Archive for the ‘Guest Columnist’ Category

By Robert Burns

LouisianaVoice writer

Following up our recent post regarding shill bidding and the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB) turning a blind eye to the illegal practice, I’ll now shift to another alarming aspect:  racism.  To get the true tone and tenor of that racism, I would encourage readers to click on the audio links supplied in this post and merely listen to (or watch) what is said.

As mentioned in our first installment, Rev. Freddie Phillips was appointed to the LALB in early 2008.  He is the first and, to date, only African American auctioneer in Louisiana’s history.  Rev. Phillips attended the 2008 National Auctioneer’s Association (NAA) convention soon after he joined the LALB.  He wasn’t aware that, as an LALB Member, he was entitled to have his trip paid for by the LALB.  Upon his return and learning that fact, he applied for reimbursement.  His request, however, became engulfed in an ocean of technicalities (most notably reimbursement being sought after the closeout of a fiscal year), so Rev. Phillips ultimately ceased pursuit of the reimbursement.  Instead, he informed me that he would seek approval to attend the 2010 NAA Convention as an LALB representative instead.

Accordingly, at the May, 2010 LALB meeting, Rev. Phillips made what he thought would be a simple request to attend the Convention.  He quickly got a surprise, however, when I was the only other LALB member voting to approve his request.  He thus became the first LALB member to be denied the privilege of attending as a Board representative.  Many board members, in explaining why they opted not to approve his attendance, were rude and mean-spirited in their assessment of Rev. Phillips.  Those assessments included former long-time LALB chairman Delmar “Buster” Gay’s saying that  Rev. Phillips may be an embarrassment at the convention.  Then-Vice Chairman (now Chairman) Tessa Steinkamp also said that she wouldn’t want Rev. Phillips to represent the LALB.

Frustrated in his efforts, Rev. Phillips began seeking historical LALB travel records, only to face demands by then-Chairman James Comer and former long-time Chairman Gay as to why he wanted the records. (Editor’s note: Louisiana’s public records laws expressly prohibit any inquiry into why a citizen would want to see any public record.) The badgering reached an apex when Comer told Rev. Phillips to get an attorney and sue the LALB.  As evidenced by the preceding audio clip, Comer also indicated that Rev. Phillips and I may end up “by theirselves (sic),” implying that Gov. Jindal may soon remove one or both of us from the LALB (a prophetic statement as I was subsequently terminated).  Rev. Phillips  finally spoke up, saying, “I don’t have to take this.”   Others also spoke up in his behalf.  First, I defended him.  Also, audience member (and then-auctioneer) Nell Stuart expressed her displeasure with comments made regarding Rev. Phillips.  Finally, Rev. Phillips’ then-Representative, Rep. Regina Barrow, whom Rev. Phillips and I invited so she could witness first-hand the relentless attacks, voiced her own observations of “underlying issues” that she’d witnessed.

All of the audios in the preceding paragraph transpired at one meeting (which would turn out to be my last):  August 2, 2010.  I sent all of these audios clips (and others) to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office and relayed my sentiments that the kind of conduct being exhibited by Chairman Comer, former long-time Chairman Buster Gay, then-Vice Chairman (now Chairman) Steinkamp, and others was completely unacceptable and that I expected either changes or that other more professional board members would be recruited to serve.  I also made it clear to the Jindal administration that I intended to provide these audio clips to anyone who requested them or may have interest in them.  I was given my walking papers (I believe the term is teagued) by Gov. Jindal 39 days later.  What Gov. Jindal nor the Board counted on was that my ouster would leave me free me video subsequent meetings.

The August 2, 2010, LALB meeting prompted Rep. Barrow to address board and commission appointments in general at a special meeting of the Joint Committee on Governmental Affairs on November 17, 2010.  She requested that a representative from the LALB attend to answer any questions the panel may pose but only Rev. Phillips and Ms. Steinkamp attended.

Rev. Phillips never received a check for his attendance at that legislative hearing even though the LALB had no qualms about issuing Ms. Steinkamp a check for her $97 per diem for her attendance. When Rev. Phillips inquired why he didn’t receive a per diem payment,  Executive Director, Sandy Edmonds, said that since Rev. Phillips was “suing the board” (Rev. Phillips filed a Writ of Mandamus to obtain travel records which Chairman Comer was refusing to provide), he “should not be a representative of the board.”

Following is a list of a few of the events involving Rev. Phillips that have transpired since my ouster from the LALB:

1.  1/10/11:  Rev. Phillips repeatedly threatened with lawsuits for questioning the fact the LALB didn’t vote to approve its attorney charging for time attending an NAA Convention (the same one he was denied being able to attend).  The threats begin at the 3:09 mark of this video.  The lawsuit treat was followed up in writing soon thereafter.  (Note:  By the time of that meeting, former long-time Chairman Buster Gay’s LALB membership had been severed.  Also the 1/10/11 meeting turned out to be Chairman Comer’s last meeting as his membership was severed days after the meeting).

2.  7/17/11:  Rev. Phillips’ license is threatened for attempting to bring up issues at New Orleans Auction Galleries (NOAG), which filed bankruptcy on 4/1/11 and employed LALB Chairman Steinkamp as its “Vice President, Director, and Treasurer.”  Chairman Steinkamp begins her threat at the 1:33 mark of this video.  At the time of bankruptcy, NOAG had over $600,000 in unpaid consignors and had been paying company operating expenses with consignor escrowed funds, yet Chairman Steinkamp, her position with NOAG notwithstanding, never alerted the LALB to any problems at NOAG and the LALB instead learned of them via the bankruptcy filing.

3.  9/17/11:  Rev. Phillips is asked four times within a two-minute span if he is “carrying a weapon.”   There’s no way to know if there’s a correlation, but Board Attorney Anna Dow sent then-Chairman Comer this letter dated July 25, 2010 relaying that the females feel a need for security in light of “events over the last few years.”  From the August 2, 2010 meeting on, the LALB has employed an EBRP Deputy (Ronald Landry) at all its meeting at a cost of $160/meeting.  Rev. Phillips told me that the “are you carrying a weapon” inquiry was the proverbial “last straw” and that he informed Gov. Jindal’s administration hat he would not agree to serve another concurrent term and that Jindal needed to begin searching for a replacement for his second term.  Gov. Jindal did appoint a replacement days after he began serving his second term.

