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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Some weeks ago, I stopped counting political brochures arriving in my mailbox by sheer numbers, choosing instead to measure them by the pound.

Republic Services has probably had to put another truck or two into service just to cart away the political mail-outs cluttering the mailboxes on my street alone. They’re too slick to use for the bottoms of bird cages, so they serve no real purpose other than to attest to the fact we are needlessly killing far too many trees.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they actually offered anything new but, to paraphrase a line uttered by Frasier on the sitcom Cheers, they’re redundant, they repeat themselves, they say the same things over and over—and still they don’t tell us a thing about the candidate except perhaps in the case of one Edith Carlin, who insists she’s the male version of Donald Trump, a rather dubious self-accolade, if there ever was one.

Carlin describes herself in her fliers as “an outsider like President Trump.” (And yes, she does underscore the word outsider.) She goes on to say, “Just like President Trump, Edith Carlin is a self-made person…”

Really? Did she begin drawing millions from her father while still a child? Did her father purchase her way into the Wharton School of Business? Did she hire undocumented workers, not pay them, and default on billions of dollars of loans from banks into order to become “self-made”? Did she become “self-made” by declaring bankruptcy half-a-dozen times? Is she “self-made” from cheating thousands of students in a fraudulent “university” that was under investigation until making a big campaign contribution to the attorney general who was investigating the school? Is that what she means by “self-made”?

She should be so proud.

She says she “will hold the government accountable in a way politicians can’t.” Really? How does she plan to do that? That promise has been made thousands upon thousands of times by thousands upon thousands of candidates but nothing seems to change. But she’s different, I suppose. She’s proposing to waltz into a 39-member body and single-handedly convince her fellow senators and 105 House members that they’ve been wrong all along and they will obligingly repent of their evil ways.

That’s about as absurd as every four years, the candidates for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish vow to make public education better when in reality, the mayor’s office has zero to do with the school board. Zero.

Well, one of the things Carlin says she’ll do is “fix I-12 issues without raising the gas tax.” Well, Ms. Carlin, it would be most interesting to hear just how you plan to go about doing that.

“After billions of dollars in tax increases,” she says, “the government now admits taking too much from us.” I suppose she’s referring to the $300 million – $500 million surplus of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration. But personally, I much prefer a surplus of $500 million to the eight years of $1 billion deficits of the best-forgotten Jindal administration.

She is running against State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, a fellow Republican, who is term-limited and who is running for the seat of former State Sen. Dale Erdy, also term-limited. Pope is a former Livingston Parish school superintendent who brought our school system up to among the best in the state. Pope’s big sin is he doesn’t always vote the party line, choosing instead to vote his conscience, an attribute many claim as their voting philosophy but which few can back up. But when you cross party lines, you cross the party and the party is the party is the party and the party doesn’t forget.

Carlin claims politicians “haven’t fixed our drainage problems,” that “80 percent of our district flooded.” True. I flooded, as did thousands of others. And of course, Carlin’s hero, Trump, dragged his feet in getting the requirements for assistance approved by HUD. It’s been three years and many still have received nothing from FEMA. As for fixing our drainage problems, she says we need an engineer to fix those problems. She is an engineer.

But guess what? Rogers Pope was an educator. Do you think they assigned him to the House Education Committee? Nope. That would make far too much sense. They tucked him away where he wouldn’t be a nuisance to Jindal and John White. Does Carlin think she’ll fare any better? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, she says she’ll work to improve drainage problems but she’s against taxes. It’s going to be interesting to see her just snap her fingers and make our problems vanish.

But to really understand the candidate Carlin, it’s always best to follow the money to see who is the power behind the politician (and she is now officially a politician, her denials notwithstanding).

So, I went onto the campaign finance records to see who her backers are.

The results were eye-opening, to say the least.

To narrow the field, I looked only at contributions of $500 or more. I found 65 contributions totaling $68,500 since January 1, 2019, including a couple of multiple contributions by the same donor, namely Republican power broker Lane Grigsby, who also backed Jindal and who is backing Eddie Rispone for governor.

I also noted a $2,500 contribution from Koch Industries.

But the real story is that of those 65 contributions, is that exactly 11 were from Livingston Parish while 32 were from East Baton Rouge Parish, 14 from other parts of the state and eight were from out of state. That’s 11 from Livingston and 54 from elsewhere.

