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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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Apparently, if you are drowning, lifeguards are under no obligation to protect you from harm.

If a maniac is careening down the interstate, weaving in and out of traffic at breakneck speeds, state police are not required to protect other motorists.

If that same maniac causes an accident in which you are gravely injured, first responders have no duty to try and save your life.

If someone is breaking into your home, don’t bother calling 911; they don’t have to come to your aid. Not their job.

The fire department is no longer duty-bound to respond when your home is consumed in flames.

If you witness child abuse, don’t bother calling Child Services. They have paperwork to do.

Teachers are under no requirement to teach our kids.

Why bother the rape crisis hotline? You were probably dressed provocatively anyway and brought it on yourself.

The Hippocratic Oath is out the window for physicians.

The rules of the game have apparently changed. Police departments exist now to promote fundraising projects for benefits and pensions.

Sheriffs’ departments are only for awarding political allies with jobs as deputies.

Social welfare agencies exist only to allow employees to qualify for retirement.

Extreme? Of course.

Fantasy? Not necessarily.

Not if the ruling by a federal judge in Florida is any indication of the future.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom has dismissed a lawsuit by 15 students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who somehow had the audacity to expect that school officials and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had a duty to protect them from a mass murderer.

Read the full story HERE.

In an incredible reach, Judge Bloom said that Broward schools and the sheriff’s office had no legal duty to protect students during the attack in which Nikolas Cruz killed 17 and wounded another 17 on Feb. 14, 2018.

She said the two agencies had no constitutional duty to protect students who were not in custody.

As outrageous as her decision is, one of our readers informs us she was merely complying with established U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The first, titled TOWN of CASTLE ROCK v. GONZALES, said a police department could not be sued for failure to enforce a restraining order after the estranged husband of a woman killed their three children. The other, DeSHANEY v. WINNEBAGO COUNTY, said that a state government agency’s failure to prevent child abuse by a custodial parent does not violate the child’s right to liberty for the purposes of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Next, there will be no responsibility on the part of federal agencies to protect us from tainted meat, workplace dangers, environmental threats, consumer fraud, employer harassment, racial discrimination, bogus universities, or payday loan abuses.

Oh, wait. Strike that last paragraph. We’re already there.

As our late friend C.B. Forgotston would have said: you can’t make this stuff up.

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