In Louisiana Convicted Murderers Have More Civil Rights Than School Children with Disabilities

In Louisiana Convicted Murderers Have More Civil Rights Than School Children with Disabilities

When I saw this video and story recently it reminded me why I became an education activist 4 years ago and also why I have become a Libertarian more recently. We have allowed our government to become our punisher instead of our protector. The Louisiana government has given itself the right to treat your children worse than it treats convicted murderers.  People need to realize it’s our job to reign in our government, not the other way around.

In Georgia a woman was told she must grant the school district the right to “paddle” her 5 year old son or she would go to jail if they had to suspend him. He had missed 18 days of school for various dignostic tests for cancer. At least 19 States, including Louisiana, allow corporal punishment in schools. Louisiana is one of the only states, if not the only state, that grants school districts the right to strike children of all ages and any disabilities with a wooden paddle, but without parental consent (and even against parental wishes.)

Using physical punishement against adults is considered cruel and unusual punishment by the US Supreme Court, and torture by the Geneva Convention (and most of the civilized world for that matter) however the same punishment when used against children, especially those with disabilities, is considered not only legal but necessary by many in our state – including many legislators and judges. Without getting into the argument as to whether it’s okay for you to spank your own kids or not (or for whatever reason varous public or private school officials decide) consider that what is meant by Corporal Punishment in Louisiana schools is a 2 foot long wooden paddle that is used on kindergarteners and highschoolers alike. According to data I reviewed while I worked at the Louisiana department of Education, some children in our state have been paddled more than a dozen times a year for very minor infractions.

As a parent, if you spank your kids and cause them harm you could face criminal charges if they are seriously hurt or injured. However as a result of our legislature’s actions, strangers, school employees, cannot be held accountable in most cases, despite many children ending up emergency rooms each year as a result of school sponsored paddling. As a parent, you might be angry with your child, but you understand your own children’s limits, and hopefully love them even if you are mad at them or feel they need some form of physical discipline. School employees that paddle children have no such constraints or equivalent emotional bonding with the children they paddle.

Years ago the state legislature passed a law that corporal punishment is allowed in our state, at a school district’s discretion, not a parent’s. Parents do not have a right to refuse on behalf of their children. In an opinion written by Judge Scofield in 2004 for our Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the Setlif versus Rapides Parish School Board

To allow parents to unilaterally thwart the legally sanctioned decisions of school officials, could lead to troublesome, if not chaotic, results. There would be nothing to prevent ten, twenty or a hundred parents calling in to request that their child not be spanked. What if these same number of parents requested that no form of punishment whatsoever be administered to their children? The legislature, in its wisdom, chose not to leave the door open for such potentially dire consequences.

Scofield conjures up a ridiculous scenario where all forms of punishment are abolished if parents are allowed to request their kids not be beaten by the state to defend his decision to legalize the rights of schools to use discipline methods that are considered too inhumane to be used against animals by the SPCA, and quite harmful psychologically and physically to use against children by the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. Moreover, our Supreme Court has deemed corporal punishemnt to be cruel and unusual and has banned the practice agaisnt even the most hardened criminals in our prisons. Even prisoners being put to death by the state via lethal injections are protected by our Constitution from unnecessary pain or suffering while their executions are carried out. Yet our children can be beaten until they are hospitalized and school employees are protected from prosecution by the laws enacted by our legislature and rationalized by our courts.

Scofield further defends his decision in the Setlif V Rapides corporal punishment appeal by making the case that violating the basic civil and human rights of anyone in a minority can be justified so long as you have a subjective goal seeking the “best acadmic atmosphere achievable” for the majority, as deemed by government officials, who also get to define what “order” they are trying to preserve and who the “miscreants” are that need the punishing.  By this definition, anyone who disagrees with a government defined “order” is a miscreant and can be stripped of their Constitutional protections.

The rationale of the legislature and the school board in allowing corporal punishment is based squarely upon the goal to preserve for the majority of students and teachers the best academic atmosphere achievable, even at the expense of swatting the behinds of those few miscreants who choose to disrupt the order.

That corporal punishement is necessary to maintain government defined “order” in our society, and without it the world would descend into chaos, is a warped idea that ignores the fact that the vast majority of civilized and orderly places do not use corporal punishment and that for the most part the only places that do are actually the least advanced and most chaotic. Scofield’s “logic” defends this practice by saying that the basic civil rights of minorities are irrelvant when considering the welfare of the majority, even if the objective is not to defend life or property, but just to improve the “academic atmosphere” a little. Furthermore judge Scofield argues that without the ability of public schools to use paddles on all children (including those with disabilities) whenever they wanted to, and regardless of parental wishes, (in the pursuit of “order”) schools would be uncontrollable. Most states in the United States do not permit Corporal Punishment on children, nor do most Western countries permit it on anyone. If this statement had any vestiage of accuracy we would see Corporal Punishment use increasing in the United States and across the “civilized” world. Contrary to the bizarre and unsubstantiated “belief” expressed by Scofield, the more rural or isolated the area the more likely this discipline method is used – probably because no significant media is around to report on it. Even the NFL, not known for the gentleness of its athletes, took a firm stand against corporal punishement when it suspended Adrian Petersen for a year after he injured his own son during a discipline session involving a “switch”.

The Louisiana Department of Education was instructed by the Louisiana Legislature to start collecting Corporal Punishment statistics in 2010. For years I have requested the details of that information numerous times in public information requests that copied the State Superintendent of Education, John White. To date, none of my requests have been filled. I know the state collected this data because I was the one who designed the system to collect it, and the one responsible for collecting it through 2012, when I left the Louisiana Department of Education.

I believe simply analyzing and reporting this data will lead to Louisiana in the direction of more rights for parents and children, and fewer opportunnities for citizens to be legally abused by their government.

Last year Superintendent John White testified numerous times against a charter school in Lafayette that did not propose using corporal punishment in the charter submitted to the state. However the founders of the charter, Kingdom Collegiate Academy of Excellence, had appeared on a reality show called America’s Supernanny spanking their own kids. This outraged John White (publicly). Even though John White had sponsored this charter operator with state funds, JW declared he was not comfortable having these folks in charge of a charter school in his state because of their actions on the show

If John White is really this fervently opposed to Corporal Punishment, why then have I been repeatedly met with illegal refusals to provide information collected by the Louisiana Department of Education, that was also supposed to be reported to the legislature annually?

I discussed my earlier attempts to get this information out with some insiders who wrote White’s stonewalling off as politics. The majority of the State that still permits and freely uses and promotes corporal punishment is in the northern part of the state, which was Bobby Jindal’s stronghold of support. (Parishes shown in green ban corporal punishment, districts in red allow it.)

from page 16 of CP study by Quentina Timoll
from page 16 of CP study by Quentina Timoll

Bobby Jindal and John White largely supported and protected each other until the end of Jindal’s second term so that reasoning might have been marginally plausible once.  I doubt John White relayed my request to Jindal though. If John White really cared about the use of corporal punishment why wouldn’t he have followed through with the push by former Superintendent Paul Pastorek and interim Superintendent Ollie Tyler to collect and disseminate this information to the public, as they were directed to do by Louisiana House Resolution 167?  Why withhold this information from me for 4 years?

I was told Pastorek’s hope was that publicizing this was a first step towards putting pressure on school districts to put a stop to it. However, if politics did play a role, we now have a new governor named John Bel Edwards in the Governor’s mansion with support in the more southern and metropolitan areas of the state and teacher’s unions.  I wonder if things will be any different with a Democrat versus a Republican? I’d like to think these policies would run contrary to the beliefs of the teacher’s unions and I hope that Edwards and his team will make some moves to put a stop to the practice.  I would think even LABI and Stand for Children Louisiana would get behind an effort to put an end to a practice that has been shown to lower IQs and other test scores, increase violent crime, cause depression and psychological trauma, reduce earning potential – and which has not even been shown to actually prevent future discipline incidents, merely make the future ones more likely to be violent.