Those 11 Livingston Parish contributors (actually, only 10 because one person contributed on two different occasions) accounted for $14,500 (including $4,500 from just three persons) while the 32 East Baton Rouge Parish donors ponied up $37,500. The 14 from other areas of the state gave $17,500 and out-of-state contributors chipped in $13,500.

So, Livingston Parish contributors gave just 21 percent of Carlin’s total while backers in Baton Rouge put up 54.7 percent of her total.

Livingston Parish voters may wish to ask themselves why so many people in Baton Rouge are involving themselves in a race in Livingston Parish. Well, let’s see who they are:

  • EastPac, NorthPac, WestPac, and SouthPac, all arms of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), combined to give $19,267. Since there are limits as to how much a political action committee may give, LABI simply bent the rules by creating not one, not two, not three, but four PACs.
  • Lane Grigsby: $2,500.
  • Todd Grigsby: $1,000.
  • ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) Pelican PAC: $2,500.
  • The Louisiana Homebuilders Association PAC: $2,500.
  • TransPac (a trucking industry PAC): $1,500.
  • Investment portfolio manager Meagan Shields: $3,000 (two $1,500 contributions).
  • Louisiana Student Financial Aid Association (LASFAA) PAC: $1,000.

Besides Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas, out-of-state contributors included:

  • Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C.: $2,500.
  • Chevron, San Ramon, California: $2,500.
  • Stand for Children PAC, Portland, Oregon: $2,000.
  • Weyerhaeuser, Seattle, Washington: $1,500.
  • Marathon Petroleum, Findlay, Ohio: $1,500.
  • Tanner Barrow, Worthing, South Dakota: $1,000.
  • Micham Roofing, Sparta, Missouri: $500.

Louisiana contributors not from Livingston or East Baton Rouge Parish who contributed were from Bossier City, Slidell, New Orleans (2), Shreveport (2), Raceland, Jennings, Mandeville, Alexandria, Prairieville, Covington, Ponchatoula, and Gray.

So, those who haven’t already voted early may wish to ask themselves why the Republican party has turned on one of its own in such a vicious manner—but mostly why so much outside money is being poured into Edith Carlin’s campaign.

You may also wish to ask yourself whether she will be beholden to the people of Livingston Parish or to the faceless PACs of Baton Rouge, Washington, and elsewhere.

She may call herself a political outsider, but from here, she looks more like a puppet with the potential to be controlled by political insiders from outside Livingston Parish.

 

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Kira Orange Jones prevailed in the challenge to her candidacy for re-election to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from the state’s 2nd District in a special court hearing in New Orleans on Tuesday, lending further validation to the theory that in Louisiana politics, anything goes.

That anything includes:

Jones listing at least three separate residents on various reporting forms submitted to the state;

Her failure to file Louisiana state income tax returns for the years 2015 and 2017 (a prerequisite to seeking political office in Louisiana, but…);

Her serving as executive director for Teach for America (TFA), which contracts with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), a clear conflict of interests and a not-so-trivial ethics question;

Her chronic absence from BESE meetings—she missed more than one-third of all meetings last year;

Here several years’ delinquency in filing required annual financial disclosure forms with the state—another requirement of candidates and even in-the-trenches civil service employees;

Her serving as a board member for a non-profit called Instruction Partners (IP) which is listed by LDOE as a vendor for professional development for 2018-19—another potential ethics problem and conflict of interest.

But what I found most humorous was the suggestion by educator and blogger Mercedes Schneider: “Given that Orange-Jones’ uninterrupted residence in BESE District 2 is in serious question (Her husband was at one time during her tenure New Mexico’s top education official), it seems in (opposition candidates) (Shawon) Bernard’s and (Ashonta) Wyatt’s best interest to file a claim against Orange-Jones with the Louisiana Ethics Board.”

So, why would I find that so amusing? Simple. Not to make light of Schneider’s well-intentioned suggestion, but the Ethics Board is Louisiana’s single biggest political JOKE going and has been since Bobby Jindal’s ethics “reform” of 2008.

Eight years ago, special interests hijacked BESE from Louisiana’s citizens by buying the offices of the likes of Orange-Jones, Jay Guillot, Holly Boffy, and others so that people like John White could ram through education “reform” designed to benefit corporate ownership of virtual on-line schools and charter schools.

Boffy, who is seeking re-election to her District 7 seat, is manager of an outfit called EdTalents in Lafayette, which, according to its web page, works to support schools or districts “in creating an educator talent system to attract, hire, place, develop, leverage, and retain teachers for student success.” Go HERE for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s corporate report on EdTalents.

