An investigation by The Nation follows the money and connects the dots in last year’s state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elections. The campaigns generated 10 times more spending than the 2007 election as some powerful, wealthy, out-of-state education reform supporters including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to select BESE candidates, ensuring that the board would be stacked in reformer-in-chief Gov. Bobby Jindal’s favor as he rammed sweeping changes to public education through earlier this year.
Much of the campaign cash, Nation writer Matthew Cunningham-Cook reports, was poured into BESE candidates supported by Jindal. Only one candidate opposed by Jindal, the outspoken Lottie Beebe, beat the odds. Six others backed by the out-of-state benefactors and related political action committees won their races, outspending their opponents to order of nearly 12-to-one. BESE is an 11-member board, so it’s now controlled by Jindalistas backed by this across-the-border largesse. And Jindal had a singular goal in mind, one shared by Bloomberg: getting John White approved by BESE as state superintendent. As Cunningham-Cook reports, that soon came to pass:
The new reform-minded board was sworn in on January 9, and two days later the BESE called a special meeting to confirm John White as state superintendent. It wasn’t long before the state’s political class, led by Governor Jindal, began discussing educational privatization on a scale incomparable to anywhere else in the nation, save for what happened in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
White, a champion of school reform and Teach for America alumnus who previously served as deputy chancellor of NYC public schools before a one-year stint as superintendent of the Recovery School District — in 2011, the year of his tenure, the RSD received a state score of D — has been a dutiful champion of Jindal’s ideological embrace of reforms that effectively dismantle public teacher unions and siphon millions of tax dollars away from the public school system and into private and charter schools.
It’s a tangled web, indeed. Read the whole story here.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.