I wonder if anyone has told John Bel Edwards that close to 1/4th of all students corporally punished in Louisiana have one or more disabilities and are classified as Special Education students according to the latest data I have available from the 2011-2012 school year through the Office of Civil Rights Office of Civil Rights?

Student’s classified as Special Education under IDEA make up around 10-11% of the public school population.  For those of you who are parents of a Special Education student let me break down what that means.  Your child is more than twice as likely to be corporally punished as a child without disabilities.  Are children with disabilities twice as disruptive as students in regular education?  Perhaps some children with some exceptionalities are more disruptive due to their exceptionality, like children with some forms of autism or severe emotional disturbance.

Perhaps hitting these types of children with wooden boards will “fix” their behavior problems? I kind of doubt it though.  I also wonder how many of these meted corporal punishments are not evidence of misbehavior, but frustration on the part of the teacher or the student?

Qualified and experienced Special Education teachers are often the hardest spots to fill, especially in rural districts.  When communication with words breaks down, maybe the best way to resolve situations involving children with disabilities is a two foot long wooden board and some pain? Not all of these children may understand why they are being punished, or be able to control their actions consistently due to their disability, but many animal trainers believe fear and pain works well for training animals to obey, so why not kids the theory goes.  Without properly trained professionals to handle the myriad conditions our students come to school with, maybe the best our school districts can do is to use pain to train obedience in the kids that are too hard to work with?  The evidence seems to support that hypothsis if we look at this situation in the best light.  Other conclusions we might draw are that students with disabilities are just more innately “bad”, and thus need more paddling, or that students with disabilities are easy targets and/or administrators administering corporal punishment derive some form of deviant satisfaction or pleasure from spanking children with disabilities.   I can’t really think of any non-depressing reasons this is true.  Can you?

We can ask them though.  LDOE also collects the names of the folks performing each paddling session.  Punishing that list might put a stop to the practice too.

Fortunately my earlier expose’s on this subject tipped off other researchers like Dr. Richard Fossey about the existence of LDOE’s corporal punishment data.  I spoke with Dr. Fossey at a few public venues and engaged him in e-mail correspondence for a while. He told me he was working on a project with LDOE through some of his graduate students who were given access to some of this data. I was careful not to rock the boat while this project took place, although I admit I eventually lost track of it, until now. <== Study Link

For the most part this thesis is a good resource on the history of Corporal Punishment in the United States and Louisiana, and includes some fascinating details about various court cases across the United States and where things stand now. I commend Quentina Timoll on producing this great reference source. I would caution readers to consider the actual numbers suspect as:

  • the author notes the figures provided by LDOE are as much as 30% lower than what the school districts reported to the federal government directly
  • pages 61 and 62 appear to have significant addition and subtraction errors
  • the “percentages” on pages 63 and 64 and throughout the paper are off by a factor of 100 (unless it is customary to show percentages as decimals but still label them as percentages in tables.)
  • some parishes are left off both the lists that permit corporal punishment and the lists that allow (like Red River)  They did not report any data and LDOE apparently did not enforce compliance.
  • the study lumps districts that permit corporal punishment (but rarely do it) in with districts with excessively high rates (but small populations).  I believe this leads the author to draw incorrect generalizations about the whole
  • and perhaps most importantly, because I had access to the preliminary data before I left LDOE.

When the project to collect this data first started at LDOE I somehow found myself in charge of it. I reviewed the preliminary data which was not tied to SIS, the Student Information System, but was instead tied to lists of forms collected for each instance of corporal punishment which were tied to incident checklists our folks in charge of discipline data required the school districts to complete and retain on file. The data I reviewed showed some districts disciplined upwards of 40% of their student body with wooden paddles, and numerous students were “disiciplined” this way more than 12 times over a six month period. At first I thought I was being given duplicate records.  I verified that some were.  However for the most part the records I reviewed had different action dates and different reason codes. I had a few records with identical dates – indicating a student corporally punished more than once on the same day – which were confirmed by school district data coordinators.

This preliminary data shocked me of course. I asked school districts to confirm my results and much to my surprise they were largely confirmed. Paul Pastorek was asked to resign by Bobby Jindal to make room for John White not long after my results started coming in.  I had plans to publish this information on our department website once a full year’s worth of numbers came in.  However John White came during the first full school year we started collecting this data through SIS.

After White’s arrival we were informed his intent, which was realized not long after his arrival, was to drive off all data coordinators and shut down the department I was associated with. I left not long after his arrival.  White and his minions successfully drove off or fired every one of my immediate co-workers within the first year.  That led to a great loss of institutional knowledge about what LDOE collected and how to go about validating it. The belief relayed to me by one of his appointed overseers (just before I escaped the slaughter) was that the Department needed to “get out of the business of validating data and holding school districts hands”. School districts needed to “submit the data correctly the first time or live with the consequences.” While this may sound good at first blush, it’s all of Louisiana that has to live with the consequences of bad data in the form of:

  • wasted funding for students that are not really present or improperly classified
  • invalid rankings of schools
  • teachers effectiveness calculations (ie VAM)
  • inflated graduation rates

Ultimately all this bad data leads to bad statistics which leads to incorrect conclusions and usually harmful and destructive actions.

Currently a majority of the 70 Louisiana City/Parish school school systems authorize the use of corporal punishment and only 16 (including the Special School District) ban the use of it.

School districts that reported using this the most from 2011 – 2014 with rates ranging from 5 – 10 % are: Caldwell, Franklin, Morehouse, Richland, and Sabine. Explained another way, your regular education child has a 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 chance of being paddled one or more times each year in these school districts (1 in 5 if your child is identified as a Special Education Student) – so your child is probably not graduating without a few licks during their K-12 education experience.

 

Jindal’s Meddling in DHH Caused Our Budget Crisis

I’ve been seeing numerous vitriolic statements from various folks recently assigning blame to each other over Louisiana’s budget crisis.  For those of you who don’t know, Louisiana is short approximately one billion dollars of general funding revenue. We have to make that deficit up over the next 4 months or we will start defaulting on our financial obligations.  Next fiscal year, starting July 1st, we are looking at a 2 billion dollar deficit.

Our entire general fund is roughly 9 billion dollars.  One outspoken critic, who has little room to talk, is our State Treasurer, John Kennedy.  Kennedy should have been warning us before things got as bad as they are.  Kennedy has been issuing numerous proposals to fix the current crisis, however many of the proposals from our Treasurer are based on misappropriating federal funds – like those allocated to welfare and food stamp recipients by the federal government, or involve inconsequential amounts that will take years of investigations to realize.

The idea that “we should take care of our children before we take care of able bodied, childless adults” is a great philosophy and hard to argue with from an ethical standpoint. It also makes great talking points for Kennedy’s recently announced Senate campaign. However it’s an unworkable solution in that the money is not fungible (that money came with strings attached and it can’t simply be re-appropriated and used for any other purpose -any decent treasurer would know this) and because the funds involved are, relatively speaking, insignificant compared to the size of the deficit.

So while our revenues may be less than we budgeted for, we have no shortage of grandstanding around unworkable solutions for political points.

I’ve heard some folks blame our situation on “global markets” that are “outside our control” and the decimation of oil in the commodities market, but that didn’t create the problem.  Our revenue estimating folks were way off in their estimates and assumptions. Their estimates were pushed through by Team Jindal to make his budget “balance”.  While that didn’t help, that’s also not the root cause for our current problem. 

The collapse in oil is terrible for us and it’s why our economy is falling into what will be a deep recession for many years to come, but we had an unsustainable situation even before that.  However, this collapse is just one more reason I think we should implement real permanent cuts to government rather than raising the sales tax to the highest in the nation – taxing the poorest people in the poorest state to turn around and provide benefits for them seems like a really horribly inefficient idea to me.