She also is an Educator in Residence for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) for the central and southeastern states. CCSSO was instrumental in writing COMMON CORE standards for the state.

In other words, like Guillot when he served on the board, Boffy contracts for services with school districts that are governed and regulated by the board on which she sits.

No conflict or ethics problem there.

But let’s look at some of the results under the tenure of Orange-Jones, Boffy and White:

  • Today, every single charter school in New Orleans is FAILING;
  • Louisiana, after a decade of White’s leadership, remains the fourth-worst EDUCATED state in the nation;
  • While the state’s teachers were going without pay raises, 20 unclassified employees at LDOE raked in average PAY RAISES of nearly $27,000 each over a five-year period—that’s more than $5,000 per year, compared to the meager $1,000 raise teachers got this year—finally.
  • LDOE attempted to gloss over a major ERROR in the Minimum Foundation Program for fiscal year 2018-19 which created an actual $17 million surplus for LDOE, but instead of distributing the money to the schools as it should have done, LDOE made no mention of the error for fear of an audit. Instead, the money was expected to be used for one-time expenses for the department.

And did a single legislator raise the first question about the mistake?

Nah. It’s all good. Move along. Nothing to see here.

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A lawsuit was filed last Thursday in Civil District Court in New Orleans that seeks to disqualify Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) member Kira Orange Jones as a candidate for re-election to the 2nd District seat she has held since 2012.

While the petition of plaintiffs Linnell Steib and Michael McFarland cites only two causes for the disqualification of Jones, there appears to be an entire laundry list of reasons she should be disqualified as a candidate, some of which LouisianaVoice has addressed in previous posts.

Little is known about the plaintiffs other than a Google search turned up the name of one Linnell Steib as being manager of judicial courts of the State of Louisiana. There was another Linnell Steib, but his work address was given as Wichita, Kansas.

But as long as the plaintiffs are electors in Jones’s district, they have legal standing to bring the lawsuit to block her candidacy.

The two disqualifying points they list in their petition are:

  • Jones’s failure to file Louisiana state income tax returns for the years 2015 and 2017 as required for candidates;
  • Her failure to pay outstanding ethics fines and fees to the attorney general’s office totaling $8,800.

But there are other reasons, according to educator Mercedes Schneider, who has a web blog called DEUTSCH29 in which she points out Jones’s chronic absence from BESE, missing more than a third of its meetings altogether and either arriving late or listing alternatively no fewer than three separate residence addresses on various reporting forms—not counting the New Mexico address of her husband Christopher Ruszkowski, the former secretary-designee for the New Mexico Department of Education.

Schneider also questioned whether or not the New Mexico Department of Education had a contract with Teach for America (TFA), for whom Jones serves as an executive director (it does). Here is another of her posts about JONES.

LouisianaVoice had previously questioned possible conflicts of interest with Jones as an executive director for Teach for America (TFA), which had a lucrative contract with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) even as she sat on BESE.

Schneider also noted that Jones sits on the board of directors for a non-profit called Instruction Partners (IP) which is listed by LDOE as a vendor for professional development for 2018-19, a relationship that also could be considered a conflict of interests or an ethics violation.

Finally, Schneider, on her blog, notes that Jones was “extremely delinquent” in filing her required annual financial disclosure forms with the state. In fact, Schneider said, as of August 11 of this year (last Monday), she still had not filed her annual disclosures for 2017 and 2018, only doing so on August 12 (last Tuesday), six days after she official qualified for reelection.

Apparently, there are those who worked for Jones at TFA who were less than enamored with her leadership. This from the website GLASSDOOR.COM.

Jones is opposed in this year’s election by Shawon Bernard and Ashonta Wyatt.

The Louisiana Democratic Party has Wyatt in the District 2 race.

“We’ve seen the effects of Democratic leadership versus Republican leadership on our educational systems,” Stephen Handwerk, Executive Director of the Louisiana Democratic Party said. “Under a Republican administration, we’ve seen underfunded education, underpaid teachers, and a lack of concern about investing in our children. Compare that to a Democratic administration who is putting teachers, students, and our educational institutions first and it’s clear why we need to support Louisiana Democrats for the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The endorsements we made today will promote education reform and push our state forward and I’m confident we’ll see them making a difference this January.”

