Amidst a Catastrophic Budget Crisis Louisiana Legislators Vote to Fully Fund a Charter Boarding School Forever

Should Louisiana start funding private boarding schools amidst a catastrophic budget crisis?

The vast majority of the Louisiana Legislature, including most of our fiscal hawks, believe we should. The Senate voted unanimously to approve HB and the House only registered two nays in approving HB887.

This bill now sits on John Bel Edwards desk; ready for signing.

(I will explain why I recommend calling your Reps and Senators to register your displeasure with their actions and to urge them to ask John Bel to veto House Bill 887.)

I would like to assume most of our legislators did not understand the implications of what they were doing when they voted to approve HB887.  I would like to think no one was aware of the larger backstory surrounding this EBR Charter boarding school called THRIVE – but I’m not that naive. Still, I have trouble believing most of our legislators understood the financial implications and shady dealings this school has already engaged in with taxpayer dollars.  Our legislature might have been overwhelmed by the lengthy session and compelled by the embellished feel-good story Thrive’s website and supporters are peddling – that THRIVE was envisioned and founded after one of Sara Broome’s students was killed.  (It was actually a student that went to a school Sara used to to teach at, one she “never actually had sit down had in her classroom” according to her own slickly produced Ted-talk on her “success” with THRIVE. (look at 2:45) However I agree, the way THRIVE and their supporters currently represent it sounds more dramatic and is a more efficient and effective use of a child’s tragic stabbing.)

Now that the dust is settled it’s time to fix what the legislature broke, and not just because we’re broke but because it’s the right thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do for our already heavily levied taxpayers; for the destitute critically ill patients that will die; abandoned elderly with no family left alive to care for them; abused children we can’t afford to watch or rescue; and disabled children who will lose basic support and education services.  These are groups who were told by this legislature that they would have to do without because “our state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”  The story of HB887 indicates this may very well be true.

Amidst all the draconian cuts to services for some of our neediest citizens (and unaffordable though overdue raises for state workers) THRIVE was given a blank check to run a school usually only associated with the uber wealthy, a boarding school where parents can dump their kids off while taxpayers pay for their every need.

THRIVE started with 20 students in 2012. Their stated objective is reaching 350 in the near future and 420 by 2020. (THRIVE’s last publicly available count is 110 from October 2015)  Prior to HB887, this school was already granted 5 million by the legislature to procure buildings for this endeavor.

  • $1,000,000 through Act 15 of 2014 (general fund budget)
  • $4,000,000 through Act 26 of 2015 (capital outlay budget)

While it appears this money was intended to have been used to procure buildings for domiciling resident students, and save on rental costs, the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors of THRIVE Baton Rouge dated November 5, 2015 indicate that THRIVE Baton Rouge sold all of its property to THRIVE Foundation, a separate non-profit, for “fair market value.” The same minutes of the Board of Directors of THRIVE Baton Rouge indicate that it leased back the same property that it sold to THRIVE Foundation.

These types of arrangements are common for charter schools operators like Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies (which also operate charter schools around our state.) This allows an operator to extract assets purchased with tax payer dollars, that would normally revert to the school district or state, for themselves.  This is done to generate enormous profits from non-profit charter school situations, by charging rents and fees for administrative services through a separate but affiliated and wholly controlled agent – usually at rates far above market prices.  As the enrollment of the THRIVE charter school has grown, so has its rent.  This is rent it would not have had to pay if it retained control of the buildings it purchased with enormous taxpayer outlays.  This “rent” paid by THRIVE Charter School goes into the coffers of THRIVE Foundation – a non-profit corporation that does not have an agreement to return assets to the state or school district (which is in addition to other funding it receives from MFP and private donors.)  Not counting private funding or endowments, THRIVE’s current estimated per pupil ratio is around 24,000 per student per year, more than twice MFP (what every other school district receives per student which is estimated at 11,000 per year by the legislator auditor documenting the relative costs of this bill.)

However, if we divide the 5 million dollars this school received in Acts 15 and 26, by the number of students this school has served throughout its entire existence, we get approximately another twenty thousand per student cost footed by the state.  Before we even factor in any other grants THRIVE has received from government programs, private donors and philanthropies THRIVE’s cost per student was already thirty two thousand per year. Now, with the state picking up the remainder of the tab, forever, the cost rises to over 40,000 dollars per student, per year, compared to a $11,000 cost to a traditional school district (largely made up of local and federal dollars.)  These excess dollars are fully covered by the State General Fund.

Almost all of our legislators approved this arrangement in House Bill 887 although you unless you are a researcher and accountant you might not understand the large, long-term financial implications from a simple reading of this bill.  To get those types of details you need to look at the Legislative Auditor’s fiscal notes and do some pre-Common Core math.

The auditors expect this program to cost, at a minimum, 8.3 million a year at 350 students, or closer to 10 million dollars at the 420 students THRIVE has indicated they want to achieve by 2020 in their PR handout.  According to the fiscal note that accompanied HB887, this bill actually creates a brand new State agency, and it expects the costs associated with complying with state laws and benefits will take this price tag (to state taxpayers) even higher (and are incalculable at this time.)  So while some legislators were trying to generate revenue or implement tax cuts to address our out of control budget spending, Representative Steve Carter of Baton Rouge was creating a new State agency that adds a minimum of 10 million dollars annually to the state budget. A legislature tasked with reigning in the budget virtually unanimously approved this 10 million+ dollar annual spending idea and sent it to the the Governor’s desk to sign – where it sits now.