Still, what I haven’t heard is anyone identifying the true root cause of this fiasco. Complaining about something “outside our control” is a weak excuse.  We have known for decades that oil prices are outside our control.  This shouldn’t be something we just figured out last month.  If our government was a good steward of our state and tax dollars then it should have planned for the inevitable crash.

Unless Louisiana diversifies out of the oil and gas sector our fate as a state will always be tied to the booms and busts of the energy sector. We should to be stockpiling funds during the boom years to wait out the lean years – without having to resort to new taxes during recessions – when Louisiana can least afford it.  However, because of the ephemeral nature of politics and politicians, that will probably never happen.  Still, I’d like to make a point about what I’d like to see happen over the next four years.

The resources the oil and gas industry are extracting from public lands belong to the people of Louisiana. The people should be getting a better share of that revenue, at least during boom times, to keep taxes as low as possible.  Much of our government is controlled by the oil and gas industry, so we are basically at their mercy unless people start to stand up to them, but that’s another set of issues entirely.

I would also like to see us address the whole issue of 80+ year corruption scandal whereby former Governor Huey Long’s descendants continue to reap financial benefits from public property. That won’t fix the current year’s budget problem, but we have spent hundreds of millions over the years on the basis of what is most likely an illegal contract. It would be a nice start to show our government is ready to finally be good stewards of our lands and tax dollars by ending this boondoggle.

However I admit these are distractions from the root issue as well.

I decided to start looking at the problem as if I was making the decisions.  Initially I started looking at small agencies to nickel and dime some money from to equal a billion dollars but the budget figures are present as annual amounts. To actually address the problem we would have to cut 3 times that amount with only 4 months remaining in the fiscal year.

For instance if an agency was budgeted 1 billion dollars for the year, you would have to eliminate their budget for the remaining third of a year to save just 333 million dollars, only about a third of what we need to recover. To put this problem in perspective, the state’s portion of MFP is about 3 billion dollars. To fix this problem with just cuts you would need to stop all payments to all schools in the state starting March 1st until the end of June (assuming the situation doesn’t continue to get worse.)  Bankrupting every school district in the state is probably a bad idea as well.

As part of my own research I also looked at the feasibility of furloughing employees as an option.  I know people like to suggest this every year we have serious budget shortfalls.  Unfortunately the entire payroll for the state is 3.2 billion dollars.  With a billion dollar deficit and only one third of year to make it up, we would have to furlough, fire, or lay off just about every single employee.  About half of the employees are state college employees so that would mean immediately closing every single public university in the state – and probably result in looters carrying off whatever they wanted since we wouldn’t even be able to pay for state police or even security guards to oversee the campuses.  Since many of these positions are actually federally funded that would get us in a whole lot of legal trouble as well. So the solution can’t even be solved by sending state employee home for the next 4 months without any pay.

Things are really that serious, but how did we really get here?

Many people have blamed this year’s budget for the problem.  I still don’t understand what Jindal and the Legislature did this year to pretend to balance the budget while appeasing Grover Norquistand his tax pledge slaves, and I have a degree in Accounting.  Generally speaking you want financial transactions and budgets to be transparent.  The more financial wizardry you employ to make the numbers work, the more likely your spells will backfire and end up cursing you.  That’s why a lot of banks, financial institutions, and even countries (Merril Lynch, AIG, GM, Citibank, Lehman Brothers, Ireland) went bankrupt or had to sell off their assets in fire sales to kick off the Great Recession.

To add to the complexity of the situation and duplicity of our elected officials, many politicians were running for reelection this year and Jindal was still intent on his Quixotic quest for the Presidency. I think many folks just wanted to pass a budget and worry about the implications later (or let their successors fix their mess.) I know some legislators just wanted pass something with the knowledge Jindal would be gone after the elections and they might have someone less obsessively obstinate and deceitful to work with.

Well here we are, right where most of our reelected legislative incumbents left us. With his presidential campaign in the toilet, and the job he said he wanted officially over, Jindal apparently has nothing better to do than tweet cryptic and childish things at his political opponents.  I think that’s actually a fitting end for someone who may come to be known as the Martin Shkreli of Governors.

However the problem we are having now actually has roots much older than 2016.  Based on a review of the last 10 years of general fund outlays, it’s pretty obvious what happened when you get to 2010, when Jindal decided to privatize all our hospitals pay outrageous sums to private entities.  Sometimes privatization can work, but if you look at DHH’sbudget for the last 10 years, you can see this was an example that clearly did not. 

DHH was averaging a little more than a billion dollars a year in general funds.  After Jindal’s meddling that price tag skyrocketed to 2.7 billion today. It has been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  That’s roughly equal to our entire corporate and personal income tax collections for the entire state!

At the current rate of expansion, general funds for DHH might very well eat up our entire General Fund budget before Edward’s first term is even over.  Ironically, if DHH was still funded at its 2006-2010 average we would have had surpluses in Louisiana every year, including this one. Next year’s 2 billion dollar deficit would have been only a mild concern easily remedied with our vast surpluses. 

Our healthcare spending is killing us.

I can’t justify spending all of our taxes on DHH, or raising taxes to cover these ballooned and ballooning costs. Can you?  These privatization deals occurred while most of our current legislators were in power.  They did not do their job during Jindal’s reign of error. They let us down; perhaps gambling on following Jindal to a Federal role. . .

That didn’t work out for them, and certainly not for us. Now it is time to hold them responsible for their gambling with our future and the futures of our children.  I would recommend that theGovernor’s office, State House, and State Senate take on the lion’s share (percentage-wise) of the necessary short term cuts to get us through the end of the year.  They allowed this situation to transpire with their negligence and they should literally pay for it before tapping any other agency. (The budgets for the House and Senate are about 50 million and the Governor’s budget for this year is 121 million so obviously more cuts will be required.)

However, in the long term we have to address the DHH situation and stop the profuse bleeding of our tax dollars.  Not only has the general fund cost for treating our poor tripled during Jindal’s tenure, we’ve managed to simultaneously close charity hospitals and emergency roomsacross the state.  A double whammy of out of control spending coupled with less accessible care.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our state our Treasurer and State legislature put in a little more time monitoring our finances before we got into crisis situations like this one?  Maybe if they are forced to pay for their mistakes this time, they will be less likely to just go with the flow next time?

Instead of blaming, I’d like to see some of them finally accept some blame. 

Instead of demanding unrealistic cuts on others, I’d like to see them show some leadership by committing to some cuts to themselves first.  It’s easy to blame others, and cut others, but that’s how we got here in the first place. We won’t fix this problem doing the same things over again and expecting different results.  That’s either just crazy, or just a gamble we can no longer afford.

Why the truth is important even if it’s not always good

This is the second part of my last post/essay that ended with mission of revealing the truth, even if it is ugly.

When I first joined the Louisiana Department of Education it was during a Democratic Governor’s administration, Governor Kathleen Blanco.  However education reformers were filtering in like former LDOE Superintendent Paul Pastorek.  With them came new ideas, but also urgings to be less than forthcoming on some results and reports.  Many of our metrics were tinkered with behind the scenes – to help individual districts and regional Louisiana power brokers.  This bothered me, but I was told that’s “just the way it is.”

Regardless of who is in power, they all want to show themselves and their initiatives in the most positive light.

That’s the game.

Democrats and Republican’s both rationalize shading (also lying or concealing) as a means to an end.  They believe their ends justify their means.  I was told stories by my colleagues about previous administrations of both Republicans like Mike Foster and Democrats like Edwin Edwards, and whatever Buddy Roemer was (he was elected Governor as a Democrat and lost his reelection bid as a Republican), that backed this assertion up.