The following are candidates the Louisiana Democratic Party endorsed for BESE:

BESE District 2: 

Ashonta Wyatt

 

BESE District 6: 

Ciara Hart

 

BESE District 8:

Vereta Tanner Lee

Preston Castille

 

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If you are a school teacher in Louisiana or if you have a teacher in your family, here are nine names you should remember next October when voters march to the polls to elect a governor, 39 state senators and 105 state representatives:

These are the nine members of the House Education Committee who yanked $39 million from local school districts—money that could have gone to supplement an already insulting pay raise for teachers, provide classroom supplies and help absorb increases in health insurance premiums.

Oh, and just in case you’d like to thank them, here are the five who voted to keep the $39 million in the Minimum Foundation Plan as adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE):

The $101 million for teacher pay raises (safe, for the moment) and the $39 million for local school districts were pat of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to move Louisiana back to the Southern Regional Average.

Instead, the nine Republicans, led by committee chairperson Landry voted to send the MFP back to BESE with a request to cut the $39 million for local school districts.

Landry, who has been less than a friend to public education throughout her legislative career, was steadfast, stating from the start she was going to make the recommendation to send the MFP plan back to BESE.

Edmonds, in an attempt to give credence to Landry’s position, raised the point that Louisiana spends $12,153 per student which he said was $3,000 more than Texas and $2,000 more than Florida. He managed to get Superintendent of Education John White to acknowledge that the state ranks 46th in efficiency of funds spent on students.

And while saying there will likely be no new funds for early childhood education, Edmonds somehow managed to overlook the fact that Texas pays its state legislators $7,200 per year, less than ONE-THIRD of the $22,800 for Louisiana legislators.

That’s right: Louisiana spends $10,000 more per year on legislators to come to Baton Rouge to hobnob with lobbyists, to enjoy sumptuous meals at Sullivan’s and Ruth’s Chris than it does to education our children.

Let that sink in: $22,800 per legislator for a part-time job (and if they have to travel to Baton Rouge or anywhere else on state business, they get $164 per diem, plus travel expenses).

At the same time, we spend $12,153 per student.

It’d be pretty interesting to find a ranking of the state’s “efficiency of funds spent” on legislators.

Louisiana’s students are the second-poorest in the nation, White said, ahead of only Mississippi.

But what’s important is the tons of additional REVENUE many legislators earn as attorneys, accountants, etc., representing state and local governments. There are literally more hidden perks to being a legislator than could be listed here—and I have unlimited space.

But I digress. Landry, in order to bolster her disdain for public education in general and Gov. Edwards in particular, even called on Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) to address her committee on the $39 million proposal.

In case you might not be aware, if Henry had an alias, it would be: “Dedicated political enemy of John Bel Edwards, no matter what Edwards might propose.”

So, what it all boiled down to was the Republicans in the legislator led by Henry and Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia), unable to block the pay raises of $1,000 per year for teachers and $500 per year for support staff, were damn sure going to throw up as many roadblocks as they could for any additional funding for teachers—even at the cost of depriving local school districts desperately needed funds for resources and salaries.

At a press conference at the conclusion of Tuesday’s committee meeting, the Louisiana Public School Coalition urged BESE to stand firm on its MFP proposal and to push legislators approve it as is.

White showed how political loyalties can shift, even at full throttle. First appointed by Bobby Jindal and reappointed during the Edwards administration, he said, “The previous administration swung and missed badly” at early childhood education.

Even more revealing that the fate of the $39 million was sealed well in advance was the participation—or lack thereof—of committee members. Each of the five Democrats asked several relevant questions and made valid points while fewer than half of the nine Republicans had a word to say during discussion of a pretty important piece of legislation. And those who did speak, like Edmonds, did so only as a means of supporting Landry’s motion.

The others were strangely mute—almost as if they already had their marching orders from Landry, Henry and Barras.

And that’s how democracy in the gret stet of Looziana works.

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Donald Trump, Jr., you pampered little daddy’s boy mealy-mouthed sonofabitch!

I could stop there and my description would be sufficient, but I won’t. The little twit committed what I consider to be an unpardonable sin when he described teachers as “losers” at his daddy’s rally in El Paso Monday.

I can take just about anything from the Trumps and even laugh at them but when they start calling teachers “losers,” that’s a trip-wire for me.

I had the same reaction a few years back when another little dips**t named Jindal had the audacity to tell members of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) that the only reason some teachers were still in the classroom “is by virtue of their ability to breathe.” You will note that he would never have had the guts to say such a thing before a teachers’ group—only some half-baked organization like LABI which drinks the Republican Kool-Aid while lobbying for billions of dollars in tax breaks for its corporate members.