Maybe this is what you elected your state Senators and Representatives to do, but I would guess that the majority of you did not expect them to write a blank check to create a private boarding school funded by state taxpayer dollars for all of eternity; a school that has no limits on how large it can expand or how high the price tag can ultimately be; a price tag that will be anywhere from 2+ to 4 times the money we spend on general education students.  I would bet you didn’t intent for legislatures to write 5 million in checks to a private organization so it could hand the assets bought with those dollars over to another private organization which could then charge a new State agency ever increasing rent, as THRIVE has done. The 5 million dollar mistakes are in the past.  This 10 million dollar mistake is in a future we can still change if we act now.

While some parents were pleading and providing tearful testimony about some of the cuts slated for them and their children with disabilities, some legislators were already scheming to re-inflate the budget for years to come; to insure private boarding schools would be paid for out of state coffers for a select few at extravagant costs to these same taxpayers.

Legislators like Republican Senator Ronnie Johns from Lake Charles lied to these parents with statements like “We hear you clearly, and I can tell you, you are our priority,” while at the same time demonstrating this is clearly not the case with his vote to create state funded private boarding schools. It’s kind of ironic in a way actually. . . creating boarding schools for parents to ship their kids off to are a higher priority that helping parents care for their disabled children at home (instead of institutionalizing them which will also cost the state much more money in the long run than helping these parents care for their children at home.)

I’d like to think this is just a story about how good people can be misled to do bad or stupid things.  Perhaps this is just another example of how our budget expands out of control and no one understands why?  Without a doubt, this is clearly an example of misplaced priorities; but we can fix this.

Please contact your state legislators and ask them to ask John Bel Edwards to veto HB887.  You can call John Bel’s office as well, but it’s important our legislators be made to fully understand what they did here. Their understanding is very important so they can be on guard in the future and so they don’t try to override the Governor’s veto.  As you can see below, they clearly have the votes to do so and legislators need to be told by their constituents how they feel about this legislation.

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Sorry I’ve been away so long. . .

Sorry  I’ve been away so long. . .

I know some of you are wondering what corner of the earth I dropped off of (or took refuge in).  I’m equally sure there are plenty of people who are glad they don’t have to hear any more from me – and are probably hoping this is a permanent situation.  I hate to disappoint, but I’m still watching and observing – from a sane distance.

I noticed after the recent BESE and Governor’s elections that the anti-reform camps were devolving.  This seemed to be happening along party lines, and I wanted no part of that.  I worked hard to build a coalition of voices and I was sad to see it fracturing in the aftermath of John Bel Edward’s election and his subsequent BESE selections that left many in the crossover conservative/Republican/Libertarian/Independent/Anti-CC camps feeling betrayed and those in the Liberal, Democrat, pro-union, CC indifferent camps overly-aggressive and defensive. With my style of writing, and proclivity for writing passionately (maybe even a tad hot-headed), I felt it best to take some time off and simply observe interactions and outcomes and watch where people chose to align themselves.  I chose to disengage and cultivate my detachment. Being intensely involved with groups with objectives and their own points of view would have colored my opinions and hindered this process for me. Additionally, there was that whole 3 billion dollar budget deficit thing some of you might have heard of over the past few months.  I could see that was sucking all the air out of the room (as well it should have.)  That is/was a serious problem for our state with significant implications for k-12 and postsecondary education.

In this off time I have been working on some neglected aspects of my life that needed more attention than I was able to give while I was trying to run a political campaign and support a growing movement.  I still had a finite amount of time to do everything in my life, so some things just did not get done.  Without going into details, this caused a few personal problems I’ve had to clean up, and am still cleaning up.  I’m hoping a significant portion of that “cleanup” will be complete in the next month – which should free up some more time for me and other pursuits like blogging and activism because it seems like there are still many people without a voice or champion for their problems.

Yesterday some of the security folks and a receptionist at my office asked me a few questions about Common Core and the new LEAP tests.  They had seen my signs around town and seen me in suits over the past year and knew I had some knowledge of things in the education arena.  They have kids in public schools in various parishes so they have Common Core and PARCC tests too, and they hate them.  I don’t like to tell people my stand on those things until I hear their opinions.  (I try to gather opinions from folks without imparting my biases on them first.  I keep tabs on issues and how people from different backgrounds are feeling about different education policies.  Sometimes they have unique perspectives, and sometimes they tell me about new problems, benefits, or implications that are subtler and which I hadn’t heard about or considered before.  They asked me if it was true that Common Core was being replaced with something much better, like they had read in the newspaper.  They asked me about the new L.E.A.P. tests that the state was administering and if those would be an improvement from PARCC, or from whatever we had last year.  Sadly I had to tell them that those were simply name changes and that the content was likely to be 99% the same.

There’s still a lot of people that don’t really know what’s really going on.  I read about different aspects of the situation but I rarely see a cohesive whole discussed anywhere, or if I do it’s the slanted company line. I have seen some pretty good summaries on Michael Deshotels’ blog, http://www.louisianaeducator.blogspot.com (I strongly recommend it for keeping with the play by play education situation), but nothing in more traditional sources.

For instance, many people think Common Core is going away, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Common Core is more than a set of standards now. Now CC is an important part of the national Educational Industrial Complex.  Without something very drastic happening we are stuck with it and the silly garbage and explosive costs that go along with it.