When Jindal came to power the game changed . . . a lot.  Beyond simple “shading” of results we entered a phase of full-blown falsification and manipulation of results to show specific outcomes for specific benefactors.  In the past this game was usually handled discreetly and with minor omissions or re-characterizations of data after it was gathered.  Anyone with enough time and understanding could have delved into the data and discovered their own versions of the truth.

Under Paul Pastorek’s and John White’s administrations this has taken the form of detailed plans developed with forethought and engineered for some very specific and targeted purposes.  Namely to show traditional schools in a negative light and charter schools and reform initiatives as positively as possible.   Some of these initiatives and the gerrymandering of results were known to Governor Jindal (like vouchers and charter schools), and approved by him.  Other initiatives were not but he was sold on and later (and regretted) like Common Core, inBloom, and Value Added Modeling (VAM) for measuring teachers.

(VAM measures teachers by linking them to student tests scores, but this method is statistically invalid and difficult to account for students at the upper and lower ends of the achievement spectrums.  VAM results have also been directly altered by the John White Administration to achieve specific results for specific teachers.)

When you permit your subordinates to shade or distort the truth for your own personal benefits and gains you walk a slippery slope that rarely ends well.

When our political leaders gave agencies like the CIA, FBI, IRS and NSA duties to perform  (protect the United States) and failed to properly oversee, monitor and constrain them we got these agencies reinterpreting their own missions to include warrantless wiretapping, torturing and assassinating Americans, allowing  these agencies to lie to Congress, and rationalizing handing over some major artillery to drug gangs.  It is imperative that our public institutions be open to the public and above reproach to prevent corruption, fraud, waste and avoidable tragic outcomes.  When we permit agencies and agency heads the discretion to lie to the public just to defend their policies from proper review and oversight we pervert the entire meaning of democratic rule.

The Jindal Administration has lost control of their agencies in Louisiana by encouraging department heads like John White of LDOE and the now indicted Bruce Greenstein of DHH to lie and distort facts to promote their agenda and goals.  When you have control of the data that reviews your own policies, and you alter that data (or allow your subordinates to alter or mischaracterize the data) you prevent the public from properly evaluating your performance and the efficacy of your policies.  When you refuse to allow others to look at your data, as John White and LDOE regularly does, you corrupt the democratic process.  People are forced to judge you based on the propaganda you have provided them and cannot make informed decisions.  Jindal won’t be in office forever, but his precedents for lying and concealing documents under “deliberative process” exceptions and from straight up refusals  requiring court orders will live on long after he becomes a failed presidential candidate.

Informed decision making is necessary for a healthy democracy.

When you allow your subordinates to lie, you may also be caught up in those lies.  Lies beget more lies to cover them up.  Eventually you don’t even know the truth because no one really does.  Without accurate evaluation of your policies you can’t determine if they are good or bad, how to make them better or which ones to terminate.   Your subordinates may also decide to lie and distort their performance for their own personal benefits and agendas as John White and Bruce Greenstein appear to have done.  The Jindal administration is only now coming to terms with how their subordinates lied and distorted more than they were unofficially authorized to do.  This is what the IRS, CIA, and NSA have done, which Congress and the Obama administration have been coming to terms with.  As a leader, once you normalize lying, distortion and corruption you lose the ability to control who is doing it or what they are lying about, and you transfer power from yourself to your subordinates.  At this point you are at their mercy and subject to whatever they choose to say . . . or not say.

I think some politicians rationalize lying to try and buy time for their policies to work.   They sincerely believe that given enough time, their policies will be effective, but that the news cycle won’t give them the necessary breathing room and time to work.

There actually may be some truth to this.

Evaluating all the impacts of a major policy change takes time and can often be very complicated with many ramifications to consider.  The messaging required to support complex changes does not lend itself well to a campaign bumper sticker or 5 second TV commercial.  Unfortunately too many of us that vote get our opinions about candidates and their polices from these sources,  or if we don’t know who to vote for we simply pick the letter we feel most comfortable with (D or R) and call it a day when we reach the ballot box.

Politicians and their campaign advisors understand this mentality.  They build their campaigns around assuming a certain number of voters will pick their candidates in a given area based on the letter next to their name.  They then focus on emotional advertising to inspire their often strategically chosen Lettered folks to the polls, and to sway any of the Unlettered folks (Independents and Undecideds) in the middle.

Sadly, I don’t think this comes as a surprise to any of my readers.

We accept this as “just the way it is.”

As long as we place a high value on simply voting, and no value on informed voting, we should expect our politicians to lie to us.  It would be easy to blame our pols and their polls as the root of the political corruption in our society.  We could go on about our business, free from any responsibility or guilt, smugly content with our moral purity, and promptly proceed to ignore how our laziness towards our civic duties has contributed to this environment in which the least honest and most attractively marketed politicians thrive.

I would like you to try an experiment the next time you go to the polls.  Rather than simply voting for someone with a letter you like, or against a letter you don’t like, don’t vote at all if you don’t know anything about any of the candidates.  Try to inform yourself on what folks actually stand for, what their histories have been, and how you feel they will represent you.  Get a little more involved in the process.  I often hear complaints about how low our voter turn-out is in this country.  Maybe when that occurs that’s actually a good thing?  Maybe those are the folks that have taken the time to get informed and feel motivated to participate in the process without hand-holding or special prompting?

Many campaigns believe all they have to do is “mobilize their base” and they will win without any substantive policy commitments, without having to answer any question about their records, and without having to demonstrate any knowledge of the office they intend to hold.  I see Democrats and Republicans both engaging in these types of campaigns, by throwing around “red meat” issues and taking uncompromising but also impossible stands on various issues to spur their core voters to show up at the polls.  What gets lost in all that noise is any substantive policy debate or campaign promises that can be kept or that are good for all the people.  What also seems to be lost is that politicians and elected officials are not supposed to just server the victors in our winner-takes-all contests that most elections have become, but all the people.

Just because people did not vote for you, that does not make them your enemies.

But it certainly feels that way though, doesn’t it?

Is it any wonder the public is so dissatisfied with Congress in general, or politicians as a whole?  Winners make promises they can’t hope to keep to get elected, and they if they somehow manage to make good on their promises they often further alienate half the population.  Rather than working for the country to make it better, Democrats and Republicans, Reds and Blues, Donkeys and Elephants, Conservatives and Liberals, have become rival teams in an unending power struggle and contest that no one ever really wins, a game with infinite overtimes.  To me it feels like these teams pass the trophy (us) back and forth.  We are just a means to an end to them and once they get what they need from us every 2, 4 or 6 years they return to their old habits and the old game where winning is more important than what is being won, or who is hurt in the process.

I recently realized this is a bigger problem than faux education reform, but directly related.  Politics in the United States has become a two person game that never ends.  All of us are players whether we want to be or not.  Multinational Corporations, Education Reformers and Bankers realized this a long time ago (which is why these are also often the same players.)  To ensure they are always winners they give to both sides so that no matter who wins an election, they are the only true winners.  I don’t believe this situation is healthy or can possibly end well.  More and more our “two” political parties have actually come to agree on more than they disagree when it comes to setting national policy.  This has resulted in enormous budget deficits and debts (both sides like to spend more than they take in revenue.)  Both sides enjoyed watching the economic expansion fueled by subprime mortgages, and blame each other for the collapse.  (Incidentally they were both right.)  Both sides have wastefully employed our US military as a police force for the world while allowing our healthcare systems for veterans the veterans of these conflicts to decay.  Both sides have given the banking sector a get out of jail and/or bankruptcy free cards.  Bankers have not been punished for defrauding the US and the world of trillions of dollars, but both sides have fueled a prison system and militarized police forces that would be the envy of totalitarian states like China and Iran and which incarcerates victimless offenders for life for minor drug offences.

For this reason I have decided I cannot run for elective office as a Democrat or Republican.  However, for the first time in my life I have registered for a political party – which generally goes against my principles of trying to remain impartial and my general distrust of political parties.

