Last spring, Louisiana held a crucial election that determined who would control the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Governor Bobby Jindal–the uber-conservative education reformer with a plan to replace public education with vouchers and charters–wanted to take control.
He rallied his friends and allies to win the decisive seat on the board, which was held by a local attorney, Louella Givens. Jindal’s candidate was Kira Orange Jones, the director of TFA in New Orleans.
According to Education Week, Orange Jones collected nearly $500,000 for her campaign. She raised large sums of money from the business community and from out-of-state donors, including Mayor Bloomberg, who sent a last-minute contribution of $100,000. Orange Jones also received campaign funds from Democrats for Education Reform, the pro-charter Wall Street hedge-fund managers organization.
Educators rallied to support Givens, but she raised only $9,000. In a runoff, Orange Jones won.
Now questions have been raised about the propriety of having a member of the state board who works for an organization that receives contracts from the State Department of Education. Orange Jones says there is no conflict because TFA gets its contracts from the state education department, not the state board.
The potential for conflict of interest goes well beyond the contracts that are written specifically for TFA. Every time the state board of education approves charter schools, it is implicitly expanding the number of jobs available for members of TFA. Every expansion of charters across Louisiana will benefit TFA teachers and alums who run charters.
Don’t expect Governor Jindal to launch an investigation. The question in Louisiana is whether there is anyone independent of the Jindal machine (or TFA–the state superintendent is a TFA alum).