Archives for category: Jindal, Bobby

Robert Mann, a professor of communications at Louisiana State University, tries to imagine how Bobby Jindal and John White would react if they heard that Headstart centers kept sloppy records and couldn’t pass an audit.

He writes:

“Imagine if almost every one of those schools could not produce any records to prove that their expenditures did not constitute “gross irresponsibility or gross individual enrichment.”

“What do you think would be the reaction of Louisiana Republican leaders?

“What if the audits of these Head Start schools were littered with the following statements: ”We were unable to perform the [investigative] procedures because the school did not have a separate checking account or other procedures to account for [government related] expenditures separate from other expenditures.”

“Can you imagine the outrage we’d hear from Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Education Superintendent John White?

“Well, what if similar audits turned up showing the same kind of sloppy record keeping at almost every private voucher school in Louisiana? What do you imagine the reaction would be to that?

“Well, we don’t have to imagine.”

It is okay by them if voucher schools keep bad records. It doesn’t matter at all.

No problem. Just throwing taxpayer dollars out the window with no accountability at all.

But when most voucher schools could not produce the records needed to be audited, John White shrugged it off.

The voucher program in Louisiana continues to amaze. It is a living demonstration of what happens when public officials abandon responsibility for the children and institutions in their care. Watch what happens when the state gives children a voucher for public funds and then says that whatever choice they make is okay. John White memorably said last year: “To me, it’s a moral outrage that the government would say, ‘We know what’s best for your child,’” White said. “Who are we to tell parents we know better?”

And that is why the Louisiana Department of Education sent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to the New Living Word Church school, making fools of taxpayers while abdicating any interest in the quality of education received by the children. An audit revealed that the school overcharged the state by nearly $400,000, so White has excluded the school from the voucher program and is suing to recover the money.

But the school was not excluded because of its poor education, only because of financial impropriety.

Robert Mann, a professor of communications at Louisiana State University, writes: “Would you pay $6,300 in tuition to send your child to a private school with uncertified teachers, insufficient computers and no proper classrooms, and at which the “teaching” occurred mostly by plopping students in front of televisions to watch lessons on DVDs? Of course you wouldn’t. But the Louisiana Department of Education would.”

Mann writes:

“In a moment of Orwellian inspiration, Jindal and the Legislature dubbed their voucher plan the “Student Scholarships of Education Excellence Program.”

“Despite embarrassing questions last year from legislators and the media about the school’s abysmal instruction, its lack of classroom space and the absence of qualified teachers, state Education Superintendent John White awarded the voucher slots.

“Actually, calling this Ruston fly-by-night operation a “school” is like calling beef jerky prime rib. Yet, with full knowledge that the institution was little more than a shell of a school, White and Jindal handed it more than $600,000 of your money.

“The damage to the state’s budget could have been worse. White’s department initially awarded New Living Word more voucher slots than any other school in the state. Only after the Monroe News-Star exposed the sordid mess was White forced to trim the number from 315 to 165. Last school year, the “school” enrolled only 93 voucher students.”

Why in the world would White offer more vouchers to this school than any other in the state? Maybe because the well-established religious and private schools would not accept more than a handful of students. And White needed the numbers.

And more:

“White, of course, feigned outraged – but not about the fact that he’d wasted hundreds of thousands of tax dollars subsidizing shoddy instruction. “It shows a basic lack of competence,” he said about the school, not himself. “It can’t be tolerated.”

“What White can tolerate is inferior instruction of your children via DVD. In his statement, he offered no explanation for his recklessness and incompetence.

“And of the audits (basically internal investigations conducted by two Baton Rouge accounting firms), White trumpeted them as proof that his voucher program – save for New Living Word – is an unqualified success. The headline on a Department of Education press release proudly declared, “99 Percent of Schools Show No Violation.”

“There’s just one problem with that statement: It’s patently false.”

What did the audits reveal?

“In fact, the audits revealed that the afore-mentioned standard “could not be completed for forty-nine of the fifty-one private schools reviewed.” One audit is littered with the following statement, concerning the records of dozens of voucher schools: “We were unable to perform the procedures because the school did not have a separate checking account or other procedures to account for scholarship expenditures separate from other expenditures.”