  • I made an exception because even though I told people I was running as an Independent or No Party candidate, many folks thought I was (or accused me of being) an Occupy Democrat or a Tea-Party Republican.
  • I made an exception because I wanted a chance to define myself, rather than let other people define me.
  • I made an exception because I think the Libertarian ideals of limited local government and government interference are important, less corruptible and more efficient and in line with what most people believe in but have not been able to find.
  • I made an exception because I don’t want to tell people what to do and I don’t want to appear biased to one side or the other.
  • I made and exception because I want to be seen as someone who really want to provide accurate information that people can use to form their own judgments.
  • But mostly, I made this decision because I believe someone has to.

Democrats and Republicans are not my enemy, any more than they should be the enemies of each other.  We are all countrymen, all Americans, and we all want the best for ourselves, our children and our country.  However without breathing room between elections, without honest oversight from mainstream media – which is often owned by corporations wishing to influence public opinion one way or the other – I feel we desperately lack impartial oversight.

At a time when most laws by our elected and appointed judges are now decided along partisan lines, and when the public expects this, I know that we have taken partisanship too far.  Justice is no longer blind, but it has been lamed and corrupted.  When we expect our judges to vote for things based on who appointed them (or what letter is next to their name) rather than what the law says, don’t you think we enable and encourage this mockery of Democracy and justice to continue?

I think I get along pretty well with both Tea-Party groups and Occupy Wall Street groups.  These movements are part of a growing dissatisfaction with the current dysfunctional and animus infused status quo.  If you identify with one of these groups, there may be a reason you feel like tolerated outsiders in the Republican and Democrat parties but get along with me.

Maybe your ideas are too complex for the two generally accepted checkboxes?

Maybe it’s time you took your political business elsewhere?

I’m not saying you need to become a Libertarian like I have, but it might be a good place to start looking. I think you owe yourself, your children, and your country at least that much.  It’s your choice if you want to continue choosing between 2 bad choices.

Thanks for listening,

Jason

Why do I think Bobby Jindal is scamming us with faux Common Core lawsuits?

Why do I think Bobby Jindal is scamming us with faux Common Core lawsuits?

To be quite frank, I did not develop this idea on my own. I was asked whether I thought Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was sincere, and my response at first was “I don’t know, but does it matter?” My thinking being: whether or not Bobby Jindal opposed Common Core for the “right” reasons or for political reasons, was irrelevant. What mattered is that we had a former staunch supporter of the standards publicly recanting his position. I actually think this encouraged a lot of folks in the Anti-Common Core camp, and added to the nationwide movement and impetus to roll back or remove the standards across the nation. Which is great for folks outside of Louisiana, but most public school parents know we are still in a bind. At the end of the day, talk is cheap and therapy and tutoring for 700,000 Louisiana school children won’t be.

Jindal made some moves that seemed to indicate he had genuinely thought deeply about this situation (that he had put us in) and had a thoughtful plan for extricating us from it.

  • Jindal held press conferences denouncing Common Core as a Federal takeover of education
  • Jindal took numerous photo ops surrounded by opponents of Common Core
  • Jindal appointed Jane Smith, a staunch Common Core opponent (one of his three appointees)
  • Jindal (though his surrogates at DOA) declared the contract for the PARCC test invalid for not following proper laws and procedures (although DOA had previously reviewed and okayed this same contract.)
  • Jindal sent a letter to PARCC telling them he was pulling Louisiana out of the testing consortium (something he apparently didn’t have the legal standing to do.)
  • Jindal reduced John White’s purchasing power from 20k to 2 k without prior approval. (Meanwhile John White explained he’d actually been functioning under a 50k limit.)
  • Jindal originally refused to allow BESE to hire a lawyer/law firm to being suit against him (but did allow a law firm connected to LDOE, TFA, and Reformers to bring suit against him on constitutional grounds and allowed BESE to sign on as a party to this suit without repercussions for his other two appointed BESE members.)
  • Jindal appointed Jimmy Faircloth (a chief campaign donor who has never won a constitutional education case for the administration) to “defend” him from the lawsuit brought by Common Core supporters to allow Louisiana to purchase the PARCC test.
  • Jindal brought forth a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over the constitutionality of Race to the Top funding tied to Common Core and PARCC testing in relation to a 17 million dollar grant Louisiana eventually one in the third round of RTTT

     

All of these things sound positive, but the net effect to date has been nothing but jawing on national television, more photo ops and newspaper stories, more lawsuits, and chaos in the classrooms and homes. Common Core is more entrenched in Louisiana than ever.

 

Sadly I have detected a waning in interest in Common Core forums among opponents. I’d diagnose this as a blend of fatigue, resignation, and perhaps a yearning for eventual victory that has sapped the life from folks and the movement locally. Many are waiting to see how this develops. I don’t blame them. I was watching too. I fear this that is exactly what Jindal’s opposition was intended to do. Jindal inserted himself at the head of the angry mob of parents and teachers opposed to Common Core. He took up our banner (but with what appears to be a rubber pitchfork) and has led us in direction after direction; telling us he has a plan; urging us to follow his lead.

 

He is leading us through blind alleys and into dead ends, folks.

 

I was warned something like this was going to happen numerous times by insiders. Here’s an excerpt from one person I received in April.

I’ve watched with interest this whole story about Common Core tests the last few days.  I have been on the inside of the political circle.  I would bet my life on this.  Bobby Jindal, John White, and Chas Roemer came up with this strategy months ago.  Saying Jindal wants out — but White and Roemer have to sign withdrawal allows Jindal to be perceived as far right — less federal oversight, etc. — poising him for his presidential campaign.   But it also keeps Common Core testing alive in Louisiana.

I’ve had numerous other conversations with different folks on the inside, but this one sums the situation up very nicely. Every day I fear more and more that they were right.

This isn’t just some random guy like me speculating . . . this is someone that works with these characters and knows how they work. So let’s examine some of the signals and moves that don’t make sense if you were really trying to eliminate Common Core, and not simply trying to make a lot of noise about eliminating it.

  • If Jindal really wanted out way back in April, when he first started making noise, why didn’t he talk to any of his handpicked and appointed legislators?
  • Why did Jindal wait until after the legislative session was completely over in June to hold his press conference about getting Louisiana out of Common Core?
  • Jindal has folks all over the legislature keeping an eye on bills and people, but anyone with a half hour and a black and white TV set could have seen the hundreds of parents being marginalized day after day while bill after bill to put the brakes on Common Core was shot down. The only indication that he was for any of these bills to remove Common Core were a few random support cards, but no one from his administration chose to speak or make a statement. In fact, even though those opportunities were offered to them they declined.
  • Unless I am mistaken (admittedly it’s been a while since I looked), every BESE member that is for Common Core (except maybe Walter Lee) received maximum contributions from the Jindal campaign in the last BESE election. 2 of Jindal’s 3 BESE appointees are adamantly for it. Why has Jindal not asked them to resign (and appoint two folks that would shift the tide 6 v 5 if swing voter Walter Lee could be brought on board); if he really believes Common Core is an unconstitutional federal takeover of education as he has asserted in his recent lawsuit against the federal government?
  • I think that last point should get two bullets, because. . . Seriously? Is he really keeping his appointees, Judith Muranti and Connie Bradford, onboard to represent his interests when he believes they are actively violating the Constitution of the United States and depriving Louisiana citizens of their Constitutional rights? And he wants to be President or even just a national figure??? You would think removing folks Jindal himself appointed on his state board of education, or even just calling for their resignation, would be a much more efficient and effective move than literally making a federal case out of this. It’s not like that would even be a new thing. Jindal did that before, with former Jindal appointee Tammie McDaniel, when she voted a way he didn’t like on a simple funding issue. But Jindal has said nothing and done nothing to his appointees violating the US Constitution and voting to sue him directly for violating Louisiana’s Constitution stating he has been disruptive and destructive. (He has of course, but his own appointees should not be saying that and retaining their positions if he is at all serious about his opposition to Common Core.) You would also think Jindal would have some influence over all the other members he donated to and brought to power.