4.  11/05/12: At the first LALB meeting that Phillips missed in more than four years, LALB Vice Chairman James Sims and Consumer Member Greg Bordelon respond to the roll call with “I’s here.”  Rev. Phillips requested that I submit that audio clip to Gov. Jindal’s Office, so I did.  Accordingly, knowing that an article in The Advocate was pending about the incident, Gov. Jindal’s office requested that the Inspector General’s Office investigate the matter.  The IG’s Office issued this report in which Sims attributed his response to his “diabetes and dentures.”  Bordelon, meanwhile, denied answering the roll call in that manner in the Advocate article but ultimately admitted he did make the roll call response but said he was “merely mocking Sims, a North Louisiana redneck.”  Shortly after release of the IG report, The Advocate published this article of the report’s findings.  Bordelon’s LALB membership was severed about three months later.  Mr. Sims continues to serve as LALB Vice Chairman.

Rev. Phillips decided that it would be a good idea for the LAPA website to have an “embarrassment index” which was alphabetized by board member or affiliate.  It was an excellent suggestion, and here’s that alphabetized link of embarrassments for anyone who’d like to see it.  Perhaps future LALB meetings will provide additional material.

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The following is a press release by State Treasurer John Kenney. LouisianaVoice presents it here as a guest column that we feel underscores the concerns expressed in our Sept. 29 post entitled False prophets, false profits—and false reasons to privatize LSU Hospital System (or trolling for more Medicaid dollars)

The reason advanced by the Jindal Administration for privatizing Louisiana’s charity hospitals is that a private hospital like Lafayette General or Ochsner, for example, can manage a hospital more efficiently, and therefore cheaper, than the state.

That’s why I was taken aback when the chairman of the private entity taking over the Shreveport state hospital testified before the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget that the private contractor’s costs to run the Shreveport facility will be the same as the state’s. Where, then, will the Jindal Administration’s promised annual savings of $150 million come from if not from achieving operational efficiencies?

Dig deeper into the details and it becomes apparent that the planned “savings” won’t result from lower costs but from getting more money from the federal government through an accounting change. This won’t make the charity hospitals or Louisiana’s Medicaid program, which pays for the hospitals, more efficient. It will just make them more expensive, fueled by additional federal (American taxpayer) money.

Here’s how the new financial strategy will work: Medicaid, which is government health insurance for the poor, is a federal-state program. The states run it but the feds put up most of the money. In Louisiana, for every $1 in state taxpayer money we contribute, the feds contribute $2. The more money we put up, the more money the federal government contributes.

Under the Charity Hospital privatization, the state will “lease” the charity hospitals to private hospitals, which then will be responsible for treating our low-income and uninsured citizens. The state will pay the private hospitals to do this with large amounts of federal money from our Medicaid program. The private hospitals will then return some of those federal dollars to the state as “lease payments.” The federal dollars paid to the state as “lease payments” now become new state dollars, which the state can use to draw down even more federal money.

This accounting maneuver is undeniably clever. The question is whether it is legal. It must be approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Louisiana’s track record with CMS is not good. CMS has previously rejected similar financing strategies designed to leverage federal money. In the early 1990s, for example, Louisiana and other states adopted financing strategies such as “provider taxes,” “provider donations,” and “intergovernmental transfers,” designed to launder federal Medicaid funds into state funds in order to draw down more federal funds. CMS and Congress spurned them all. (The Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital Payment Program: Background and Issues, The Urban Institute, No. A-14, October 1997). http://www.urban.org/publications/307025.html

In fact, Louisiana was more aggressive than most states in trying to leverage federal dollars. Our health care budget grew from $1.6 billion in 1988 to $4.48 billion in 1993, of which 90% was federal funds. The amount of money actually contributed by the state during this period declined from $595 million to $462 million. (Washington Post, Jan. 31, 1994, page A9).

When CMS and Congress stepped in to stop what then-Congressman Bob Livingston called Louisiana’s “abuse” of Medicaid financing, and, in Livingston’s words, the “unjustified and unwarranted benefits” came to an end (The Advocate, Feb. 6, 1997, page 1A). Newly-elected Gov. Mike Foster was faced with a $1 billion deficit in the health care budget. To clean up the mess, Foster appointed Bobby Jindal as DHH Secretary, who sought special relief from Congress. As The Advocate newspaper editorialized, “Louisiana pleaded guilty as charged, threw itself on the mercy of the court and got off easy,” because “the state for years ran a scam using ‘loopholes and accounting gimmicks’ to justify fantastic increases in federal payments.” (The Advocate, April 29, 1996).

Perhaps this time is different. Perhaps CMS will view the new “lease payments” being used to obtain additional federal money more favorably han the strategies CMS has rejected in the past.

One thing’s for certain, though. We need to find out. The state should seek CMS review of its new strategy immediately—not “soon” as DHH has promised—but now. Until then, our entire state health care delivery system for more than two million of our people is at financial risk.

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By Dayne Sherman
Guest columnist

I am deeply disturbed by many of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent actions—his callousness toward the Bayou Corne sinkhole evacuees, his funding of state services by a “garage sale” of assets, his unwillingness to accept constitutional restraints on his pension and K-12 education policies, his ongoing assault on colleges and universities, and his rejection of the Medicaid expansion for 400,000 of Louisiana’s citizens.

As if that were not enough, he currently is pushing a sales tax plan that will wreck retail businesses within a 50 mile radius of the state line and will tax groups such as the Council on Aging and Habitat for Humanity. The actual bill has not been filed yet out of deceit far more than building good policy and consensus.

I believe this is a reckless tax plan. It will lead to massive state deficits, harm small businesses, hurt 80 % of Louisiana citizens, further destroy colleges, and only serve to help our governor’s national image.

But I am heartened by a recent development, the 250 ministers who signed “An Open Letter from Louisiana Clergy to Governor Bobby Jindal” on March 18th. Their letter goes to the heart of what’s wrong with Jindal’s immoral tax plan.

The signees are a diverse group, the president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans and nearly every variety of Louisiana clergy, including the bishops of the Methodist and Episcopal churches.

It is sad that Gov. Jindal, a man who has preached in evangelical congregations statewide (before his reelection, none afterward), cares nothing about the Christianity he professes.

As Charles Pierce wrote for “Esquire” online, “By his works shall you know him and, by his works, ‘Bobby’ Jindal is no more a Christian than the average wolverine is. He’s a Pharisaical monster who’d have sold Mardi Gras beads on Golgotha.”

