Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, wants people to know he’s serious.
He has already pre-filed SB 41, which calls for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot which, if approved, would make the state superintendent of education and elective position as opposed to the current appointive one.
Kostelka also wants it understood that he wants current Superintendent John White to go.
He says he has seen enough of bloated contracts granted to politically-connected firms. He has seen his fill of contracts like the one that teaches kids how to play at recess. He has heard quite enough about contracts awarded to PR hacks to work out of their homes in other states for outlandish figures like $12,000 per month.
Most of all though he has grown weary of trying to obtain information and records from the secretive Louisiana Department of Education—and repeatedly encountering a brick wall of resistance.
And he is more than a little concerned about the approval of vouchers for schools which have no classrooms, no teachers and no desks—like New Living Word in Ruston.
And while he didn’t say so, he seemed to take some bit of pleasure in knowing that his bill has come under fire from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief apologist, Jeff Sadow.
Kostelka claim that the bill would make the superintendent answerable to the people instead of a rubber-stamp Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was described by Sadow as a “curious mix of ignorance and illogic.”
Sadow chose to fall back on the argument that most of the BESE members are already elected and “answerable to the people,” apparently choosing to ignore the fact that most of the elected members’ seats were bought by out of state contributions from such people as Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, the Walton family and K-12.
Sadow also says Kostelka seems to have forgotten the “policy-making mess” that existed under the elected superintendent structure that existed prior to 1988. In saying that, Sadow appears to be overlooking the ever-evolving “policy-making mess” that is indicative of today’s DOE under a superintendent who doesn’t seem to have a clue where he intends to go or what he intends to do when he gets there.
“People like Mr. Sadow say I want to return to old-time politics,” Kostelka said. “To that, I would have them look at the political contributions to the BESE members and then explain to me what has changed under the present system.”
“They say my bill would cost the state the expense of another election, but it wouldn’t. I’m calling for the election to be held in the fall of 2014 at the same time as the Congressional elections, so there would be no additional costs. If approved, the elected superintendent would take effect with the 2015 gubernatorial election and White could leave with Jindal,” he said.
Kostelka is well aware that he has run afoul of the petulant Jindal and is certain to incur the governor’s wrath. His punishment could range from a loss of committee assignments to vetoes of key projects in Kostelka’s senate district. All one has to do is harken back to last year’s session when Jindal vetoed a major construction project in Livingston Parish after Rep. Rogers Pope and Sen. Dale Erdy had the temerity to buck Jindal on legislative matters important to the governor.
If that isn’t old-time politics, we don’t know what is.
But Jindal has proved beyond any doubt that he is not above such tactics.
But, at long last, those tactics appear to be coming back to bit him in the backside.
He has demoted legislators, fired a BESE member, an LSU president, doctors, various department and agency heads, appointed legislator buddies (Noble Ellington, Troy Hebert, et al) to six-figure deadhead jobs and in at least one case—that of Hebert—that appointment appears to be a major embarrassment to the administration.
But even after all of that, nothing compares to the damage done to his political stock as the recent dust-up with the Board of Regents.
Send in the clowns
As is his M.O., Jindal attempted to distance himself from the action—perhaps as a means of attempting to maintain deniability, a ploy that has consistently served him badly—by dispatching an emissary to do his dirty work. In this case, it was Taylor Teepell, brother of Timmy Teepell who seems to be running his OnMessage political consulting operation from the governor’s fourth-floor offices in the State Capitol.
What was Taylor’s mission? Nothing less than to demand the firing of Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. James Purcell. Purcell, you see, committed the unpardonable sin of criticizing Jindal’s repeated cuts to higher education. There is no run for dissention on Team Jindal.
But Taylor Teepell got a major surprise. Regents Chairman W. Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry, Jr. sent Teepell back to Jindal with a message: “Dr. Purcell works for the Regents.”
Whoa. Herr Jindal is not accustomed to such spunk from his subordinates. The governor does, after all, appoint the Regents members and he expects all appointees to toe the line, not draw a line in the sand.
Of course, Jindal could fire the entire board and replace the recalcitrant members with more compliant sycophants. But his brazen attempt to oust Purcell for the sin of independent thinking probably did more harm to Jindal than anything else he has done in his five-plus years in office. This attempt, coming as it did on the heels of three major court reversals of his education and retirement reforms and the word last week of a federal investigation into a contract with the Department of Health and Human Resources, has left him politically crippled.
And his blatant, quixotic pursuit of the presidency would be laughable were it not such a pathetic sight to behold. It somehow makes him look even smaller, more the little boy, in his ill-fitting suits.
Seeing his presidential aspirations slip away raises yet another spectacle that he would probably rather no one would know about. When he encountered occasional crises during his tenure as head of the University of Louisiana System, rather than facing the problems head-on, his solution of choice was to retreat to his office where he is said to have played video games virtually non-stop.
One must be wondering what video games he prefers these days. League of Legends, perhaps?
As one observer recently said, the Jindal waters appear to be circling the drain.