea that throwing money at a problem is not the answer (despite their propensity to pour billions of dollars into their own idealistic agendas—at best, a philosophical oxymoron).

A product of the St. Bernard Parish public schools (P.G.T. Beauregard High School), Schneider’s attempt to drop out of school at age 15 somehow morphed into a B.S. in secondary education (English and German), a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the State University of West Georgia, and a Ph.D. from the University of Northern Colorado.

She taught graduate-level statistics and research courses at Ball State University. It was at Ball State that she first took on the task of challenging the issues related to No Child Left Behind, teaching students “how bad an idea it was to attempt to measure teacher performance using student standardized test scores.”

In July 2007, only months before the election of Jindal as governor, she returned home and began a new job teaching high school English in St. Tammany parish.

Her introduction contains a brilliant metaphor for the corporate destruction of public education: she describes what she calls a “detailed image” of an abandoned building being imploded and collapsing upon itself. She envisions the building (public education), “not ornate, not without need for repairs, but sturdy,” as men in yellow hard hats (corporate reformers, we are told) watch, knowing what is about to transpire “because they have orchestrated it from the inside.” She describes the men as “responsible for the impending structural failure” and “who have planned the failure but are removed from its consequences.”

In her blog, she recently launched a withering attack on White’s embargo of the LEAP summary public report, saying the state superintendent had “apparently found himself in an unfamiliar fix regarding his characteristic ‘water muddying.’” She accused White of “collapsing” categories within the LEAP grading system in order to conceal variation through report “groupings” that she said concealed the precision of the standard five levels of LEAP achievement (unsatisfactory, approaching basic, basic, mastery, and advanced).

“Collapsing ‘basic,’ ‘mastery,’ and ‘advanced’ into a single, generic ‘passed’ serves to conceal achievement nuances that might make Louisiana Miracle RSD appear to be ‘less than’ locally-run districts—the ones operated by those pesky, traditional local school boards,” she said.

“After all, a test-score-deficient ‘miracle’ is harder to sell,” she said. “If the data reflect poorly on privatization, then the troubled corporate reformer could alter the data, or alter the reporting, or alter access to the reporting, or employ some combination of the three. Gotta love corporate reform ‘transparency.’”

Jindal, White and Roemer may heave a collective sigh of relief that they have been spared the glare of the spotlight in Chronicle as she concentrates her argument on the glaring weaknesses of the major education reform movers and shakers at the national level.

But perhaps they should not be too comfortable at being spared just yet.

After all, certain matter, they say, flows downhill.

A Chronicle of Echoes is a must read for anyone who is or ever claimed to be concerned about the perpetual political tampering with public education in America—by those least qualified to do so.

Read Full Post »

“We were directed to doctor the data to allow the schools to become eligible.”

—Former employee of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), who claims that LDOE employees under former State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek and in “at least the first year” of his successor, John White, were directed to skew data to allow several charter schools in the Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans to become eligible for several million dollars in federal grants.

Read Full Post »

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) for at least three years manipulated qualification requirements for several New Orleans charter schools so that they would qualify for millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a former LDOE employee who now works for a parish school district and who asked that his name not be revealed.

The employee told LouisianaVoice that the practice started under former Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek and continued at least in John White’s first year as superintendent.

He said the recipients were “four or five” schools in the Recovery School District in New Orleans and all were charter schools. “LDOE employees were told to manipulate the data to allow the schools to qualify for the federal grants and each of the schools was subsequently approved.”

He said the data were also skewed in some instances to block grant eligibility for other schools.

One criterion was that the school be a failing school, he said. “These were new charter schools, so they were not actually ‘failing’ schools, but we were directed to doctor the data to allow the schools to become eligible.” He did not name the charter schools that received the grants.

He said the other criterion was for “conditional” schools. He added that the federal Department of Education is moving toward making “conditional” the single criterion for grant eligibility.

The former LDOE employee said he did not recall the exact amounts awarded the schools but that the total for all four was “several millions of dollars.”

He also touched briefly on the current accusations that the refusal by LDOE employees of requests to adjust the LEAP and iLEAP scores for the RSD was at least partly to blame for the delay in releasing school test scores until Tuesday of this week (May 20).

“The department (LDOE) did that for schools all over the state last year,” he said.

He said there was no logical reason for the delay in releasing the test scores, a delay that has thrown some school districts into a state of chaos—particularly those that have already completed their school year. Schools in those districts still don’t know which students will be required to take courses during the summer to bring their grades up.

Students in other school districts who may have been told they were exempt from finals because of outstanding grades are now finding that they have to take finals after all.

An LDOE official, speaking for White, said despite the prevailing belief, there was no set schedule for the release of the test scores—even though educators and administrators across the state were in accord in the belief that the scores were to have been released last Friday.

“There was no reason for the delay,” the former LDOE employee said. “DRC (Data Recognition Corp., of Maple Grove, Minnesota) had everything done well in advance of last Friday. The test scores should have been released on time.”

DRC is the vendor under contract to LDOE for testing and test grading of the LEAP and iLEAP tests.

The firm presently has two contracts with the department totaling $111.7 million.

The first, Contract No. 603573, is for $66.5 million and runs from Sept. 1, 2003 through June 30, 2015. It calls for DRC to test grades three through nine in English, language arts, mathematic science and social studies, and to administer criterion referenced testing in grades three through seven and grade nine from Sept. 1, 2003 through June 30, 2008.

Contract 704708 is for $48.2 million and runs from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2015. That contract calls for DRC to provide support services related to LDOE’s current assessment program which includes the developing of test forms, printing, distributing and collecting materials, coring and reporting for LEAP, iLEAP and other standardized tests.

 

Read Full Post »

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?”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,057 other followers