Take for example this Common Core, Eureka Math worksheet below.

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This was one of the assignments given to my first grader from the only LDOE Tier One approved mathematics curriculum vendors (Eureka/Engage NY/Greatminds – they keep changing their name to outrun all the bad reviews on their product). It has complicated instructions I would imagine most first graders would have trouble understanding.  If they asked their parents about this worksheet (like mine did) they have no idea what these jargon laden strategies mean listed in the top right box (except for the helpful “I just knew”) answer.  What’s even more frustrating to both parents and children is that the examples are solved incorrectly.  The first one shows an equation of 13-6 = 4 and then provides work to back up the answer.  I tried several times to explain to my son that the first one was wrong, and to explain he was supposed to document this and show the correct answer, but he was confused by the whole process and examples and we both gave up after some frustrating back and forth.

I understand what the CC folks are trying to accomplish, but I don’t believe this is the right way to do it. . .  Unless their intent is to make math more frustrating and thereby dissuading future generations from going into fields heavy in mathematics. My son’s favorite subject used to be math, and instead of reading at night before bed he used to discuss mathematical concepts with me and try to practice doing problems in his head.  He especially liked discussing the concept of infinity.  We don’t do math anymore at bedtime – or any other time during the day.  His new favorite subject is reading.  On the one side that’s great, because he was lagging behind in his reading skills and needed to practice them more, but on the other, that seems like the exact opposite of what pro-CC folks are trying to accomplish.  However I guess I have them to thank my kids’ love of reading.  Unfortunately I have them to thank for their hatred of math as well.

Yes, both my kids hate math now.

My daughter is in third grade now and much of her math revolves around multiplication. Unfortunately Common Core did away with the memorization of multiplication tables and introduced putting hundreds of dots on pages to represent multiplication – through addition.  8 x 9 equals 8 rows of 9 dots instead of 72.  Fun, right?

Now try checking someone’s multiplication (or addition work) with those types of strategies using dots, or pictures like the ones shown above.  Or in this case, require kids to check problems using the strategies I’ve shown or discussed.  Watching paint dry is waaaaaay more interesting than that.  I do hear stories about kids that finally understand math the CC way, and love it.  I have to wonder though, are those the kids (like Olivia in the example above) that we really want designing the bridges, skyscrapers, and airplanes of the future?

This summer we will have to teach my daughter her multiplication tables, and probably cursive writing, ourselves.  Those are subjects that were removed by Common Core and not replaced by the revision committee.  Very little was changed by the revision committee.  The Louisiana committee that was created and assigned the task of reviewing Common Core standards and developing Louisiana standards from them was more than 90% composed of staunch Common Core supporters who simply wanted to provide the Louisiana seal of approval.  Of the few unbiased folks that were on the committee, many resigned in frustration, rather than continue to participate in a Kangaroo review committee created to solve political impasses, not curriculum flaws.

Eureka and Engage New York are not going away.  The tests used to evaluate students and teachers on how well student’s have mastered these “strategies” are not going away either.

President Eisenhower referred to a growing fascist flaw in our system of government he described as the military-industrial complex in his farewell address January 17, 1961. (It’s also sometimes called the military-industrial-congressional complex to be more precise in a US context.) The idea behind the MICC is a three-sided “Iron triangle” around which government policy is really determined outside of the influence of ordinary citizens. Industry provides money to political candidates, who in turn approve policies and spending that support and enrich industry. To provide industry and congress with cover a government funded bureaucracy is created and charged with “overseeing” and distributing the spending (this bureaucracy is led by political appointees who have the political goal of preventing others from interfering with this arrangement.)

Today we have an Educational Industrial Complex but unlike the military industrial one, it is not limited to Congress. In Louisiana this lobby invests in state representatives and senators, as well as State and local school board representatives. In many states, like Louisiana, the EIC has seized control of state departments of education and over the course of the last two presidential terms the EIC has entirely co-opted the US Department of Education.

No single election or committee can stop this perversion of government and industry, and their bastard children of, USED, Common Core, PARCC, Eureka, and Smarter Balanced. Until people start to understand just how deep and complex this problem is the EIC can’t be stopped, at best we can get a brief reprieve by diverting their flow of corruption.

 

 

 

John White Tells the Truth! Charter Schools are Not About Children or Choice, They are About Cashflow

In the past I would write posts about John White’s lies.  However his lies have become so commonplace (and obvious) that eventually the public stopped paying attention.  It was generally accepted that if John White’s lips were moving, he was lying.  (“White Lies” is how they are frequently referred to online.) However John White is living proof that it’s difficult to lie all the time. Invariably you are going to let some truth out to someone, somewhere. Because this happens so infrequently the times he tells the truth are perhaps the most interesting now.

Take for instance this clip I made from the December 1st 2015 BESE meeting where John White explains to the public why he has chosen to authorize charter schools in public school districts that don’t want them, with plenty of options, choices and under financial strain, but is refusing to authorize them in New Orleans, which is 100% charter controlled.

Louisiana State Superintendent John White:

“If you were running a traditional school system you would never open a new school when you have an enrollment deficit.  And here we have a charter system.  So on one hand you’re called to authorize charter schools.  On the other hand [RSD] superintendent Dobard and I must determine what the right enrollment balance is, just like a traditional system.

I will tell you this type 2 charter school, and I have told this to Dr. Triplett, cannot open this year.  It cannot open this year.