“Most of the schools were also unable to verify that their “expenditures do not constitute gross irresponsibility and are not individually enriching.” These are not insignificant findings except, apparently, to White. The state will spend about $45 million in the current fiscal year on vouchers for about 8,000 students.”

Louisiana’s problem is a lack of accountability. The state has no accountability at the top. When will John White be held accountable for the unaccountable voucher program? When will he be held accountable for the disastrous “course choice” program, that seeks to funnel millions of dollars to for-profit vendors? The highest court in the state declared unconstitutional the funding of both the voucher and course choice programs. Jindal and White will not be allowed to take money out of the public school fund to pay for their privatization plans.

What Louisiana shows for all to see is that the privatization movement is not about improving education. It is not “for the kids.” It is about money, power, and ego.

Remember last year when Governor Bobby Jindal rammed through his voucher proposal, whereby more than half the state’s children were eligible for a voucher to attend any private or religious or entrepreneurial school? Remember that critics said that Superintendent John White gave out vouchers without due diligence and that the school that got the most vouchers had no classrooms, no teachers, and no curriculum for the influx, which would triple their enrollment? And remember that White said that “parents know best” and that it was not his role as state superintendent to tell anyone how to educate their child?

It is also worth remembering that Jindal’s voucher plan (and charters and online charters and course choice for entrepreneurs) was saluted by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education hailed the plan as a formula for bold change. And Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” issued a statement endorsing the program; then-Indiana superintendent Tony Bennett called it “student-centered” and said, ” “Students will no longer have to settle for failing schools. Countless families will be able to select the best education option for their unique student’s needs. And superintendents and principals will be empowered to hone faculties of talented, dynamic, and effective educators. Armed with these bold reforms, Louisiana will soon lead our country in quality public K-12 education.”

That was then, this is now.

Well, now we know that White has barred New Living Word from accepting vouchers, not because of the quality of its education but because of financial improprieties. It seems that they were receiving more money from the state for voucher students than they charged their own students, and the church now owes the state nearly $400,000.

Today the New Orleans Times-Picayune published an editorial saying that the vouchers awarded to this school were a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

Not only did the school overcharge the state, but test scores were abysmal there, as they were in many of the voucher schools.

The editorial says:

“LEAP scores for third- through eighth-graders released in May showed that only 40 percent of voucher students scored at or above grade level. That compares with a statewide average of 69 percent for all students.

Seven schools in Jefferson and Orleans parishes posted such poor results that they are being barred from accepting new voucher students this fall, although they can keep those they already have.

New Living Word’s iLEAP scores for third-, fifth- and sixth-graders were substantially lower than their counterparts in Lincoln Parish public schools and the state as a whole, according to the Department of Education report.

Those poor results wouldn’t have triggered the school being removed from the voucher program this year, though. A school has to post three years of poor LEAP results before getting sanctioned.”

Lot of critics warned that vouchers should not be paid for out of the state’s Minimum Foundation Budget for public schools; the Jindal administration ignored them, and the voucher funding was struck down by the state’s highest court.

Lots of critics warned that the state should set consistent standards for all schools receiving public dollars, but the state ignored them.

In a democracy, public officials would do well to listen to their critics before committing to a disastrous and radical course of action.

 

Last year, when Governor Bobby Jindal persuaded the Louisiana legislature to pass the nation’s most sweeping voucher program, the school that was selected to receive the largest number of voucher students was the New Living Word Church school. Although it lacked the facilities, the teachers, or the curriculum to triple its enrollment, Superintendent John White approved the school to enroll 193 voucher students. While responded to criticism by reducing the number of vouchers to 93, still nearly half the school’s enrollment.

Classes were taught by DVD to students in the church gymnasium. The school’s principal and pastor promised to build a new building to accommodate the influx of new students.

This past week, Superintendent White banned the New Living Word School from further participation in the voucher program. It seems that they charged the state more than they charged non-voucher students, and the church pocketed the difference, which was hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars annually.

According to Superintendent White, the school now owes the state nearly $400,000 in overcharges.