     

But the truth is, even the federal lawsuit he is bringing is weak and destined to fail for three reasons:

  1. His case is weak
  2. His lawyer is weak
  3. His time is short

Plenty has been written about number 2, Jindal’s representation, Jimmy Faircloth. The fact that he produced not expert witnesses and rolled over in his last case on this issue should be documentation enough. (Not to mention he has never won a Constitution education case he’s represented Jindal on – not that that is ordinarily bad thing except here. . .) While Faircloth might not be the best lawyer if you want to actually win a case, no one can say he isn’t generous when it comes to kicking back [legally of course] some of his “earnings” to his favorite employer in the form of campaign contributions. (This is legal in Louisiana as long as no one calls it a “kickback” or demands a kickback and – and it just “happens” organically. . . I guess. . . of their own volition/common sense.)

So instead I will explore the other two items.

It’s not that the argument the Jindal administration is making a federal case out of is not firmly grounded for some states, but at this moment Louisiana is not really one of them. US DOE did unconstitutionally grant itself waiver powers to ignore the legally defined sanctions of NCLB in the form of ESEA waivers. These waivers were put in place by US DOE to supplant NCLB (No Child Left Behind) requirements. These were put in place without Congressional approval and Duncan has required the defacto adoption of Common Core (or a nationally recognized curriculum of which only Common Core qualifies) in exchange for relaxation of the NCLB requirements. The NCLB requirements were designed to be unattainable, requiring 100% proficiency of all students in all subgroups (Limited English, poor, disabled) by 2014. Some threats made by US DOE are that all federal funding would be withheld if the states don’t meet the impossible standards of NCLB, or the sanctions of NCLB (which can be financially crippling) and will be vigorously enforced. So states can choose to weather the NCLB sanctions which no states can avoid, or adopt Common Core and tie those tests to teacher retention policies and also adopt a bunch of other Reform friendly destructive crap.

By “waiving” the sanctions imposed by the NCLB law that Congress did authorize, Duncan removed the incentive and urgency for Congress to fix the problem built into NCLB that all states faced because NCLB was designed to be structurally impossible to achieve by anyone. When Congress chose to turn a blind eye to the constitutionally questionable ESEA waivers, what resulted was a ceding of all powers to set rules and guidelines for federal funding to the Executive branch (Arne Duncan), rather than the legislative branch of government.

This is why many informed opponents of Common Core consider it a federal mandate and takeover.

(When the mainstream media chooses to ignore this direct line of influence and control it feeds into the conspiracy theories and theorists. To tell you the truth, media that refuses to acknowledge this direct connection is really stupid (or thinks we are), willfully ignorant, lazy, or is actually a part of a conspiracy to spread Common Core propaganda.)

So what has resulted from the imposition of unattainable standards and the refusal of Congress to act to remedy the situation is a requirement that states adopt Common Core (nationally recognized standards of which there was only one by definition: Common Core State Standards), or else.

However Duncan’s interference did not end there. He also added this requirement to the billions of dollars allocated to RTTT (Race To The Top) grants. Louisiana would be in a much better position to make the case these standards were imposed upon them unconstitutionally if Louisiana rejected them (as Oklahoma has done) and was subsequently sanctioned by Arne Duncan (as has happened to Oklahoma). However because Louisiana’s state Board of Education (BESE) is endorsing them, and not stating they are doing so because of a concern about funding being yanked, Jindal’s case is weak. He could make it stronger by kicking his own appointees and replacing them with anti-Common Core appointees, and then perhaps working out an “understanding” with the swing vote BESE member, Walter Lee, who is facing multiple indictments for various financial improprieties. I can see an easy win there, and then a strong federal case to be made when Duncan slams some sanctions down on us.

The basis of the case for arguing the RTTT grants are unconstitutional will be tied to the determination of whether the Federal government can define national standards and curriculum, or whether those are sovereign rights left to the states. Some states that received very large grants in the first or second round of RTT (during one of the greatest financial downturns in our nation since the Great Depression might have a case they applied for and agreed to these grants under financial duress.) However the 17 million dollars Jindal complains about in his federal lawsuit is chump change compared to the more than 800 million dollars Louisiana receives from LDOE for agreeing to the waiver conditions set in conjunction with Arne Duncan. The ESEA waiver process is where Arne’s chokehold over education comes from. 17 million dollars is what we find in our couches every year trying to fill the billion dollars shortfalls Jindal “balances” our budgets with every year, but it is an issue for some states that won significantly more than 17 million dollars..

Even so, a Federal lawsuit is not the short-term answer and not one Jindal can follow-through on. Jindal’s term is up in a little more than a year and he can’t run for a third term (thank the Lord). Not one candidate for Governor in the 2015 gubernatorial race supports eliminating Common Core. The front-runner and most well-funded (and diapered) candidate, David Vitter, has changed his position from staunchly opposed to rabidly in favor of Common Core. (I’m assuming he changed positions after he found out who had all the money.) That means this lawsuit will not amount to anything except more money for one of Jindal’s best campaign donors (Jimmy Faircloth) more headlines for him, and more wasted money and hopes for Louisiana taxpayers and parents.

The BP oil spill happened in 2010. We know who was responsible and BP has acknowledged their responsibility. We know who was damaged. That tragedy happened at end of Bobby Jindal’s first term; 4 years ago, but we still do not have a final settlement for the State or lawsuit brought to trial for Louisiana. What are the chances this lawsuit concerning our very US Constitution will have any meaningful results in the next year?

Will we wait 4 years for this to be resolved? How many Louisiana Governors will be have to go through before a settlement is reached?

That is what Common Core supporters (whom I must now re-include Bobby Jindal as) want. They want a full generation of our children to experiment on to see if Common Core works (even though the early results show abysmal failure.) But don’t worry, parents. I’m sure the next big education plan will be right around the corner for your kids’ kids. Maybe they will be more successful at taming the Educational Industrial Complex than we were?

As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins I find myself more than a bit confused by what is going on in Louisiana education these days. Lately it’s felt a little like forces outside of my control are dictating the outcomes of a whole lot of situations (with a whole lot of crazy) mixed in with a generous helping of frivolous lawsuits. I use the word frivolous not because the topics are unimportant, but because I don’t really see anything coming from them in a timely manner. Jindal will be wrapping up his second term by the time anything substantive takes place with his lawsuit, and the odds makers in Vegas probably have David Vitter pegged as our next chief executive.  Vitter has come out strongly in favor of Common Core (after initially sending out fundraising requests deriding it as a Washington plot to take over our schools.) My guess is David got some nice fat checks from Common Core corporations, wrapped in a diaper, to change his mind (and diaper) at the same time.

But back to more important things. . . like what I’ve been doing.:)

I have been chatting with folks from across the political spectrum and on both sides of the education reform/pro-public education issue and have come across some well-meaning folks on both sides that appear to want many of the same things I do, but have different ways and ideas for achieving those. Something I found disturbing was what Reformers tell their allies about us.  Let me dispel some myth reformers like to spin about pro-public education folks. I believe just about anything is possible and almost nothing is perfect . . . so almost anything can be improved with constructive criticism and honest analysis. This comes as a shock for some reform folks when I talk to them. Reformers narrative about us in the pro-public education camp is that we are for the status quo (whatever that is), we are for doing nothing, standing still, ignoring problems and blindly supporting teachers unions. This is a ridiculous falsehood. Quite often we have been fighting the very same policies they claim to want to do away with; policies put in place by the very people same advocating for new policies; as if they had nothing to do with the state of education and many of the legitimate problems we all see!