It may open in a year when the enrollment re-stabilizes and we have another need, but I have been very clear to them for this year, as a type 2 charter school because it would add to the number of seats when our kindergarten enrollment is down.

Now I think she has also applied for a type 5 charter school.  That type 5 charter school could take over for schools that are struggling. Uh. We are recommending its for approval as well.  And she could, uh, provide services within a currently existing school.  But a standalone new additional set of however many new kindergarten kids, 50 or 100 or so, I just do not see how we can do that and be fair to the school system.”

This is very interesting because it goes against every idea the charter industry pushes as the need for new charter schools.  This decision limits choice at a time where only about 30% of the kids get their first choice by the OneAp system that assigns kids to schools in the city.  Some kids must get up at 4 am and don’t return home till 7 at night, even when their first pick choice is directly across the street form their house! Unfortunately assignments are determined by a lottery system and an algorithm, not by common sense or rationality.

This decision of John White’s goes against the cornerstone idea of the charter industry’s claim to want to foster competition, where the best schools will rise to the top based on parental choices and the worst schools will be driven out of business if they don’t please their clients.  (Once charter schools are in place they want to harvest their automatic allotment of kids for their MFP dollars and their allies find excuses to make this happen.)

This goes against the idea of preserving and improving quality.  John White asked for extensions and renewals of numerous D and F rated charter schools in RSD before this statement (which many community members asked him to reject.)

This also goes against the philosophy John White applies to every other public school system in the state.  He is happy to drive traditional public schools into bankruptcy by overriding their decisions to open new charter schools, even as he clearly understands the ramifications of what he is doing:

If you were running a traditional school system you would never open a new school when you have an enrollment deficit.

He is not just overriding local superintendents opinions but the opinions and desires of the actual communities where these schools are being opened!

East Baton Rouge School Board member of district 3, Mrs. Nelson-Smith, the exact place where the 2 charter schools John White authorized at this meeting, explains that while the charter operators did meet with her and other members of the community, they failed to relay to the state school board, BESE, that “We did not approve them.” and that these new STEM charter schools are not needed in this area, which is already designated as the STEM hub for all of EBR and perhaps the worst place to open them in EBR.

 

 

Charter schools are clearly not about choice.  They are not about competition.  They are not about quality.  They are not about satisfying the desire or needs of the public.  They are clearly not about children.  They are about charter schools.

John White is one of the industries greatest charter school/portfolio advocates in the country and oversees the only complete charter district in the nation.  Now that they have replaced the traditional system they are digging their heels in even as interest in their “choices” wanes (the reason for the decline White refuses to acknowledge during this meeting).

Charter schools, as they are being implemented now, are about profitability and control. Now that they have the control they are working on the profitability part by hiring inexperienced employees, providing substandard materials, increasing class sizes while fudging results to keep official results “passable” if not overly impressive. If they were actually forced to fight for their students with quality personnel, materials, and results they would not be as profitable as their investors want them to be and some might even go out of business.

Charter schools are not competition, they are not capitalism, they are simply another example of government cronyism.  This is one time that I actually believe what John White is saying:

If you were running a traditional school system you would never open a new school when you have an enrollment deficit. And here we have a charter system. [..]

I will tell you this type 2 charter school, and I have told this to Dr. Triplett, cannot open this year. It cannot open this year. [..]

I just do not see how we can do that and be fair to the school system.

 

BESE President Chas Roemer Pulls a Bill Clinton

I was not able to attend the December 1st BESE meeting, but I have been able to review some of the footage.  Had I been elected to BESE this fall I might have had a chance to respond to some of the inane/insane comments nonchalantly being spewed from the mouths of raving idiots, like BESE President Chas Roemer, in person.  However billionaires from out of state were terrified of me speaking the truth in public.  They spent millions of dollars in this year’s elections to keep that from happening.

I’m flattered, but undeterred.  Even billionaires will run out of money eventually if they keep spending millions of dollars each month to shut me up, and they won’t be successful in the end, just poorer and most desperate seeming.

And, as it turns out, it might be more fun for me to simply quote the idiots they backed in these elections and have backed in previous ones.  As those billionaires are probably finding out across the country, the problem with buying fools like Roemer is, well, that they are fools.  Fools usually don’t know they are fools, but they do like to show it.

Unlike what Lane Grigsby did with his Empower PAC, and Stand For Children Louisiana did with theirs this year, I don’t have to splice or misrepresent video together to make my points.  I don’t have to lie or deceive people to agree with me or invent phone news broadcasts, all I have to do is show the truth and let people decide what and who to believe.

The charter school law in Louisiana was written to encourage the implementation of innovative new education concepts.   It is even written that way in the law.  Innovation is a vague term, but here’s what Webster’s says.

Simple Definition of innovation
: a new idea, device, or method
: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

Though vague it’s pretty straightforward.  By the very nature of innovation you can’t possibly define every innovation ahead of time, but you would probably know it when you see it or hear it.  I think we can all agree that what is clearly not innovative is something that is done a lot, currently, in the same place, already.

Superintendent of the East Baton Rouge school system, Warren Drake, explains to the BESE board one of the reasons EBR did not approve the charter applications for two charter schools, Laurel Oaks and APEX, is that they are clearly not innovative, as the law describes is the goal of bringing in charter schools.  Drake explains to the board that not only are they not innovative, but they have “many” schools in the system that do the exact same things these charter schools are proposing to do already. Drake pleads with the board not to override EBR’s decision and approve the two schools as it will put a strain on the system he just took over and they are clearly not the innovation the charter law singles out as the goal.  Drake also provides a pretty good definition of the word “innovation.”