Blogger Lamar White (no relation to the superintendent) in Louisiana had this to say about the fiasco:

“Although it’s easy and completely understandable to feel outraged by New Living Word’s exploitation of the voucher program, I find it impossible to have any sympathy for Superintendent White. Time after time, for over a year, he was warned repeatedly about this particular school; he was routinely criticized for the lack of oversight and accountability employed by the Department of Education, for his decision to not conduct even a bare modicum of due diligence on schools that sought hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in state government funding. Remember, the voucher program, ostensibly, was sold to Louisiana citizens as a way of ensuring children have access to better educational opportunities.

“As Zack Kopplin’s research reveals, at least a third of voucher schools are teaching from anti-scientific and anti-historical textbooks, and as we learned just last month, voucher students scored almost thirty points below average on the LEAP examination.

“In his statement to the media yesterday, Superintendent White also said, “In my view it is financially irresponsible according to the law. In my view it is incompetence and we will not tolerate it.”

“I’d submit that before Superintendent White lectures anyone else on financial irresponsibility or incompetence, he should first read up on negligence and dereliction of duty.

“I, for one, do not believe that New Living Word is the only school in the program that charges voucher students more than non-voucher students. Stay tuned.”

Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation allowing parents in the state-run Recovery School District to vote to return their low-performing school to local control.

“The measure by Baton Rouge Rep. Ted James lets parents petition the state-run RSD to return a school to local control if that school has earned a “D” or “F’” grade from the state for five consecutive years.”

Maybe this legislation will help to puncture the myth of Louisiana’s Recovery School District, the media’s miracle district.

In this blog post, Crazy Crawfish reveals his true identity.

He was working inside the Louisiana Department of Education when Bobby Jindal took control.

The story he tells is alarming and shocking.

It all started with Katrina. That event created a massive shock and provided an opening for Jindal: “Jindal immediately started privatizing and tormenting state employees with gleeful abandon, while simultaneously hiring unqualified cronies to run all aspects of state government . . . into the ground.”

What he describes is a calculated effort to distort the facts about the state of education in Louisiana and to shower favoritism and funding on certain vendors.

From what he saw, “reform” meant censorship, cronyism, and corruption. He became an “anti-reformer.”

He quit.

You should read his story.

It is important.

Mercedes Schneider summarizes what happened to education bills in the Louisiana legislature this session.

The good news is that the legislature is no longer rolling over for Jindal.

Some of the damage of last year was undone by the courts and the legislature.

Most surprising was the enactment of a “reverse parent trigger,” allowing charter parents to return their school to the district.

The Louisiana blogs, which these days are the only place in that corrupt state to read honest and probing discourse, are buzzing with rumors that their state commissioner John White will soon leave for a job with Arne Duncan.

If true, he will not be missed. Jindal will find another reactionary ideologue to take White’s place and pursue the governor’s radical privatization agenda.

Why would Duncan want White? When Jindal chose White, Duncan called him “a visionary leader.” White would help Duncan prepare the nation for mass privatization. Sad to say, White and Duncan are on the same page. ALEC beams, as do all the other rightwing extremists to see this Democratic administration advancing its agenda–or doing nothing to impede it.

Louisiana matters hugely to the fate of American public because of the myth that Néw Orleans had a miraculous transformation once Hurricane Katrina wiped out the public schools and the teachers’ union.

Julian Vasquez Heilig here explains that the myth is a lie.

The Louisiana Department of Education controls the data and they are not releasing it. When they do, it can’t be trusted. Bobby Jindal purged the Department to make sure he can keep the tale intact.

And this lie is being used to destroy public education and teacher professionalism across the country.

Read this important post!

When the Louisiana Supreme Court handed down a crushing 6-1 defeat for Bobby Jindal’s voucher plan, State Superintendent John White immediately declared victory. The court said it was not ruling on the merits of the case but on its funding: the state may not spend money dedicated to public schools to pay for vouchers and course choice (eg, K12, Connections, and other for-profit providers).

This may seem puzzling to those of who do not live in Louisiana but the locals understand.

Crazy Crawfish worked at the Louisiana Department of Education, and he explains it here for you. Johnn White has adopted a slogan called “Louisiana Believes” (every bold program must have a new slogan).

As CC explains, John White believes in completely denying reality. White has dual credentials: TFA and Broad. That helps explain his commitment to spinning whatever he doesn’t like and, as he once put it, “muddying the narrative.” When you do that, no one knows what to believe.

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