Though he claims to be a Catholic convert, Jindal obviously did not get the memo that the new pope has emphasized advocating for the weak and the poor, and the pontiff has taken the name Francis after the great Saint Francis of Assisi. Jindal’s “faith,” however, appears more like the selfishness of Ayn Rand and the corruption of Al Capone than the religion of Saint Francis.

Thank God citizens are waking up, and his popularity is falling like a lead sinker dropped in a bayou.

To cite only one recent example, the governor was the joke of the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he gave a bungled speech and was tied for 9th place in the presidential straw poll. His trampling of Louisiana people and institutions has neither helped Louisiana nor his national profile. The sales tax scheme is simply a way to further his amazingly delusional quest to be President of the United States at our expense. Even many Jindal supporters are scratching their heads, wondering what happened to their Rhodes Scholar.

The only message that Jindal respects is strong public pushback that costs him politically. Remember the huge raises for legislators in 2008 and his planned cuts to hospice in early 2013? He backed off. After environmental activist Erin Brockovich showed up at the Bayou Corne sinkhole, Jindal followed suit and headed there for the first time a week and a half later. When the heat is poured on Jindal, he folds up like a cheap accordion.

We all have a responsibility to fight Jindal’s tax swindle. On March 17, I wrote my local representatives about the tax debacle, but I did not receive word back from any of them. Perhaps other citizens will have better luck.

It’s time for all of us to stop Jindal’s wrongheaded sales tax scheme. But it’s going to take every one of us speaking up before it is too late.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of “Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel.” His website is daynesherman.com.

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Guest column by Christa Allan, a retired teacher of 25 years’ classroom experience (unlike our State Superintendent and most of his inner circle), author of five novels (four published, one due out in 2014) and mother of five. She and her husband reside in New Orleans.


Let’s pretend…

• Your annual employee evaluation is based on two, one-hour visits from your manager/supervisor/CEO. One of which you have advance notice of; the other is at the discretion of the manager/supervisor/CEO. Also, it has been decided in advance that 10% of you will fail the evaluation, and 10% of you will be considered exceptional.

• You have been effective at your job/position, doing what you know is best for your clients/patients/employees. The corporation, however, decided that it is implementing a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and you are obligated to adhere to this new policy.

• You have decided you want to pursue a career in law, dentistry, business, or medicine. To be accepted into the graduate program, you must pass a test. But the test that determines your entrance is dictated by the state in which you reside and perhaps even by the city in that state. So your friend in Wonderland, Texas will sit for a different test than you will in FantasyWorld, Texas, and both of your tests will differ from someone in GetReal, Florida.

Admission into the Graduate Program will be based on the same score requirements, regardless of where you have taken the test.

• Congratulations! You have earned the degree to be in the medical field. However, No Patient Left Behind has been instituted, and now there are learning targets. So, for every patient who fails or becomes seriously ill, and/or who does not follow your specific guidelines for living a healthy life, there will be consequences. These may range from your having to repeat courses you’ve taken in medical school to losing your license.

• It’s your first day on the job at Grape Technologies, and your supervisor assigns you an office, which has a desk, a chair and a file cabinet. “Where,” you ask, “do I find my supplies?” The supervisor directs you to the nearest big box or office supply store. There you will purchase: pens, pencils, paper clips, stapler, tape, paper. . .The supervisor reminds you that sometimes people you work with will not have their supplies, so you might want to be prepared for that by buying more than you need for yourself.

If you thought those scenarios were absurd, arbitrary, and atrocious, welcome to part of my world as a public school teacher. If you agree with those scenarios, you need remediation.

The public perception that teachers are opposing tests and evaluations because they fear being “outed” as ineffective is asinine, and it reflects an uninformed perception of the teaching profession altogether.

Are there “bad” teachers? Of course. Mary Kay Letourneau was education’s poster child of bad. Every profession has “bad.” I’m thinking, just off the top of my yuck list: Dr. Michael Kamrava (Nadya Suleman’s fertility doctor), Michael Vick, Bernard Madoff. . .
But, those of us in the classroom who are confident we’re teaching students, not the books, say, “Bring it on!”

My administrators know they can walk in my classroom any day, any time. They’ve not only walked in unannounced, they’ve brought other teachers and supervisors. They’ve sat next to my students to ask them what they were doing and why.

Do I coach my students ahead of time? No. I want my students to answer honestly, and I’m not afraid of what they’re going to say. If a student doesn’t think s/he is learning, I want to know. Unfortunately, some of my students don’t realize until years later that they’ve learned something. I have the emails to prove it.

I’m a “good teacher,” not because my students’ scores attest to that. My students attest to that. Not all, obviously. But enough of them that I continue to do what I do because I know I’m reaching students. Because, I teach students. I don’t teach the book.

I’m a good teacher because I don’t teach to the test. I teach to the student. My goal is to prepare students, not simply for college, but for the world beyond high school. To teach them what to do when they won’t know what to do. To teach them strategies for success, to think critically, to open themselves to becoming lifelong learners.

I’m a good teacher because I have learned the most significant learning can be purely accidental. The learning that catches students by surprise years later when an event triggers some memory, for example, and suddenly “you have to know what to do when you don’t know what to do” makes sense. I’d like to pat my own back for that particular “accidental” learning, but I can’t. Actually, my role is to provide the opportunity for the serendipity, not to provide the moment it happens.

And this push for teacher evaluation so as to purge the system? Even Charlotte Danielson, the economist who designed the rubric, said Louisiana is using it all wrong. The original rubric uses 22 indicators that should be observed in a teacher’s classroom. The Louisiana version uses 5.

“Taking my framework and using only a small subset of it can be problematic,” Danielson said. “Districts and the state should be concerned because it is inevitably going to lead to inaccuracies that could lead to challenges.” http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20130307/NEWS01/130307008/Louisiana-s-modified-teacher-assessment-falls-short-some-say

But teaching is complex, and evaluators — who will mostly be principals and assistant principals — may make mistakes when they see teachers doing something well, or badly, and they don’t have enough information from the rating system to help them score what they see, she said.

“My recommendation is to use the full instrument, and then if what you want to do is focus on some aspect of it, that’s fine. But adopt the whole thing,” she said. http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/11/expert_on_teacher_evaluation_h.html
The Louisiana DOE is clearly not pleased. Superintendent John White’s Chief of Staff Kunjan Narechania, in an email released by the DOE, says that Daniels is “…is being a pain again. Apparently some reporter interviewed her about us using a version of her rubric for our system. She said she thinks it’s a bad idea for us to use an abridged version of her rubric and that we should have piloted for a year. So lame.”