 

BESE President Chas Roemer decided this was a good time to add his own two cents(that really sounded like nonsense.)  He argues about the definition of innovation and provides his own definition.  He explains that innovation isn’t just a better “mouse trap” but it’s the “attitude in the building”.  Roemer then proceeds to explain he doesn’t want to argue about the definition of innovation ( after already doing that.)  Chas also explains he’s not arguing, but he could if he had too, thus illustrating he doesn’t understand what the word argue means either.

 

Sadly, I think the word “irony” is not a word Roemer understands the definition too either but I bet it would be fun to hear what his definition might be.

Chas’ sister, Caroline Shirley Roemer, is also the executive director of the Louisiana Charter Association.  Her job is to get as many charter schools opened as quickly as possible.  I wonder if that might have influenced Chas Roemer’s quite liberal, one might even say innovative, definition of the word “innovation” too?

To me it sounds like Roemer has been watching too many videos of Bill Clinton waffling over the definition of the word “is”.

Examples like theseare why character and integrity are important in a politician.  Without those two qualities, pols can basically do what they want by creatively misinterpreting any laws that get in the way of their agendas.

“Stand For Children Louisiana” is an Evil and Malicious Corporate Front Group for Evil People and Organizations

I did not realize just how corrupt and connected the organization known as “Stand For Children Louisiana” was until I looked into some of their finances and their background.  I decided to do this after being told about this slanderous commercial attacking BESE member Carolyn Hill, on BESE member elect Jada Lewis’ behalf.  In case you didn’t see it, here it is:

Yes.

This is actually a campaign commercial (it’s hard to tell with all the flashing lights and rolling news feeds so I recorded it so you can pause the screen.)  This aired on a local channel, WBRZ.  You will note the call letters of the faux news broadcast are WBRD, so to a casual viewer it looks legit.  “Stand” even used the local background drop of our bridge across the Mississippi that our local news uses.  This commercial aired in the last week of the election and was responsible for tricking voters into thinking the police were after Carolyn Hill for numerous crimes.  The commercial even displays case numbers.

(Note:  I ran for BESE in the same market as Carolyn (EBR) but a different district and we are longtime friends and allies.  Carolyn was the first BESE member I met in the flesh after leaving LDOE when I attended a local community meeting on alternative forms of student discipline about 4 years ago.  She got me interested in trying to do more to help our children in this state and our community by her example.)

I know this commercial was effective because I had voters come to my Facebook page and tell me they wished they could vote for me for my stands on issues (which are basically the same as Hill’s) but all they could vote for was Lewis, or “the criminal” so they really had no good choice but certainly couldn’t keep a criminal in office.

This commercial is based on fictional information, at least about BESE member Carolyn Hill.  The case numbers are not legit (according to Hill’s staff who called all the DAs of all the neighboring Parishes they are only partial numbers or meaningless numbers and Hill has no outstanding warrants and never did.)  That’s not to say maybe some Carolyn Hill somewhere on earth might have some bench warrants, but there are over 100 Jason Frances in the US, here are the “top”25 Carolyn Hills just on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Carolyn/Hill

The other accusations are BS too.  BESE positions come with a laptop or iPad to communicate with the State e-Mail system securely.  Would you want BESE members communicating private student info outside of a secure system like Hillary Clinton or Ash Carter? The position requires travel all over the state and reimburses BESE members for travel and also provides a per diem.

This is how Stand chose to stand for children, by lying and deceiving people about a real champion of children in their community.

Of course this behavior wasn’t limited to Stand but this was one of the more egregious cases.  In addition to the primetime commercials Stand also spent tens of thousands of dollars on direct mail to people’s homes, warning them about Carolyn Hill.

But not only does this organization not “stand for children”, it doesn’t stand for the “Louisiana” part of its title either! 98% of their funding came from corporations, tax exempt entities including one funded by the Sierra club (seriously), and billionaires outside of our state. Several of these organizations probably broke federal laws and should lose their tax exempt status for contributing to a purely political organization that spent all their money on attack ads and propaganda.

I compiled a list of Stand’s donors and clients after their February registration filings.  I investigated each one and I will do this for every other organization that overran our state with their dirty blood money.

Stand Funding and Expenditures BESe

Stand actually split into 2 separate “Stand for Children Louisiana” groups this year.  Both are controlled by former LDOE (a deputy superintendent to John White and Chief of Staff for Vallas of RSD) and John White/Paul Vallas loyalist, Rayne Martin.  It’s not clear why they split into two groups, but I suspect they may have been planning of using their separate identities to bypass state limits on PAC donations.

stand21

I have included the data as an Excel spreadsheet for you to do your own calculations and roll-ups, but I will also post some summaries.  First let’s look at donors.  Only Stephen Rosenthal (Leslie Jacob’s brother, the RSD’s chief architect, and Gray Parker, President of the Booth-Bricker fund which is funded by all the out of state ed reform all stars, are from Louisiana) about 98% of this 781,000 dollars worth of funding comes straight from out of state (to produce slanderous attack ads on behalf of charter school vampires.)

summary stand donors

Action Now Initiative is actually a 501c4 organization, a Tax Exempt non-profit and basically big time charter school supporters, Laura and John Arnold’s,  front organization from Texas.  Here’s this groups 2013 Tax return.  Don’t you think it’s time this “advocacy organization” started paying taxes instead of paying for slanderous attack ads?

