Archives for category: Jindal, Bobby

When the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Louisiana’s voucher program, on grounds that it threatened to undermine court-ordered desegregation, Jindal went on a well-publicized rant against the DOJ, claiming politics. Suddenly, Jindal presented himself as a leader of he civil rights movement, trying to save poor black kids from failing public schools. His op-eds appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and other media. Shocking that the U.S. Department of Justice was upholding court orders intended to protect the roghts of black children!

Jeb Bush rushed to Jindal’s side, claiming that the voucher program was already showing amazing results. So did GOP leaders in Congress, including John Boehner.

Of course, none of this was true.

The courts in Louisiana said the funding for the voucher program was unconstitutional. So many voucher schools taught creationism and lacked qualified teachers that the voucher program made the state an international laughingstock.

The test scores of the students in the voucher schools were appallingly low, but, hey, there’s always next year.

Here Louisiana blogger CenLamar shows how cynical Jindal was.

He writes: here about Jindal’s claims:

“Unfortunately, that’s just not true. None of it. The truth is, from the very beginning, Bobby Jindal and John White worked with a group of highly-paid political consultants to market the voucher program, almost exclusively, to African-Americans. The Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities (or LA BAEO) was created, seemingly out of thin air, by a national organization of conservative “school choice” activists, and they spent months touring the state and recruiting African-Americans to participate in the program, with very little understanding of the public schools they were attempting to disparage as “failures.” For example, about a year ago, I got into a Twitter exchange with one of LA BAEO’s principal consultants over remarks he had made about Peabody Magnet High School in my hometown of Alexandria. Peabody may not be an academic powerhouse, but it is a damn good school with an amazing campus and a deep connection with its community. But nonetheless, LA BAEO held town hall meetings in Alexandria in an attempt to convince parents to take their kids out of Peabody and, instead, enroll them in voucher schools. It didn’t seem to matter that the voucher schools in Central Louisiana are, with only a few exceptions, fly-by-night church schools with shoddy facilities, questionable finances, and uncertified teachers.

“See, the real issue– and how Bobby Jindal duped John Boehner– is that, on the whole, Louisiana’s voucher schools are significantly worse than the public schools. Jindal and Boehner both argue that Louisiana’s voucher program provides students with the opportunity to seek a “better education.” In reality, however, Louisiana’s voucher program is comprised, in large part, of unaccountable and completely unregulated schools, many of which rely on thoroughly discounted, ahistorical, and anti-scientific curricula.

“Last year, voucher students scored thirty points less on the LEAP test than their peers in public schools. Notably, while Superintendent White and Governor Jindal love to use test results as a way of gauging the performance of public schools, neither of them were willing to make the same argument against the dramatically worse performance of voucher schools.”

CenLamar sums up Jindal’s voucher program: “We’re not sending 91% of Louisiana’s voucher students to the best and most important voucher schools. This is not about integrating African-American students in traditionally and well-established and high-performing private schools; this is nothing to do with integration and almost everything to do with quietly re-codifying segregation.”

When questioned about the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Louisiana’s voucher program, Secretary of Education Duncan said he was “not familiar” with it. DOJ is suing to block vouchers in districts that are under desegregation orders. DOJ recognizes that vouchers will exacerbate racial segregation.

This was reported on politico.com’s morning education edition, a valuable resource for breaking news:

“DUNCAN ‘NOT FAMILIAR’ WITH DOJ VOUCHER LAWSUIT – The Education Secretary made the rounds for back-to-school interviews Wednesday and ducked a question about the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit (http://bit.ly/15cDXFA ) over Louisiana’s voucher program. The department is trying to block vouchers for the 2014-15 school year in districts under desegregation orders, arguing that the vouchers set back desegregation efforts. It’s been the focus of a high-profile campaign by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both Republicans, who accuse the Obama administration of trapping poor, minority students in failing schools. “I’m not familiar with that lawsuit,” Duncan said in response to a question on public radio’s Diane Rehm Show. “That’s between the Department of Justice and the state of Louisiana.” Jindal’s Wednesday op-ed for the Washington Post is here: http://wapo.st/1dHSDFK”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal went into a partisan rant before a far-right audience, complaining that the U.S. Department of Justice had sued to block the state’s voucher program.

The legal action was taken to prevent vouchers from undermining desegregation in counties (parishes) that remain under court order.

In a bizarre twist, Jindal portrayed himself as a champion of the civil rights of poor children, helping them escape the state’s “failing schools” to flee to religious schools, some of which have uncertified teachers and use textbooks that teach creationism and Bible-based interpretations of history. The school that received the most voucher students has already been kicked out of the program for defrauding the state.

Out of 380,000 students eligible to receive vouchers, only 8,000 applied. No stampede there.

The funding for the vouchers was already struck down as unconstitutional by state courts because they took money dedicated in the state constitution to public schools.

We are in bizarro world when a rightwing champion of market-based education claims to be a civil rights champion.

This post by one of Louisiana’s great bloggers reports that the state’s voucher program undermines federal desegregation orders.  Pesky things, the Constitution, the law, and court orders.