Charlotte Danielson http://www.danielsongroup.org/article.aspx?page=charlotte is internationally recognized, and, as taken from her bio: “…advises State Education Departments and National Ministries and Departments of Education, both in the United States and overseas. She is in demand as a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and as a policy consultant to legislatures and administrative bodies.”

The eloquent assessment of Danielson at the Louisiana State Department of Education, however, is that she is “a pain,” and her idea is “so lame.” While this may be a fine example of rhyming (and I’m not sure where that might fall on the Compass rubric), it is vapid and an embarrassment.

Let’s make this simple: A teacher receives tenure after three years. That means that administrators have THREE YEARS to determine the effectiveness of this teacher. A teacher does not become a “bad/ineffective” teacher the first day of his/her fourth year in the classroom. No “dog and pony” show can survive three years.

So, the real question isn’t why there are ineffective teachers in the classroom. The real question is why administrators allowed them to be ineffective for three years. For years, I was a teacher mentor/assessor for whatever flavor of the year was being used to evaluate teachers. Trust me on this one. Some teachers should never have been allowed to be granted tenure, but for one reason or another, made it through the system.

It bothers me that some administrators, who had three years to decide if a teacher should be tenured, weren’t doing their jobs. It bothers me that some administrators wouldn’t know good teaching if it slapped them back into their offices, and those administrators will be evaluating teacher performance.

The conclusion based on past evaluation systems is that future evaluation systems can be equally ineffective. Anyone who’s ever used a rubric knows the degree of subjectivity inherent in using it.

For your entertainment, here are only two specious examples from the rubric:

Domain 3: Instruction

• A student asks whether they might remain in their small groups to complete another section of the activity, rather than work independently.

Ignoring the pronoun-antecedent error (a student-they-their), the above is provided as an example of a teacher who would score Highly Proficient on the rubric. Essentially, by discouraging students to work on their own when they have completed the original group task is rewarded. Why?

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

• One of the learning outcomes is for students to “appreciate the aesthetics of 18th Century English poetry.”

This is provided as an example of the preparation and planning that would be exhibited by an Effective/Proficient teacher. How, exactly, would one observing a classroom know if students “appreciate the aesthetics” of anything? What, exactly, does the evaluator look for to determine when a student is grateful for poetry’s beauty?

And that’s just two.

I noticed the state DOE site is now keeping the term Human Capital Information System http://www.louisianabelieves.com/teaching/compass-information-system-(hcis) inside the parentheses and referring to it as the Compass Information System instead. Why is that? Perhaps John White decided that referring to teachers as “human capital” might err on the side of total arrogance and insensitivity? When I used HCIS, there was no euphemistic substitute. My instructional goals, planned learning outcomes, and my evaluations are stored in a system that labels me a human used to generate income or as a financial asset.

So, maybe you’ll understand why some days, I play “Let’s pretend…”

I pretend to hurl the textbooks and state-mandated curriculum through the windows and tell students, “Okay, let’s talk about what really matters. Let’s talk about what you’ll face in the world. How tragedy and joy are holding hands, and they’ll play Red Rover with you for the rest of your life.”
And then there’s Taylor Mali if you really want to know What Teachers Make.

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Guest Column

The long-awaited Jindal administration proposal to balance the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget was released yesterday (February 22). The most surprising thing about it was its almost complete lack of surprises. Once again, we were presented with a budget that uses one-time money, contingencies, and outright conjecture, along with increased college tuition, to create the illusion of a balanced budget that does little or no harm.

Perhaps the most surprising and indefensible part of the presentation was revealed in Melinda Deslatte’s AP wire story late yesterday. Deslatte reported that commissioner of administration Kristy Nichols defended the use of patchwork funding in the budget on the grounds that not doing so would result in “needless reductions to critical services.” Think long and hard about what that means.

The governor is happy to tout his refusal to increase state taxes. He is also happy to talk about his successes in reducing the size of government and refusal of additional federal support. He is very direct, if not necessarily consistent, when it comes to holding the line on these things. Although there is no second half to his current plan to eliminate income and franchise taxes, he assures us that, if he actually ever presents a proposal for the other side of the equation, it will be income neutral.

If Nichols’ testimony is to be taken at face value, we can only assume it is not possible to maintain critical services with our current level of recurring revenue. So far, the governor’s approach to reducing state government has been to gradually strangle it through continued submission of unrealistic budgets intended to give the impression everything is okay. The legislators adopt these proposals and congratulate themselves on another successful year.

In reality, everything is not okay. The governor knows it. Ms. Nichols knows it. The legislators interested enough to pay attention know it. As long as projected revenues from reliable, stable sources do not equal projected necessary expenditures, things will NEVER be okay. Governor Jindal has not submitted, nor has the legislature adopted, such a budget during his entire administration. This is proven by the mid-year cuts that are always necessary in adopted yearly budgets and the never-ending projections of deep holes for every future year.

Governor Jindal has been quoted repeatedly in the national press saying we all have to learn to live within our means. If he really believes this, why does he not present budgets that allow the state of Louisiana to do so? I think Ms. Nichols has made the answer quite clear – because we simply cannot live the way we want to within our present means. Presenting a truly balanced budget would result in an outcry from even the staunchest fiscal conservatives who would immediately begin to cry, “Why don’t you cut the fat, not the meat?” They would never accept there isn’t enough fat left to leave the meat alone.

A group of legislative “Fiscal Hawks” [a term coined by respected blogger C. B. Forgotston] has attempted to solve the perennial problem of unbalanced budgets by forcing the governor and the legislature to simply comply with the clear spirit of the state’s existing constitution and statutes as they apply to the budget.

Regardless of how complicated some might attempt to make these laws, their intent is plain common sense: we should do our best to project recurring revenues and adopt a budget that balances expenditures with them. If one-time revenues are used, they should only be used for clearly one-time expenses because doing otherwise automatically creates holes in future budgets. We shouldn’t budget on contingencies and conjecture because if the revenues fail to come in we will have significant trouble paying for or cutting the services they were supposed to fund.

Could anything be simpler or make more sense? If the governor and the legislature know we cannot live within our means why don’t they do something as simple as following the intent of existing law? The governor doesn’t propose budgets doing so because, like Ms. Nichols, he knows it is impossible without making unpopular cuts to essential services. Cutting taxes is popular. Cutting needed services, or raising taxes, is not.