Jim Walton of Arkansas, one of the Walmart heirs, dropped 250 gs here. Jim and his sister Alice shit all over our elections again this year with their obscene wealth and callous disregard for children or choices other than charter schools. I bet charter school chains will be opening up in between those  Walmart McDonalds and a Walmart hair salons in the near future.  One step closer to WALL-E!

The Sixteen Thirty fund gave 250k and access to their mailing list and phone numbers.  They are another tax exempt 501c org based in DC with a progressive agenda.  The Sierra club is one of their primary funders. Their primary mission is stated as environmental.

In addition to saving spotted owls the Sixteen Thirty Funds also pays to produce slanderous commercials and promote charter schools. Despicable.

Stacy Schusterman gave 250k.  She is an Energy magnate from Oklahoma and co-chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman foundation, a Jewish based group with the dual mission of saving Israel and apparently lying about innocent people around the workd and persecuting them with lies for the sake of the education reform movement.  Nice. https://www.schusterman.org/

We believe that by investing in the education reform movement and its leaders, we can do our part to better prepare today’s learners to be tomorrow’s qualified workforce and engaged citizens.

Of course the National Stand organization backs lying about opponents “for the children”  and chipped in 50k for that cause.

Finally, what outrageous campaign of lies would be complete without at least one local Louisiana traitor, like Stephen Rosenthal, the brother to the Recovery School District “architect” Leslie Rosenthal Jacobs (Jacobs is currently  a member of governor elect John Bel Edwards k-12 education transition team. and has a Wikipedia page describing how awesome and important she is sourced with information from her own website, EducateNow!.

summary Stand Expenditures

Stand for Now actually spent at least 860 thousand (I didn’t get all the details from the Stand to Stand transactions so it was a bit more.)

MB Public Affairs is the California based “political vulnerability research” attack group that prepared the report on Carolyn Hill.  They are considered a beloved company. . . by Tobacco companies and Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs) producers hoping to prevent labeling of their products.  They research individual members of community organizations on these companies behalf’s to smear individual members and harass them into silence.  Jada Lewis ran as a Democrat against Democrat Carolyn Hill, but MB Public affairs is a well known republican attack dog.

The latest financial filings in California for the “No on 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme” reveal a $7,500 payment to the Sacramento-based political consulting firm MB Public Affairs. Here is how The Los Angeles Times described the firm last year: “MB Public Affairs is headed by Mark Bogetich, a garrulous operative known to his friends as ‘Bogey,’ who has helped a number of Republican candidates neutralize their opponents. In recent years, MB Public Affairs has worked for Altria, once known as the Phillip Morris Cos.” Bogetich has also been called “the go-to guy for [the Republican Party]” and “the only game in town.” The Los Angeles Times article explains how last year MB Public Affairs filed more than 50 Public Records Act requests to dig up dirt on a small but effective group called the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy

Almost every FlipBESE candidate in the last BESE election was described as a Trojan Democrat in Republican clothing.  It’s pretty clear Jada Lewis is nothing more than a plant of the Republican party running as a Democrat in a primarily Democratic district.  She fooled them, with MB Public Affairs help, and Stand for Children Louisiana’s lies and misrepresentations.  The groups primarily involved in Jada’s Lewis’ media campaign were Clay Young Enterprises LLC and Innovative Advertising LLC.  My guess is Clay Young produced the commercial based on their advertised specialty and portfolio.

Other BESE candidates supported by this Out of State front organization were:

  • Gary Jones
  • Holly Boffy
  • Tony Davis
  • Kira Orange-Jones
  • and local Orleans school board candidate John Brown.

These are bad people funded by bad people to do bad things to Louisiana and our children for the sake of money and power. Stand for Children Louisiana is the vehicle for making this all happen.  Do not trust or believe any of these people.

Update: 12/19

As Dr. Mercedes Schneider pointed out in her recent blog, Rayne Martin is no longer listed as “formally” affiliated with Stand. Rayne passed the reins to Carrie Griffin Monica midyear.  However once a reformer, always a reformer.  Rayne is still affiliated with the same circle of education do-badders and it is not uncommon for them to go to a private “consulting” company for a larger payoff with less public scrutiny.

 

John White’s final days or rabbit trick waiting to happen?

John White’s final days or rabbit trick waiting to happen?

Those who follow k-12 education in Louisiana closely know about state supt. John White and his illusionist tricks.  There have been several times over the last few years I expected John to hightail it out of here, only to see him double down on his egregious and dishonest behavior and come out stronger than before each crisis.  Amazing and mystifying, but he is a true magician.

In the last BESE (BESE is the State School Board responsible for hiring and firing the state superintendent) election John White’s out-of-state billionaire supporters (led by education crime syndicate boss and chairman of LABI, Lane Grigsby) poured millions into the race to save his lying ass from getting canned for all the atrocious, dishonest, and antagonistic behavior he’s exhibited over his entire tenure as State Sup and local Sup of the New Orleans Recovery School District.

White even received some national notoriety (and praise) for “standing up” to Governor Bobby Jindal over the issue of Common Core State Standards. While this dispute may have been staged for the benefit of Jindal’s National presidential ambitions from the outside it looked like Jindal was really giving White a hard time.