Is it any wonder so many of us fight back against new untried ideas and policies promoted by the same people that promoted that last slew of horrible ones? Every day many of the Reform ideas of the last decade are now clearly shown to be big losers.,There is still no admission of this, just another set of new new untried ideas an no accountability for the string of failures Reformers discard (and distance themselves from.)

Recently (like a few hours ago) I got in a Twitter argument with a Reformer that claimed his side was being maligned by all that money from us pro-public ed folks. I was incredulous to say the least. Billions are spent by US Ed, numerous billionaire philanthropists like the Waltons, Bloomberg, Gates, Broad, not to mention the countless departments of education (like Louisiana’s department of education) that employ thousands of people full-time to advocate for their policies on the public dime.

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @DmitriMehlhorn we can’t find truth when so many in Reform movement spend so much time energy & money lying & r rewarded 4 it

Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus Many reformers feel that way about other side. Lots of money spent attacking reform, much of it not nice.

2:18 PM – 15 Aug 2014 · Details

Reply to @DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus

 crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus lots of money????? Are we in same country let alone same ballpark here? Reformers spend money to make money

 Perapiteticus ‏@Perapiteticus  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @DmitriMehlhorn You’re concerned with BATs? We’re outspent, what? 10-to 1, 20-1, 50-1? Truth has funny way of edging door ope

 Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @crazycrawfish Unions have $2.2b in annual revenue from compulsory dues. Reformers have tiny % from voluntary gifts.

Sahila ChangeBringer ‏@Kiwigirl58  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn have 2 ask U this – R U serious? Have U any idea what @BillGates, all by himself, has spent? @crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus Note to Reformers: if you want good publicity and people saying nice things about you, don’t be jerks. TYVM

Apparently the only voices Reformers hear are those of unions, but not us poor parents they claim to speak for. If they really listened to us they wouldn’t have to spend so much money (and feel so put upon they feel the need to cry about it on Twitter.)

Unlike most reformers, I do not receive money for my advocacy.

Unlike most Reformers I actually have kids, and I actually put my kids in the school systems I advocate for.

Reformers claim their charters are so successful (although they often refuse to produce any data that shows this in Louisiana) that these charter schools should replace all traditional schools (literally, they send out e-mails that say this.) If their reforms have made traditional public school systems so awesome, if all charters are so incredible they require zero supervision or minimal review processes, why do reformers always enroll their own kids in exclusive private schools that employ very little of the policies and curricula they insist on for everyone else’s children? (This is not a trick question, it’s an obvious one more reporters should be asking.)

Reformers name themselves and their groups StudentsFirst and Stand for Children to pre-emptively declare themselves and their morals and motivations to be pure and child centered.  How many times have you heard them declaring something is necessary to do “for the children?”  Seriously. “Why would they lie to us,” they seem to say when they have the word children or students in their name. . .  These groups are founded on lies, cloaked in lies, supported by shrouded benefactors that benefit from the reforms they tell us are “for our own good.” These groups are defended by faux researcher organizations and act as foundries for manufacturing more lies and to perpetuate the ones they have sent out among the media and the masses. Despite their lofty self-anointed titles, these Reform groups are principally preoccupied with teacher’ issues (namely defaming and defiling the legitimate teaching profession and teachers) and promoting charter schools at all costs. Eventually folks do catch on, as happened to Rheeform darling Michele Rhee, who like a run of the mill disgraced politician facing a sex scandal or cocaine addiction, has stepped down from the lofty post she created for herself to “spend more time with her family”.   Rather than sex or drugs, her failing was her personality and charm (or lack thereof), so not much to fix there! Rhee’s family lives in Tennessee, with her husband Superintendent of Tennessee schools Kevin Huffman, while Michele has remained in California and appears poised to take over running some California charters for good ole Kev, so I’m not sure how that spending more time with her family works exactly?  Will she be tweeting more often to them in between pot shots at real educators?  Perhaps liking more Facebook posts of her children?  Don’t get me wrong, I think she should definitely spend more time worrying about her family and less about mine.  I just don’t get I I suppose, but then so little that national Reformers leaders say makes any sense to me. . . and truthfulness has never been one of their strong suits.

Now while I am pretty harsh and unforgiving to the leaches leading the Rheeform movement, I feel it’s important to point out not all Reform allied folks understand this complete disconnect and disregard for honesty or facts. Some are lulled by the seductively compelling marketing and messaging of for profit charter schools and the various hedge fund entrepreneurs and bored billionaires that fund the reform movement.  Unlike Andrew Carnegie who donated his vast fortune to build up schools and universities across the United States, today’s billionaires apparently see destroying education as a philanthropic mission to remake our society to their liking.

Reform organizations actively create and support cultish brainwashing organizations like what Teach for America has become and the sibling organization The New Teacher Project was designed to be, to subvert impressionable and passionate college students and recent graduates. These groups and their members in turn branch out into other organizations and infiltrate all corners of our society. (I will have more on this development in later posts I have planned but exploring this issue could take a whole book.) Many of these folks don’t understand who we, in the pro-public education movement, are. They have quite literally been brainwashed with tactics not far removed from the latest psyops manual or Nazi propaganda program. They have been told to fear us, they have been told we are the enemy. They are taught chants that dehumanize us and extol their movement’s virtues. To them teachers and society are apathetic, lazy and incompetent, and that apathy is the enemy – thus so are we. These groups form their own secret societies and covens where they are instructed to limit contact with local communities and leaders. They judge us through carefully crafted windowed narratives.

It would be easy to judge them, as they so often judge us, but many of these youth are idealistic victims that we can reach with compassion, persistence, honesty, competence, knowledge and our humanity. To break the back of this reform Beast they have created we must reach these youth and get them to tell their stories for others to hear as this former TFA teacher has done. We musty enlist those we can to our side – not with coercion, threats, lies, fear or hate but with truth and honesty. We must let them ask the hard questions their leaders won’t have pat and rehearsed answers for. They can awaken from the Matrix world that TFA and the Reform movement has created for them. Not all will take the red pill, because what they will see will shatter a lot of what they have worked hard for and believe, but those that do will be some of our strongest and most devoted allies. They will show they are the education leaders they want to be. They will learn that road is a hard one; not lined with cushy high paying jobs, lazy fellowships and blank checks and free rides to grad schools of their choosing carelessly paved with edReform dollars on the bowed backs of poor children – education dollars that should go to underfunded communities and schools.  These idealistic kids should really know better, but who wouldn’t like to believe they could make a small fortune and make the world a better place at the same time for those less fortunate? Coming from elite private colleges and sheltered upbringings many of them already come from gilded backgrounds. It’s not a very hard sell and they have to do something with those, history, general studies, English, and Poli Sci degrees. While they figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. . . why not help some of us poor Southerner’s out?  The messaging they are bombarded with is we can’t take care of ourselves so the have to save us from ourselves.

They tell us our kids are as smart as any in the rest of the nation. If they were half as smart as they think they are, if they were one of us, they would realize how condescending and insulting that statement is by now.

It’s about time we showed those condescending creeps our kids’ parents know a thing or two as well. It’s time to take back our Department of Education and our local schools. I actually believe our parents are smarter and more savvy than the rest of the nation (we are survivors and not all our skills can be tracked with penciled in bubbles) and it’s about time we showed it. We gave a previews by kicking out inBloom first, passing real state privacy protections first. Common Core banishment is coming. It’s time we evicted out Reformers and their corporate charter thieves. We should do this first and took back our local control and show the nation how’s it’s done. We can do this.

Our kids are just as smart, eh John White?

Who you been talkin’ to that’s says they ain’t; that you feel this needs to be a talking point in every speech you make? Jus’ ’cause we choose to talk a little different sometime don’t mean we stupid, test bubble boy.