The legislature doesn’t demand we live within our means for the same reason and also because of their collective belief that their constituents are only interested in the extent to which they bring home the bacon. Legislators believe not bringing home the bacon equals not getting re-elected. Although they already have a history of funding local services to the detriment of state programs in the past, we have now reached a critical stage.

If essential state services are cut at the same time purely local projects are funded, there might actually be a backlash for individual legislators. They might learn that their constituents benefit from the critical state services to which Ms. Nichols refers and actually care about the future of the state in which they live as much as their local neighborhoods.

Why can’t our state’s leaders just be honest about this and do the right thing? Understanding and dealing effectively with the budget dilemma requires a level of knowledge that can only be gained through fairly intimate involvement with, and knowledge of, the state’s budget and fiscal status. It is unreasonable to expect individual citizens to educate themselves at the detailed level necessary to make the right decisions about how to fix things even if they could. When we elect our governor and legislators, we do so with the reasonable expectation that they can and will take care of these things in our behalf.

It is certainly easy to understand why it is difficult to make hard cuts when cash is, or even may be, available to avoid them. But willfully allowing gross fiscal instability to continue indefinitely is a violation of the public trust. It serves no one well and doesn’t even allow the ability to isolate inefficiencies and make rational cuts in spending where they actually need to be made.

Only by facing reality can our state’s leaders make the necessary changes to move us forward. The administration has admitted the current gap cannot be closed by cuts alone. We should support those legislators and other elected officials who have the courage and conviction to make responsible decisions about our future even if they include additional taxes.

(Stephen Winham is the retired Louisiana State Budget Director)

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The following essay, entitled The Ultimate Lean Hungry Man Appears to Have the Villagers Fooled, was posted on a blog called Sky Dancing http://skydancingblog.com/2013/01/24/the-ultimate-lean-hungry-man-appears-to-have-the-villagers-fooled/. We’d never heard of it but the author, someone named dakinikat, obviously from Louisiana, did such a good job that we’ve decided to reprint her post in its entirety:

I worry. For some reason, the villagers in the beltway appear to have my governor confused with some one who is not a sociopath. There is absolutely no way they’ve done any background work on Bobby Jindal and the horrible things that he has done and suggested for my state. I have no idea why they want to embrace the false face that Jindal uses as he plots his way up the political ladder. It makes no sense to me at all. But, today’s beltway rube award goes to Chris Cizzilla who is usually more circumspect. He’s written an article at WAPO called “Bobby Jindal speaking truth to the GOP power”.

Chris, Jindal never speaks the truth. He only says what he thinks people like you want to hear so he can further his own political ambitions. Bobby Jindal’s only motive is personal power. That is the only thing constant about him. He will do and say anything to get ahead. It will not be a “forceful denunciation”. It will be a carefully orchestrated attempt to get attention and to confuse people like you.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will deliver a forceful denunciation of his party’s Washington-centric focus in a speech to the Republican National Committee on Thursday evening, arguing that the GOP is fighting the wrong fight as it seeks to rebuild from losses at the ballot box last November.

“A debate about which party can better manage the federal government is a very small and short-sighted debate,” Jindal will tell the RNC members gathered in Charlotte, N.C. for the organization’s winter meeting, according to a copy of the speech provided to The Fix. “If our vision is not bigger than that, we do not deserve to win.”

This is perhaps the most hypocritical statement that I’ve ever seen. Jindal’s only vision is his wet dream of sitting in the oval office. He has kept our state in perpetual recession. He has cut the budget of our universities by 1/3. He has assaulted even the basic notion of what health care should be by devastating the availability of basic services by cutting our public health budget. He has thrown out myriads of talented people in various government agencies and placed incompetent, unqualified, and reckless cronies in their place. He has undercut LSU so badly that the accrediting agency has sent a letter asking if there is any one in charge. You will not even believe who he placed in charge of our state primary and secondary schools. Jindal has spent the last year stacking BESE–our oversight agency–with other cronies. He has turned our state into an ALEC crockpot of “reform” where creationism can be openly taught in science classes, state funds can pour into religious indoctrination centers with desks, computers, and little else available to students through unregulated vouchers, and even put out false information on the supposed success of charter schools.

Jindal’s latest attempt at turning the state into Somalia as its dictator is to suggest we should eliminate all income and property taxes and double sales taxes. The only ALEC-based nonsense he just backtracked on was his plan to yank hospice care from any state medicare recipient who needs it because he wants to ensure the state doesn’t go near any of the new federal funding or provisions available under ACA. He must have gotten enough feedback to feel it threatened his ambitions because that’s the only thing that would stop him from painfully killing any one who gets in his way of sending us to right wing hell.

Cizillia notes these things about Jindal’s speech to be given tonight.

Jindal is far from the only 2016 Republican hopeful to use his party’s Washington contingent as a foil to bolster his own political prospects. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) rant against House GOPers for failing to bring up a funding bill on Hurricane Sandy – an instant classic — was another prime example of congressional GOPers being triangulated by their party’s future leaders.

(Also worth noting: Jindal isn’t completely free of Washington’s stench, having served three years in Congress before his 2007 election as governor.)

While Jindal’s attack on his party’s failed focus is the main thrust of the speech, he also took time to excoriate his party for some of the shortcomings made clear during the 2012 election.

* On Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments: “We must compete for every single vote — the 47 percent and the 53 percent, and any other combination that adds up to 100 percent.”

* On the party’s struggles to court non-white voters: “We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior. …The first step in getting voters to like you is to demonstrate that you like them.”

* On the likes of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock: “It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.”

And Jindal will also try to demonstrate the sort of big-picture vision — you know, “that vision thing” — that is in demand in a party searching for itself in the electoral wilderness. “We must shift the eye line and the ambition of our conservative movement away from managing government and toward the mission of growth,” Jindal will say.

With this speech, Jindal makes a strong case to be the leading voice — or at least one voice in a relatively small chorus — committed to leading the Republican party out of its electoral wilderness.

How can Jindal lead the party out of electoral wilderness given his appalling record of cronyism, destruction of public instituions, and wholesale sell outs of public assets on the cheap to corporate donors? Ed Kilgore characterizes Jindal’s speech as “Jindal’s “I’ve Got It: Let’s Move to the Right!” Prescription. Jindal’s snake oil may have worked on our rural rubes, but I cannot believe it will sell other places if the press gets to the true intent of his agenda and his rule here.