(Fighting something controversial is a good way to stay in the media – see Donald Trump’s entire campaign – but actually resolving issues has a way of removing that spotlight so I don’t believe Jindal actually wanted to resolve the Common Core issue.)

Jindal is now leaving office in disgrace, unable to become more than a sad footnote in this presidential race, unable to extricate the state from Common Core, leaving a mortgaged state in shambles with a budget held together by rusty screws and tattered, generic Scotch tape, and a gaping multi-billion dollar deficit for years to come for governor elect John Bel Edwards.

Whatever the truth, Jindal looks like Tweedle-dum, and White looks like the Cheshire cat that ate that rat.  John White has the effect on people.

John White’s fortunes may be looking up.  Grigsby and his corporate education cabal managed to snare 7 of 8 elected BESE seats through lies, trickery, false promises and outrageous SuperPAC spending.  4 very vocal critics of White will be gone from BESE by the January meeting and he will have 7 solidly purchased allies in his pocket (and in the pocket of the charter industry who purchased their seats.)

John White was obviously feeling his oats at the December 1st BESE meeting where he routinely interrupted and spoke rudely and condescendingly to the outgoing members and only provided materials to members to review on the day of the meeting, prompting at least one citizen to publicly chastise the board for their lack of decorum and preparation.  White was even rude and combative to citizens providing testimony at the meeting.

(As usual, every one of John White’s recommendations was rubber-stamped by his accomplices on the board.)

Not exactly the actions of someone who feels they may be at the end of their rope.

Governor elect Edwards will appoint 3 members, and the 8th elected official, Kathy Edmonston, is an ally of mine, an NPE endorsed candidate, and a staunch opponent of all things John White, and John White himself.

 (As an interesting note, I learned John White and outgoing BESE district 6  representative Chas Roemer audaciously tried to butter Edmonston up right after the election, but she was having none of that foolishness.  After their allies manipulated video of Kathy to  accuse her of being an idiot who wants an illiterate America I predict it’s unlikely she will be coming around to their side anytime soon.)

As Dr. Mercedes Schneider discovered and covered in her blog, John White’s contract ends with the new terms of BESE and the Governor. It also requires 8 votes to approve a contract.  Governor elect John Bel Edwards has consistently insisted he wants John White gone, and will do anything in his power to see that happen.

I do not believe John White can stay as Superintendent of Education while I am Governor. And to the extent that I can control that, that will not happen. Because I do not find him to be honest and credible when he deals with the legislature and other members of the public in Louisiana.
I know, for example, from some of his dealings with me, and some of the things he has said about me.
We know he went into a Senate Education Committee meeting with the intended purpose of muddying the water as opposed to telling the truth. He did it to promote a bill that was patently unconstitutional, that he had to have known was unconstitutional: funding vouchers through the Minimum Foundation Program. That is a problem for me.

(From where I stand there is no way John White can reach the 8 vote threshold on an 11 member board.  Other LDOE personnel under contract immediately cease to work there when their contract expires.  I would have expected the same to happen here although it sounds like White will remain as a month to month employee under the terms of his original contract per Dr. Schneider’s blog.)

Moreover I have been assured by another longtime source that not all of Grigsby/LABI’s backed 7 approve of John White and will vote to keep him.  If that is true White is sitting at 6 or fewer votes of the required 8 he needs to keep his job.

(I have discussed working with the new administration to target those staffers loyal John White’s lies and not to Louisiana’s children with members of John Bel’s campaign prior to the election.  I hope they end up in a position to take me up on that offer.)

However another longtime source has revealed John White is claiming to his staff that he has the required 8 votes he needs.

OH- JW has told some staffers that he has 8 votes (that would mean Edmiston is in his pocket) AND – he will remain as superintendent.This may simply be another of John White’s lies meant to keep his staff from staging a mass exodus.

I disagree that White has Edmonston in his pocket, however White is a wiley bastard and his allies have deep pockets and no fear of employing lies or deceit to get what they want. Another possibility is that Edwards has offered BESE positions already to some folks who are planning on betraying him and his wishes on keeping John White.

I have not been contacted by the transitional Edwards administration despite offering my services on multiple occasions, although some 53 others have been contacted and appointed to a k-12 advisory committee. One of the members of this advisory committee is a former BESE member,  a well connected and wealthy New Orleans Democrat, claims to be the RSD architect, and is a staunch John White supporter named Leslie Jacobs.

This is a concern for me and I would hope her role remains limited as she is a proponent of everything John Bel has claimed he is against.

Obviously this is making me a little nervous as the time approaches for Edwards to take office and make his appointments.  I chose to back Edwards in the last election in large part for his history and stances on education issues and don’t wish to have to turn that support to withering scrutiny so early in his term, but I haven’t fought this long just to see a new administration support the same bad people and terrible ideas.

I have a much longer history keeping an eye on White than just about anyone in this state and I know he’s slicker than WD40 smeared on an icy lake.  The Edwards administration doesn’t have to contact me of course.  (Who am I to them after all?) However I don’t see many of my allies on his list of 53 nor have many of my allies who have exposed White’s corruption been contacted.   I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but to make sure they are equipped with enough info to pry White out of his dank DOE hole.  They don’t have to contact me, but they damn well better be successful in getting rid of him if they don’t.