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2014/08/15/statement-from-superintendent-john-white-regarding-ruling-denying-request-to-halt-implementation-of-higher-expectations

http://www.nola.com/education/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2014/03/state_superintendent_john_whit.html

http://www.katc.com/news/state-superintendent-defends-common-core-curriculum/

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/links-for-newsletters/06-03-14-supt-white-opening-remarks.pdf?sfvrsn=2

http://www.bellechasseacademy.org/news.cfm?story=141812&school=0

http://chiefsforchange.org/letter-from-supt-white-and-bese-president-chas-roemer-to-louisiana-educators/

http://nolongersilent.net/2014/06/18/jindal-signs-executive-order-to-oust-parcc-from-louisiana/

http://www.lpssonline.com/printable.php?pageID=39&newsID=928

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs104/1109765654095/archive/1114470659568.html

http://www.myarklamiss.com/story/superintendent-john-white-visits-delta-community-college/d/story/T25LSIPg-E25ImzWIzS6sA

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/home/9994121-123/judge-denies-temporary-common-core

http://live.aei.org/Event/Taking_school_reformers_to_task_Louisiana_Chief_John_White_on_fixing_K12_reform?Page=0

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140612/OPINION01/140619772

<

p style=”padding-left:30px;”>http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/legislative-session-to-tackle-common-core-curriculum/24870332#!bEjFNx

On behalf of all Louisiana parents, please shut the hell up.

Jerk.

TYVM.

Check out my new Common Core Video. I think this will add some clarity to the situation in Louisiana. . .or at least make fun of the people behind the “muddying of the narrative”

Check out my new Common Core Video.  I think this will add some clarity to the situation in Louisiana. . .or at least make fun of the people behind the “muddying of the narrative”

I just finished producing my first movie and publishing my first YouTube video.  (I decided to stop writing posts and focus on media that requires fewer words so the grammar Nazis will leave me alone.)

Check it out and feel free to make fun of it: http://youtu.be/NQ4Ryloo0Kc

But there’s no denying this crawfish is not now in the 21st century!

This is my response to the latest buzzword “Clarity” that came out of the BESE meeting July 1st.  If you found that meeting as frustrating as I did, I think you will find this parody amusing. I also get to take out some long overdue vengeance on some well known reformers and paid off Common Core supporters or profiteers.  What could be more awesome than that?

Don’t forget to check out my campaign site at http://www.jasonfrance4la.com and please make a donation if you would like to see someone like me on BESE. If you would prefer to see people like Chas remain on BESE then do nothing and you will get your wish.

 

 

Plan B: One-Step for Addressing PARCC and Common Core

Plan B: One-Step for Addressing PARCC and Common Core

Today was an interesting day at the Claiborne building in downtown Baton Rouge. Today was the much anticipated climax of significant back and forth politicking between Governor Jindal and his mail ordered State Superintendent of Education, John White. Today was the day Louisiana got a front row seat to the attempted abortion of the illegitimate Education Love Child known as Common Core and the testing consortium known as PARCC, conceived in back room deals and between these two star-crossed (and now double-crossing) education reformers.

Of course John White insisted on boring and dubious analysis of the situation that everyone who was there already knew all too well. Usually this is simply annoying and infuriating, but today was a little different since he didn’t have a trusty and redundant PowerPoint to stall over and guide him through the highlights. It appeared White was talking somewhat off the cuff. When you talk for hours on end you eventually make some mistakes. When you lie about everything to everyone, it is inevitable that you will contradict yourself and your previous statements.

Let’s discuss some of them.

John White confirmed that the test questions for next year will be different than this year and that test questions always change every year, regardless of who cast the testing contract and regardless of the test containing PARCC questions or not. This contradicts John White’s earlier testimony and assertions to the legislature related to disclosing previously administered tests to parents to review. White claimed this would cause a lot of unnecessary expense and force the department to create new questions. When White testified before the legislature this spring he claimed if test questions were released the tests would need to be reworked because those questions could never be used again. However today, before BESE, John White confessed these questions are changed every year. They are not used every year anyways so releasing these tests should not be a problem, right? Inadvertently he defeated his own argument against allowing parents to review the exams being administered to their children.

Today John White made an assertion that the current environment is very confusing and clarity was needed for teachers, parents and students. (Who wouldn’t agree with that?) He claimed this clarity could only be achieved by seeking a legal expert, seeking a legal opinion and filing a lawsuit to resolve the legal conflicts between BESE, LDOE and the Governor’s office. He was partially correct. What is going on is very confusing. Bobby Jindal and BESE conceived this chaos 4 years ago today when they adopted Common Core without it being finalized. John White midwifed Common Core for Jindal and BESE, but then snuck around on the state and cheated on us, conceiving a PARCC contract during his philandering with other reform organizations. White tried to pass off PARCC as the governor’s offspring by adopting it through an old non-bid contract. White thought he could force Louisiana and Jindal to adopt PARCC and pay to support this progeny of his relationship with CCSSO and the PARCC board – both organizations he holds leadership positions with. White obviously wants to hold onto these relationships, while also courting Louisiana and Jindal as the sugar daddy that will pay for him and them. Where John White was incorrect was in his proposal for resolving this conflict in time to bring clarity to our teachers. I have never heard of a situation where bringing lawyers and lawsuits into a dispute resolves that situation quickly. White also claimed lawyers and lawsuits will bring clarity. . . Maybe in a few years. . . but school starts up next month. Can anyone say with any confidence getting lawyers involved with resolve this situation swiftly or with clarity in the next few weeks? This is a recipe for complete disaster; one which John White could mitigate by simply putting everything on hold while these questions are resolved to the clarity level he feels comfortable with.

John White previously made the statement that there was no Plan B, because there was no legal option no Plan B was conceivable. Today however White backtracked and not only admitted that he had a Plan B, but that the situation is beyond his legal expertise and does not look like it will be resolved before the start of the school year. That’s why he and BESE President Chas Roemer are seeking legal experts. . . because they recognize this is a complex situation that will need to be decided in the courts based on the decision made by Jindal, John White and Chas Roemer. That was the ultimate decision of today’s meeting; to acquire the services of legal experts to council and perhaps file a lawsuit. This decision to make this issue complex is entirely John White’s and Chas Roemer’s, but they will not be the ones that have to bear the brunt of their decision. Teachers will be impacted. Students and parents will be impacted. Just about everyone but the ones creating this chaos will be harmed by the confusion they have chosen to sew into this situation. They are content to consult a lawyer and point their finger’s a Jindal while this slow moving train plods towards the August cliff of the imminent school year.

When you find yourself in a hole, and decide you need to get out, you stop digging. Before implementing new changes that may harm one of the parties, judges initiate injunctions to prevent either party from proceeding while the courts resolve the differences. As was brought up multiple times during today’s BESE session by BESE members Lottie Bebee, Jane Smith and distinguished educator and blogger Michael Deshotels, Louisiana had some of the highest regarded, nationally recognized standards in the nation. They were defined as one of the top 2 sets of standards in the United States. We used them for the most part last year and all the years before. We have those standards to rely upon while we await the rulings John White and Chas Roemer feel we need to bring clarity to this situation. We have our tests from last year that were aligned with the current curriculum. We spent quite a bit of time and money developing them. They contain some questions based on the national standards White and Roemer claim we are obligated to benchmark our tests against. We can stay the course while the courts resolve these questions Roemer and White claimed multiple times they are unqualified to clarify for themselves without involving lawyers and filing lawsuits. We adopted these standards 4 years ago blindly and without any input from parents – because they weren’t finalized and there was nothing to comment upon. Now that we have seen these standards implemented parents see they are worse than what we had. Education Reform has put our state in hole and riled up parents across the state to reject this corporately driven and funded agenda of which PARCC and Common Core are a significant part. The hole we find ourselves in is just getting deeper and less stable. Even our political leaders can’t decide among themselves what to do without resorting to lawyers. This was a mistake born of too much inexperienced enthusiasm without enough thought towards consequences or protection. It’s time for plan B. It’s time to stop digging. After 4 years, it’s time to stop screwing around with education and start being responsible.