I will be watching for a transcript of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s speech to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charlotte tonight with considerable anticipation. It looks like he’s going to personally brand the tendency within the GOP to identify “party reform” with an even more ideologically savage brand of conservatism than the one they’ve already embraced.

In an account based on an advance copy of the speech, WaPo’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake (under the sycophantic headline, “Bobby Jindal Speaking Truth to GOP Power”—gag!) tell us this about Bobby’s Big Message …

Gag is right!!! All you have to do is read any of my fellow Louisiana Bloggers to figure out that any one who closely watches Jindal can’t stand him. I have yet to speak to a Doctor or an educator in the state that has one kind word to say about him. Here’s something recent from fellow Pelican CenLaMar.

Throughout the last few years, I’ve never shied away from criticizing Governor Bobby Jindal. To put it nicely, I think he is an intellectually dishonest charlatan whose entire life has been defined by an almost embarrassing public desire for validation among the white conservative aristocracy. As a child, he rejected his given name and demanded that his parents call him “Bobby” after the little boy on The Brady Bunch, a story that his supporters repeat as if it reveals some sort of precocious sophistication and nuance. Maybe it does. But, to me, it also reveals how, even at a very early age, Bobby Jindal was conflicted about his own identity as the son of two Indian graduate students who immigrated to the United States, a man who was conceived in India but who has spent almost the entirety of his public life distancing himself from his family’s culture, their religion, and his Indian heritage. As a college student, Jindal converted from Hinduism to Catholicism, a journey that he describes as both intellectual and spiritual, but one that also, particularly in hindsight, seems almost hyperbolically cynical and calculated. And here, perhaps I’m the one being cynical, but I’ve never believed his “conversion story.” I’ve never once believed that Bobby Jindal, an allegedly brilliant kid majoring in biology in an Ivy League school, actually participated in a real life exorcism. His story is non-sensical and absurd, unwittingly and pathetically bordering on the comedic; it is almost certainly a work of complete fiction. But in telling it, however awkwardly, in publishing it in a relatively well-known Catholic journal, Jindal asserted himself publicly not only as a Catholic but as a Catholic whose faith was built on a mystical experience, a direct confrontation with the devil himself.

When he was only 24 years old, as his own legend has it, he became Louisiana’s Secretary of Health and Hospitals based on the strength of a single white paper he’d written, which led some to begin calling him “The Boy Wonder,” and which led more level-headed people to question the judgment of his boss, Governor Mike Foster. The truth, of course, is that Jindal’s service at DHH was short-lived and an abysmal failure, which somehow qualified him to head the entire University of Louisiana system. Before Louisiana could blink, Jindal, only 31 years old, ran for Governor. When he lost to an imminently more qualified candidate, a candidate who made history in her own right, becoming the first woman ever elected Governor, Jindal’s team seemed to blame his defeat on his ethnicity, not his youth and inexperience, not on his track record as DHH Secretary.

It’d be easy enough for people to suggest that my skepticism and my cynicism of Bobby Jindal is really about identity politics, as if merely bringing up the ways in which he has attempted to downplay his Indian heritage and his consciously self-promotional conversion to Catholicism somehow demonstrates my own biases. But, to me, such an argument is and has always been a way of avoiding a series of important questions that have rarely, if ever, been asked of the man Louisiana has twice-elected as their Governor, the most important of which is: What does this guy really believe?

Again, Kilgore appears to be more on the mark. Maybe, just maybe, he’s done his journalistic legwork. Plus, he knows about Jindal’s flirt with exorcism which should be a career killer ANYWHERE but the SF or the so-called Discovery channel.

“By obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet, we send a not-so-subtle signal that the focus of our country is on the phony economy of Washington, instead of the real economy out here in Charlotte, and Shreveport (La.), and Cheyenne (Wyo.),” Jindal is set to say at one point in the speech. At another, he will argue that “Washington has spent a generation trying to bribe our citizens and extort our states,” adding: “As Republicans, it’s time to quit arguing around the edges of that corrupt system.”

So what’s that supposed to mean? Blowing up the “corrupt system” via nullification of secession? Just opposing every federal spending measure, regardless of merit? Do tell, governor.

What it means politically is a lot clearer: Jindal wants to be the champion—and perhaps the 2016 presidential candidate—of the very significant faction of the GOP that thinks the party’s problems are a lack of clarity and consistency in its conservative ideology, along with a habitual stupidity in presenting it. Take Todd Akin, give him Bobby Jindal’s brains and background, and you’ve got the winning formula!

So Jindal will go arch-demagogic in attacking Washington, even as he tries to build a swampy wingnut paradise back home in Louisiana, with a model regressive tax system that supports conservative evangelical madrassas, and of course none o’ that soul-destroying satanic federal assistance via the Affordable Care Act.

It’s as smart a bet as any for where the Republican Party wants to go right now, which is anywhere other than the “center.” Perhaps the Charlotte appearance will begin a drumbeat of demands for a Jindal candidacy under the slogan: “Call for the exorcist!”

I cannot emphasis how much damage this man has done and is doing to my state. His policies have literally killed people. His response is to remove any one that criticizes him.

Former LSU health-care system chief Fred Cerise had lots to say about cuts the governor made. He wrote in The Atlantic Monthly that those outside Louisiana should pay note the governor’s health-care decisions in Louisiana.

Cerise, who lost his leadership role in August, talked about an uninsured patient who died because the referral hospital was overwhelmed and 17 other hospitals refused to admit him. He blamed the patient’s death on the governor’s approach to uninsured care.

“Jindal has declared his opposition to the two major programs that would ensure care to the uninsured. He has made clear his intention to reject the federal Medicaid expansion and at the same time is dismantling the state’s public safety net. It’s a combination of blows for many of the state’s citizens who are among the lowest earners in the country and are destined to go without care,” Cerise said.

Please, please please, do not treat this man seriously. Treat him like the plague he is. He is really really really turning us into a swampy wingnut paradise while every one else in the state suffers from no jobs, poor education opportunities, and limited access to health care.

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“We as Republicans have to accept that government number crunching—even conservative number crunching—is not the answer to our nation’s problems. We must not become the party of austerity.”

—Gov. Bobby Jindal, in an address in Charlotte, N.C. that served as his rebuttal to President Obama’s inaugural address. This from a governor who has slashed funding and services for higher education, medical care, disabled children, battered women, the mentally ill and hospice care patients before being forced to backtrack on the latter cutback.

