The state Department of Education is using a rather puzzling excuse as to why the public can’t see the communications and other documents surrounding the selection process for voucher schools participating in the new statewide voucher program.
And The Monroe News-Star isn’t taking no for an answer.
According to a report from the Gannett-owned Monroe daily, the paper has directed its lawyer to take action against the department for its blatant lack of transparency and abuse of public records laws:
The News-Star has directed its attorney to take legal action to force the state Department of Education to comply with a public records request submitted by the paper on June 4.
The News-Star’s request for Department of Education employee emails about the process of approving schools to participate in the state’s scholarship program was ignored by the department until July.
The News-Star filed multiple public records requests. The state department did not respond to The New-Star’s requests within the legal deadline, although it did respond to other requests submitted at the same time outside the legal deadline. When the newspaper contacted the department requesting comment for a news story on its failure to comply with public records law, the department complied with all requests except the one asking for information about the voucher approval process.
When asked about the outstanding request while visiting a Madison Parish School Board meeting on July 2, Superintendent of Education John White said the request would be fulfilled when the approval process was complete.
After an editorial on July 10 blasted the DOE for its lack of transparency and failure to respond to public records requests, White wrote a letter to News-Star executive editor Kathy Spurlock claiming the department’s voucher program was covered by the governor’s exemption for “deliberative process.”
It’s the same reason White gave the Associated Press when it, too, asked for the same records.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time DOE has chosen to ignore state public record laws. The Independent has experienced numerous records battles with the state agency, most of which begin by the department willfully ignoring records requests until legal action is threatened.
Kudos to The News-Star for not backing down. If vouchers are truly about parental choice, then the governor’s education secretary should have nothing to hide regarding private schools and how they were selected to receive millions of dollars in public money that would otherwise be spent on the state’s already struggling public schools.
Read more on The Independent’s own records battles with DOE here and here.
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OCT 31 The National Journal posts another story from its visit to NOLA, this one about the struggling Vietnamese shrimpers in the area. The publication has been looking at how the state is recovering from Katrina, nine years later.
OCT 31 The New York Times posts this look at Louisiana politics, and how national issues are forcing out the old-time local politicking. Of course they mention EWE, aptly described as an old-time politician known for "charming one half of the state and mortifying the other."
OCT 31 Here's an AP story on the ABC site about Louisiana's chicken little response to an international medical conference planned in NOLA this weekend. Organizers (who are actual physicians, as opposed to the hand-wringing state officials who issued the edicts) say the orders are "unfortunate" given that a main focus of the meeting was Ebola.
OCT 31 Given the things Bobby Jindal has said and done since he's been governor, it's a pretty safe bet he thinks we're a bunch of dummies. Apparently, he's sure President Obama is one, too. This story on Huff Post quotes Jindal as saying the president - a graduate of Harvard Law - should sue to get his money back. (What should a Brown biology grad who doesn't believe in evolution do?)
OCT 31 Us old folks are used to a two-party system, although most of us aren't sold on its success. But what if that system wasn't in place; what if politics reflected the true level of diversity among voters? That's what an LSU student is dreaming of in this editorial. He sees the two parties' control of our politics as limiting.
OCT 31 And you thought the Senate race was dirty. This post on the Forward Now blog tells the story of a Shreveport mayoral campaign worker who was paid to "infiltrate" and "sabotage" an opponent's campaign. Karma's a beeotch, though, because turns out the guy really liked the "enemy," and now he's supporting her. For real.
OCT 30 The National Journal offers this analysis of Bobby Jindal's willingness to stump in any Senate campaign that's not in Louisiana. Why is that? The Journal asks some GOPers and finds that the answer is one we already know: he's so unpopular here, because he's been so busy running for President, that his support might be "toxic."
OCT 30 Blogger Tom Aswell is still all over the OGB mess - and all by himself, apparently. In this post, he's revealing orders from the Jindal administration to destroy records from the state employee health insurance plan. Those orders (he's heard) have angered the Secretary of State and caused an administration lawyer to quit her job. Wow!
OCT 30 A NOLA lady has alleged she was drugged and raped at a Bywater club that had a clothing-optional policy until recently, and she's now become the victim of a smear campaign, columnist Jarvis DeBerry writes in this post. She chose to reveal her story and her name, and she's being punished for that now, he says.
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