That’s because Jindal, like Donald Trump, is a damned coward who will only go before one of his wacko LABI or MAGA crowds and say something so asinine. At the first sign of a hostile crowd, they’d run like the wimps they are. Now that’s the definition of a loser—I don’t care how rich and successful one is in monetary terms, that’s still a loser.

And before you Trump supporters start in with your comments about how wonderful our Buffoon-in-Chief is, don’t even bother. You can say what you want, but you’ll be wasting your breath because I’m not about to back down on this. It’s kind of the reverse of trying to get you to see through how idiot Trump is making you think he gives a crap about you.

It seems that Daddy Trump has latched onto another catch-phrase to ignite his brain-dead supporters: socialism. And that’s the word Donnie invoked Monday as he warned students against “loser teachers…trying to sell you on socialism from birth.”

What a crock. First of all, I love it when people throw around the word as if it were synonymous with the word communism. It’s not. Social Security is a form of socialism. So is Medicare. So are public highways, garbage pickup, municipal sewer and water lines, police and fire protection.

Hell, the very idea of health and life insurance—and auto and fire insurance—is a form of socialism: it’s the idea of shared risk. Everyone pays a little into the pool so that those among us who have losses or health issues can benefit.

Trump proclaims to love the military, even though he dodged the draft with a stone bruise on his heel—and couldn’t remember which heel it was when asked a few years later. But that aside, military housing, military clothing and mess halls represent applied socialism in the purest sense of the word.

And for those who equate socialism with welfare, the most successful corporate citizens in this country are the beneficiaries of what we affectionately refer to as corporate welfare that dwarfs all the benefits received by all the low-income citizens of this country combined. The tax breaks, incentives, write-offs, and exemptions received by our fine corporate citizens are the epitome of classic socialism.

For that matter, the biggest advocate of socialism in history was a fellow named Jesus Christ. His ministry taught us to care for one another, to heal the sick and comfort the poor. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these brethren, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40).

But back to Donnie’s NONSENSE. “You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth,” he told Monday’s rally in El Paso.

Indoctrinated? Give me a flipping break, you little moron.

I’m 75 and well past my school years but I still remember the wonderful teachers I had at Ruston High School like it was yesterday: Coach Perkins, Coach Garrett, his wife, Mary Alice Garrett, Charlotte Lewis, Maggie Hinton, Mrs. Edmunds, Earvin Ryland, Morgan Peoples, Ruth Johnson, Oscar Barnes, Denman Garner, Moose Phillips.

Then, later at Louisiana Tech: Dr. C.C. Chadbourne, Dr. Phil Cook, Dr. Winters (the hardest professor I ever had, but one helluva teacher) and Morgan Peoples (again, after he moved up to Tech).

These people had a profound influence on me, a poor student who was taken under their wings and nurtured until I came out with first a diploma and then a degree, the first in my immediate family to do so.

There was another who, though I was never in his class, taught me a lesson with only five little words.

Registering for my first semester at Tech, I was directed to the desk of Dr. Tony Sachs, head of Tech’s English Department to sign up for my English course (under Dr. Chadbourne). “What’re you doing here?” he asked.

“I was told to come over here, so this is where I’m at,” I replied.

Signing my registration card without ever looking up, he corrected me: “This is where I am.”

Lesson learned. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition. I’ve never forgotten that brief exchange.

But the real lesson that Donnie (and Jindal) obviously are too dense to absorb is this:

  • Columbine High School, April 20, 1999: teacher Williams Sanders, 47, among those shot and killed.
  • Sandy Hook Elementary School, December 14, 2012: teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, shot and killed while covering the bodies of children to protect them; Victoria Leigh Soto, 27, shot and killed when she stood between shooter and children; Rachel D’Avino, 29; principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Lauren Rousseau, 30, and Mary Sherlach, 56, all shot and killed.
  • Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida, February 14, 2018: Scott Beigel, 35, shot dead while trying to get kids to safety inside his classroom; Aaron Feis, 37, shot dead when he threw himself in front of students to protect them, Chris Hixon, shot dead.

How’s that for being a loser, Donnie, you idiot child? Think you could ever muster the courage to be that brave? Ask Daddy, if he’s still nursing those stone bruises on his heel that kept him out of the military during Vietnam —if, that is, he can even remember which heel it was.

Here’s something to ponder: There are 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, and 1.7 million members of the American Federation of Teachers and another 1.7 million college teachers.

They all have family members—parents, siblings, children.

They vote.

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