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By Ryan West

In a 25-minute-long speech billed as a “rebuttal” to President Obama’s inaugural address, Governor Bobby Jindal unleashed his plan to rebrand the GOP. While Jindal’s plan to reshape the GOP embraces “competing for every single vote” and “rejecting identity politics”, I think it’s critical to see the distinction between Jindal’s national rhetoric and his performance as Louisiana’s governor.

Across the country, pundits have embraced Jindal for his enthusiasm to “speak truth to GOP power.” The New York Times praised Jindal’s speech for recognizing “the urgent need to make the party more welcoming to a broader cross-section of Americans, particularly women, Hispanics and blacks.” Politico called it “a version of Ronald Reagan’s ‘New Federalism’ on steroids.” CNN jumped on the Jindal bandwagon by stating Jindal “further positioned himself as a forward-looking voice among the Republicans thought to have their eye on a White House bid in 2016.” However, the national praise that Jindal received does not match the reality of the disastrous effect his policies have taken on Louisiana’s families.

In his speech to the national Republicans, Jindal mocked the budget-cutting focus of the GOP. “By obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet, we send a not-so-subtle signal that the focus of our country is on the phony economy of Washington, instead of the real economy out here in Charlotte, and Shreveport (La.), and Cheyenne (Wyo.).” Yet, when you truly look at his actions, Jindal only mocks himself given his unrelenting focus on budget cuts in Louisiana.

He stated, “We must not become the party of austerity.” Meanwhile back home in Louisiana, his efforts of austerity are eliminating services for the mentally ill, cutting services for disabled children and only creating a panic in families in need of help.

One day before his big speech, Jindal was forced to reverse himself on what is one of his ugliest policy decisions: cutting Medicaid funding for hospice care. This reversal is not due to the outrage from the people of Louisiana but due to negative spotlight he received on the national level.

Yet as Jindal stated, “we as Republicans have to accept that government number crunching – even conservative number crunching – is not the answer to our nation’s problems,” other cruel budget cuts in Louisiana are set to stand – cuts to battered women’s shelter programs, to higher education, preschool programs, anti-truancy efforts and a range of other efforts to make life better for working people. Governor Jindal has demonstrated a complete disregard to access to health care by dismantling public hospitals with no plan for care for the uninsured, rejecting the expansion of Medicaid and healthcare exchanges and denying 400,000 Louisianans the ability to access quality health care through the Affordable Care Act.

In his latest effort to grab national headlines, Jindal wants to swap the state’s income and corporate tax with a more regressive sales tax. In 2011, Governor Jindal vetoed a 4 cent tax renewal on cigarettes and now in 2013 he wants to eliminate income taxes and raise the cigarette tax by a $1 and add 4 cents on sales taxes.

This “tax swap” will dramatically raise taxes for 80% of Louisianans—the people who work for a living or who are retired on a fixed income trying to maintain some quality to their lives. Meanwhile, Governor Jindal has sponsored corporate tax exemptions of over $4 billion to support big corporations.

Jindal thinks he can help his party. How do you ask? “The first step in getting the voters to like you is to demonstrate that you like them,” that’s about it. He rejects “identity politics.”

Back in the real world, Jindal is the Governor of one of the poorest states in the country where more than 32% of the population are African American. In Louisiana, Governor Jindal has made no effort to work with African American leaders, ministers or even legislators. His personal disdain and disrespect for leaders in his own state is very real. How hypocritical is it to now want to like other ethnic groups. He is only offering the GOP a novel, post-racial approach to equal opportunity- say one thing and do another.

Oh, and then there was this: “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. I’m serious; it’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.” This is far from his recent actions of demonizing teachers and state employees, while pushing through policies that would teach Louisiana’s youth that at one point in history humans relied on dinosaurs for transportation. Bobby Jindal is the Governor that supports creationism, disdains history and mocks educational leaders.

Clearly, Jindal is going to get credit for the slightest affirmation of the growing diversity of the United States, even if his actions back home don’t match the actions he is touting around the country. The acclaim for Jindal’s speech is an example of bigotry by the mainstream media: “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” to use one of George W. Bush’s few good lines.

Rather than focusing on his image to the national media, the Governor should put his presidential aspirations aside and focus on the problems citizens face every day in Louisiana.

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By Stephen Winham

Back when we were first leaked information about Governor Jindal’s tax reform “proposal”, it seemed to actually be a plan, and a relatively simple one, at that – eliminate income taxes and replace them with increased sales taxes. It was hard to see how an increase of only 3 cents in sales tax could replace the lost income tax revenue, but that could be managed by taxing things we don’t currently tax. Even minimizing the effect on the poor seemed possible, if not probable. Many people, including me, did not think it was a good proposal for many reasons, but it was a something that could have been deliberated and given a thumbs up or down by the legislature.

With each subsequent report, the first half of the “plan” (elimination of income taxes) seems to remain firm while the second half (raising sales taxes) becomes less and less settled. Now we hear of a variety of other options to be worked out in meetings with legislators and in consideration of the multitude of studies that have been, and are being done on the subject of tax reform. If the options have become limitless, there is actually no self-reconciling plan and this proposal is essentially the same as the heavily-criticized bills in recent legislative sessions to simply eliminate income taxes with no replacement of the lost revenue.

Governor Jindal has already achieved a major (a cynic might say, the only) goal of this proposal – getting extensive national media coverage for making a bold proposal to fix Louisiana’s budget and economic development problems. The probability that it would do neither, even if it was an actual plan, is irrelevant. The local media have been a little more cautious and balanced in their reporting, but Governor Jindal’s adherents remain steadfast in support of his ideology and can dismiss any negatives as reflective of a liberal bias.
If anything ultimately comes of this, we can only hope the enactments will result in budgetary stability and that the revenue forecasts for the changes will not be overly-optimistic. It is not possible to isolate and evaluate effective, efficient state programs in a constant state of crisis. Nor is it possible for businesses to adequately plan for future growth. Prolonged, avoidable instability is fair to neither our citizens nor our business sector.

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Editor’s note: Occasionally we post guest commentary and today’s offering contains what we feel is significant information about the existence of so-called “shadow schools.” The author of this essay is a former employee of the Department of Education (DOE) who possesses information not readily available to the public because of the propensity on the part of the Jindal administration and DOE to withhold information from the public that could potentially be detrimental to the administration’s goal of skewing statistics to put charters, vouchers, and course choice in the best light possible. Because the author is now employed in another field, we reluctantly decided to publish this under a pseudonym.