Cenlamar writes:

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice asked Judge Ivan Lemelle to issue an injunction preventing the State of Louisiana from providing taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers in 2014 to students residing in any of the thirty-four parishes currently subjected to federal desegregation orders. In simple terms, Governor Bobby Jindal, Superintendent John White, and the Louisiana Department of Education have been completely unable and unwilling to provide the federal government with sufficient evidence that their controversial school voucher program complies with the law. Because Superintendent John White and his team at the Louisiana Department of Education could not or would not provide the federal government with documentation demonstrating their compliance, the Department of Justice was, essentially, forced to go to court. Quoting from the lawsuit (bold mine):

Only after filing multiple motions in this case and receiving an order of this Court (see Record Docs. No. 109-202), did the United States finally receive, in March of 2013, the information and data it requested from the State. After analyzing the data, the United States determined that the State’s voucher awards appeared to impede the desegregation process in 34 schools in 13 districts. On May 17, 2013, the United States sent a letter to the State… requesting that the State cease its practice of awarding vouchers to students attending school districts operating under federal desegregation orders unless and until it receives approval from the presiding federal court. The State has not responded to that letter and, on information and belief of the United States, has already awarded vouchers for the 2013-2014 school year to students attending school districts operating under desegregation orders.

….

To date, the State has awarded vouchers for 2013-2014 to students in 22 of the 34 school districts with pending federal desegregation orders. See supra at notes 3-4 and Exhibit E. Upon information and belief, the State did not seek the approval of the appropriate federal court prior to awarding the vouchers to students in these districts. Further, the State did not contact the parties to the federal desegregation cases prior to awarding vouchers. Upon information and belief of the United States, the State did not evaluate the impact the vouchers would have on the desegregation process in any of the school districts operating under a federal desegregation order.

Lance Hill of Néw Orleans, who has a long history in the civil rights movement, notes that Governor Bobby Jindal has been routing the “comeback” of Néw Orleans, giving credit in part to its privatized schools.

Lance points out that Forbes ranks Néw Orleans as 198th of 200 US cities in job growth. No miracle there .

Governor Bobby Jindal eliminated a $4 million program that provides home care for people with developmental disabilities. You know, the state can’t afford it.

But the state treasurer pointed out that the Louisiana Department of Education spent an astonishing $615 million on consultants in the five years from 2005-2010.

According to the local media:

“State Treasurer John Kennedy gave Gov. Bobby Jindal an idea last week of where to find dollars to expand home services for the developmentally disabled.

“Jindal vetoed $4 million that would have allowed more disabled to get care that keeps them out of institutions.

“Kennedy said in his “opinion column” that even though “money is tight” there is a way to restore the funding. A “good start” would be for Jindal to reverse his axing of a legislative plan to cut $2 million in consulting contracts.

“The state Department of Education pays tens of millions of dollars to consultants each year, many of whom are out-of-state,” Kennedy wrote. “In fact, from 2005 to 2010, the department issued 5,499 consulting contracts worth $615,773,580.74.”

Some of the $615 million spent for consultants:

Contract #662421; “Create a public awareness campaign targeting multiple
audiences in Louisiana to establish a positive image of high school
redesign;” $341,465.48.
Contract #655743; “Contractor to provide services related to interactions
with media, arrange interviews and provide reporters with information, draft
written materials;” $100,000.
Contract #663689; “Contractor will select and train focused individuals from
within education, as well as former educators, to become leaders in the
RSD;” $200,000.
Contract #672113; “Contractor to provide program that will assist students
to learn valuable social skills through organized play on their recess and
lunch periods;” $94,000.

Mike Deshotels is a retired educator in Louisiana who blogs at http://louisianaeducator.blogspot.com/.

He sent the following letter to the media:

“To the Editor

As an experienced, retired educator I feel I must speak out about the serious damage being done to public education in Louisiana by Governor Jindal and State Education Superintendent John White.

Many educators are shocked and disappointed about the drastic cuts to higher education, however my greatest concern is for K-12 education, where I was privileged to have a rewarding career as a teacher and education leader. It is like watching a slow motion train wreck to see the thousands of dedicated teachers who are retiring early because of the insane education policies of this administration.

The attempted privatization of public education using vouchers and charter schools is doing serious damage to education. Contrary to what our new non-educator leaders claim, Louisiana has had a basically sound system of public education. Our student performance was steadily improving before Jindal. All we needed to do was authorize our school administrators to restore basic discipline and safety to some of our troubled schools and make sure that our school curricula included both strong college prep and excellent career programs.

Instead Jindal and White policies are now putting our school tax dollars into the hands of profiteers and education charlatans.

Basically all the state takeover schools converted to charters have been absolute disasters both in student performance and in fiscal management. The so called Recovery District remains the second lowest performing school district behind St. Helena.

The recent audits of the voucher schools have been a total sham. The State Superintendent pronounced the voucher schools in compliance with state requirements even though almost none of them kept proper books to demonstrate compliance.

Finally and most damaging, Jindal and White have rammed through a terribly inaccurate and unfair teacher evaluation system that is driving our most dedicated educators out of the profession. Our teachers are being forced to do almost nothing but rehearse students for state tests instead of real teaching.

Teachers were not the problem to begin with. It was the poverty in our state and the lack of positive parental involvement compounded by the arrogant polices of a State Department of Education which is now dominated by amateur educators.

Let’s restore sanity to our education system, stop the teacher bashing, and support our professional educators in doing the effective job they desperately want to do for our children!

Sincerely,
Michael Deshotels, retired educator
Zachary, Louisiana, 225-235-1632
email: mikedeshot@aol.com”

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.

 

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