I would like to offer a word of caution to Edwards’ transition team since they appear disinclined to contact me at this time.  White is covering for a lot of demons and hiding a lot of skeletons at LDOE. Don’t expect his allies to give him up without a fight or for him to go quietly.  Don’t squander this opportunity for real change and transparency.  If you let him stay he will stab you in the ass, just like he did to Jindal, and he’ll enjoy it immensely.  K-12 education may not be your top priority compared to the budget crisis and planned Medicare expansion, but it may be your downfall if you’re not careful.

White always seems to have just the right rabbit to pull out of his hat at just the right moment.

Fortunately I still a few tricks left up my sleeves as well. . .

 

JW_Rabbit
Beat that, Copperfield.

Education Reform in Louisiana: A PAC of Lies and Liars.

Education Reform in Louisiana: A PAC of Lies and Liars.

It’s been a few weeks since the final BESE elections wrapped up in Louisiana.

(BESE is Louisiana’s elected state school board. The board as 8 elected positions and 3 appointed by the Governor and is responsible for setting policy for all public schools, private schools, charter schools and homeschool programs in the state as well as defining the MFP, a funding formula for public schools. A BESE position does not come with a salary but does provide a small stipend and a laptop or iPad to communicate with the state e-mail system using the state assigned e-mail address.

BESE meets every other month for 2 days for regularly scheduled meetings and as needed for emergency agenda items. It’s not a glamorous job, no salary, no staff, a lot of filing/qualifying requirements and red tape, and a lot of public scrutiny – but that hasn’t prevented it from becoming the most contentious and expensive position in the state, second only to the Governor’s position in Louisiana.)

The 2015 elections were something of a watershed moment for Louisiana. It was the first year BESE board candidates opposing destructive Education Reform were able to unify across parties, geography (and any other line you can think of) and work to fight against the lies and money of the Ed Reform machine.  Education Reform is sold on the backs of lies about “success”, lies about goals of opponents, and through the perpetuation of firmly discredited myths.

This year, however, the lies and dishonesty were of absurd, even epic proportions; even for politicians; even for politicians from Louisiana!

The Ed Reform movement didn’t just lie, they built a campaign machine that ran on the exact diametric opposite of reality.

I will show several examples of how this looks and what it means in the next few posts on this subject. Fortunately I was able to document some of these lies to call people out over the years that follow, and for you, the public, to hold them to their pledges (or admit they were lying POS.)

Here is a commercial Lane Grigsby’s Empower PAC ran against one of the FlipBESE candidates I supported in the 2015 elections.  This was run against a veteran of the Ascension Parish school system who works with children with disabilities, and their families, named Kathy Edmonston.

When I talked to Kathy about this commercial she was quite upset. The extras they use in this video make her out to be an idiot as did the hundreds of thousands of dollars in mailers sent out by local education reform mobster, Empower PAC founder and LABI chairman, Lane Grigsby.  This was just one piece of a out of state billionaire funded coordinated campaign to take part of statement she said during and interview completely out of context and claim she did not believe children should be taught to read or perform math until the third grade.

I suppose the depression era black and white photo of gloomy kids is supposed to represent outdated thinking?  I’m not really sure that was a belief back then, but they get points for using some ridiculous over-the-top scare tactics.  (FYI, Ascension Parish is one of our top rated school districts in the state by the ed reformers own grading scale, so I’m pretty sure they must be doing something right.)

Kathy provided the video where Empower and Grigsby chose to libel and slander her education stands from a Frances and Friends broadcast.

(Frances and Friends is a Christian television show on the SonLife network.  Bearing false witness against a Christian television show?  It doesn’t get much classier than that.)

If you listen to the clip, Kathy Edmonston actually says the complete opposite of Grigsby and his Empower PAC (funded by Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jim and Alice Walton) are claiming. She says it essential that kids learn to read and write before third grade and that most of our early efforts should go towards ensuring that goal.  Her observation and critique was that, under Common Core, many kids are getting to third grade unable to read or do simple math.

Selling the exact opposite of the truth: Education Reform’s specialty.

The Education Reform movement is a group of PACs and corporately funded puppet organizations that sell lies to the public.  They lie about their “successes”; they lie about their failures; they lie to create faux failures for others; they lie to support their agenda and attack their detractors to prevent any adult conversations or real critical analysis of their claims from happening.

When I met with Grigsby earlier this year to try and discuss his views and our differences candidly he told me that he doesn’t believe in Democracy because politicians can get entrenched and corrupted as he believes happened in New Orleans.  Lane explained to me that all that really matters these days is who has the most money and who can tell the most convincing lie.

I believe he proved that to be true for the most part in this election cycle.  That may be the most honest thing he’s said to anyone about politics and his worldview in a while. Grigsby and his allies poured more than 4 million dollars worth of lies into this year’s BESE races and won 7 out of the 8 elected seats that prior to the charter school movement were won for less than 10k.

This money is flowing here from supporters, and investors, of/in the charter school industry.  Whether you are a charter supporter or not, it is clear that money from the charter industry has drowned out any voices but their own.  Combine that fact with the compulsive and absurd lying, like that shown here, and you can see why all forms of education (not just public) are really facing a crisis these days. The Education Reform movement has created a real crisis with their policies to replace the faux crisis they sold their new policies on in the first place.

I’m not sure if that is irony, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe just good business?

What I do know is that Education Reform responsible for teaching our kids all the wrong things, both in school, and outside of school by their example.

Unfortunately it’s not just children who are being taught very destructive things.  We are also teaching adults to disrespect Democracy and to defecate on truth as well.