By Laird Bradford

Recently I’ve learned that the LDOE has known for many years about the existence of shadow or phantom schools that were created for the express purpose of evading accountability. (Shadow Schools are sites that go unreported to the State and Federal government for reporting purposes, but exist and function as completely independent schools.) In some cases such as Caddo, Jefferson and EBR these efforts were halted in the past. In other cases such as Iberville, St James, and who knows how many others, these efforts are allowed and perhaps even encouraged. (If you doubt me, feel free to call up Iberville (225-687-4341) and ask them what state site code they’ve had assigned to MSA East and MSA West and when they plan on requesting one.)

Only the LDOE knows why rules were made (and made to be broken for some) but this begs a greater question. Where are the children? I mean really? How do they actually keep track of them? Where did they factor in these decisions? Do they factor at all? School districts get State funding for them by reporting they are enrolled at other existing schools, and those Academy students raise the SPS scores of the schools they are reported at, but those are schools, like East Iberville and White Castle, they never actually set foot in.

I hear our leaders like Bobby Jindal and John White claiming they are doing things “for the children,” and that teachers are only worried about themselves. Maybe that’s true. Maybe we all only worry about ourselves. Maybe teachers just went into the profession for the glamorous lifestyles and exorbitant salaries and don’t care about the kids they teach at all. I know I had a lot of teachers growing up that seemed to care a great deal about me, but that could have been part of an elaborate ruse.

I attended public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish. If I looked sad or down my teachers would ask me how my day was going and sometimes it felt good that someone took the time just to ask (though I know now that was just a cynical ploy on their part). When I was bullied and crying once I remember one of my teachers giving me a hug, and offering to help, but such intervention would have only made things worse and I bet they knew that-–-even if it did seem comforting at the time. When I didn’t do as well on a test they would offer to help me after class or in the mornings to catch up or review the topic again . . . “perhaps I could do some extra credit?” But I know now that was also part of a ruse to keep me dumb to the real game—of getting rich off of teaching.

Sometimes I would see my teachers doing part time gigs at the local library or bookstores or even grocery stores to make ends meet-–-or so they said. But I could tell from their wardrobes of all the latest fashions (from 10 to 20 years prior) that they were rolling in the dough-–-so even those jobs must have been part of a clever cover story. I’m sure one day I’ll figure it out.

I know John White is doing everything he can for our children though. He often tells us that he is, which is really quite bold of him since what meager data put out by DOE consistently say otherwise! I believe that is what’s called blind leadership. Sometimes blind leadership is important when you have a goal like privatization in mind, but inconvenient realities like clear evidence that pursuing your true goal [of privatization at any cost] may create vast educational disparities, make pariahs out of teachers, and sacrificial victims out of students. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a few children, or teachers, when the special interests clamor loud enough and the political aspirations of a megalomaniacal governor are at stake.

Unfortunately, despite John White’s catchy and not at all ironic slogan “Louisiana Believes,” Louisiana wasn’t believing fast enough so he was forced to hire a part time PR consultant named Deidre Finn for $144,000 a year (a full time consultant obviously would have been out of his price range.) This must be super important because he certainly wouldn’t do that for purely selfish reasons like spreading glory about himself in preparation for this next gig or to tout a constitutionally-challenged agenda even as children struggle to keep up with their devolutionary lessons (devolution is ok, but evolutionary theory is the devil’s workshop) in ever-increasing class sizes.

And get this folks: John White is only pulling down $275,000 a year! He’s barely getting by. That’s barely what a full time PR consultant makes. It’s no wonder he can’t afford to have any children of his own, or enroll them in our schools. I mean, how could he afford to enroll them in a non-public school (like our new BESE President Chas Roemer does) on such a meager pittance?

But let’s get back to more missing children!

Did you also know that despite record theoretical dropout declines, our graduate counts are relatively unchanged, even as our student enrollment climbs year after year? Despite the touted evidence from DOE that our annual dropout rate has roughly halved by to 9000 fewer dropouts on an annual basis since around 2006, our graduate counts, and all of our completer counts, have remained roughly the same. Every year since Katrina our enrollment has increased by around six thousand students. However, our graduates have increased maybe 1000 or so annually over the same time period. Does anyone know where those students are (because DOE seems to have lost track of them)?

Did you know DOE still hasn’t managed to count the students enrolled on October 1st of 2012? This count was supposed to be completed by the end of October, but it seems they are having serious problems in this department, too. It’s a good thing we don’t rely on that data for anything important, except allocating funding for schools or complying with act 54, that silly thing where students get linked to teachers to determine if teachers get to keep their jobs or tenure or some such. . . nothing really important.

John White also seems to have lost track of the children in his pursuit of creating what he calls “options” for parents. He is adamantly opposed to measuring the success, or failures, of non-public schools receiving vouchers, and in favor of loosening many of the requirements for charters schools, virtual schools, online course providers, and traditional charters in regards to teacher qualifications and class sizes. White believes it is more important to allow parents to make decisions, and market forces to decide success and failures, than to look after the welfare of children we pay him $275,000 a year to care about.

But that’s not his call to make!

For good or ill, John White is the Louisiana Superintendent of Education, not the Patron Saint of Free Enterprise and Anarchy. His job is to ensure all students receive a quality education, not to ensure that a free market, over time, renders a verdict as to who is a winner or loser. A school that is deemed “good” to a parent (maybe because they are close by and offer an afterschool babysitting service) may not be at all good for a child for creating an educated and fully functioning and responsible citizen. Moreover, if John White actually had any experience as a parent, he would realize that parents look at data and read reports, just like everyone else. By depriving parents of any yardstick by which to measure these myriad uncharted education operators he is vastly underserving parents and students. He is acting as a free enterprise messiah, a partisan demagogue, but not as a responsible Superintendent of Education worthy of a $275,000 salary.

John White and the Louisiana Department of education have lost track of dropouts, lost track of schools and the students in those schools, and lost track of the data used to provide funding based on student counts. What he has found is a cadre of political science majors, like his Compass Director Molly Horstman, and PR folks like Dave Lefkowith, and Diedre Finn to foist his political spewings upon us, hoping if he repeats his lies enough, we will “believe” them.

Thanks to Jindal and contributions from privatization forces, BESE (our state board of education) has been hijacked and instead of providing oversight, merely provides a rubber stamp to anything John White or Jindal proposes.

John White has lost some of our children, but his job is not done yet. With his destructive, deluded and dysfunctional policies he has plans to lose them all.

Tell John White it’s time to find the children again. It really is the least he could do.

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