Archives for category: Louisiana

What a strange world we live in!

Why is a California businessman and a pair of Arkansas billionaires dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race for the state board of education in Louisiana?

Mercedes Schneider explains it here.

Billionaires Eli Broad and Alice and Jim Walton have contributed a combined $650,000 to Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby’s PAC, Empower Louisiana, so that Grigsby might use it to try to retain a corporate-reform-bent majority on the state’s education board, BESE, from 2016-19.

The BESE election is scheduled for October 24, 2015.

According to Empower Louisiana’s campaign finance report (07-17-15 to 09-14-15), Jim and Alice Walton each donated $200,000 on August 20, 2015, and Broad contributed $250,000 on September 10, 2015.

The total on the above report is $763,710, which means that as of September 14, 2015, money from two billionaires from Arkansas and one billionaire from California constitutes the principal funding for Grigsby’s efforts to preserve a BESE majority known for supporting charters and vouchers without equally supporting adequate oversight; supporting high-stakes testing without supporting timely, clear, comprehensive reporting of testing results, and for allying with a state superintendent known for hiding and manipulating data, refusing to honor public records requests, and refusing to consistently audit the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

Grigsby considers the above to be the desired course for Louisiana’s state board of education. According to the October 01, 2015, Advocate, he plans to spend his PARC’s predominately Walton and Broad money on 3 of the 11 BESE seats:

Grigsby’s group — it is limited to independent expenditures — will rely mostly on television and radio advertisements and direct mail.

Races where it will be involved include BESE vice president Jim Garvey, of Metairie, against challenger Lee Barrios, of Abita Springs; incumbent Holly Boffy, of Youngsville, against challenger Mike Kreamer, of Lafayette and incumbent Mary Harris, of Shreveport, against challengers Tony Davis, of Natchitoches, and Glynis Johnston, of Shreveport.

The group backs Garvey, Boffy and Davis in those contests.

This is blatant buying of our democracy. There ought to be a law limiting campaign expenditures. People with unlimited resources (who don’t even live in the state) should be prevented from buying elections by flooding them with cash. Ordinary folks, who are well informed and devoted to education, but don’t have any billionaires funders, don’t have a chance.

That’s just plain wrong.

People who use their vast wealth to buy elections should be charged with criminal activity. They undermine our democracy.

Education Week warns that voters should be wary of governors boasting about their success in education.

Jindal of Louisiana claims that his implementation of school choice increased graduation rates. But Alabama increased its grad rAte even more, without the same aggressive privatization. Funny that the governor of one of the nation s lowest perf morning states would offer it as a model.

Walker of Wisconsin says third grade reading scores went up because he busted the union. Not so fast, says EdWeek.

Jeb! boasts if fourth grade scores. Of course, holding back low-scoring third graders helped the fourth grade scores. But what about those eighth grade scores? Not so good. If the gains don’t persist, what good are they?

Andrea Gabor, experienced journalist and scholar, pulls apart the myth of the Néw Orleans “miracle.” What is remarkable is that her article appears in the New York Times, which has never investigated the exaggerated claims made by corporate reformers on behalf of eliminating public education.

The number of students in the schools of that city has dropped dramatically since Hurricane Katrina, making pre- and post- comparisons unreliable. Large numbers of students are not in school at all.

The “success” story is a myth but a very powerful one. Urban districts across the nation yearn to copy the New Orleans model: wipe out public schools; replace them with privately managed charters; fire all the teachers; hire inexperienced teachers and a few of the veterans; fund generously.

Gabor shows that other states and districts must inform themselves before proceeding.

In the last two state board elections in Louisiana, millions of dollars flowed to candidates from corporate reformers, mostly from out of state. They elected board members who support privatization and high-stakes testing. Now the people of Louisiana have a chance to elect Jason France, a oublic school parent who knows the inner workings of the state education department (having worked there). Jason needs every dollar he can raise to win. If you want to help him, his website is I debated his opponent, Chas Roemer, a few years ago in Lafayette, Louisiana, and found him to be a true believer in vouchers, charters, letter grades for schools, and high-stakes accountability for teachers.

The Network for Public Education is proud to endorse Jason France for Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), District 6. Jason France, also know as the education blogger Crazy Crawfish, is a former Louisiana Department of Education employee, a public education activist, and the parent of two Baton Rouge public school students.

Jason is running for Louisiana BESE to “remove the outside influence of corporations and the federal government (and their phony education surrogates) to allow parents and educators the freedom and final say over the education of their children.”

France is running for the seat currently occupied by BESE President Chas Roemer. Roemer is the son of former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer – he has never attended public school, and his children don’t attend public school. He has been a champion of “charter schools, Common Core, test-based evaluations for schools and teachers and Education Superintendent John White,” according to the Times-Picayune. Roemer is a classic example of the privileged few making decisions for other people’s children.

The next BESE Board will have a crucially important to role to play in the future of public education in Louisiana. The next board will decide to keep or fire controversial reformster State Superintendent John White, who has stated a desire to stay in the position. A flip in District 6 would mean the potential for real change for students and teachers in Louisiana.

NPE is certain Jason France is just the candidate to help bring about the kind of revolutionary change needed in Louisiana. Please visit Jason’s campaign website to learn more about his policy positions on issues such as Charters, Common Core, Testing, VAM, and Student Privacy. You can also read the most recent post on his blog, which is a direct appeal to the voters of Louisiana.

“Louisiana, if you really want to fix education, you need to examine the motivations of folks that are pitching their ideas to you and stay focused on your chief goal – fixing education outcomes and preparing children for a lifetime of learning – rather than being tied down by a single solution, candidate, or ally.”

Jason’s years of activism in his home state have won him the support of some of Louisiana’s most prominent voices in the fight for public education.

Career classroom teacher, researcher, and writer Mercedes Schneider says:

“Jason France is a committed and knowledgeable fighter for the community school. His experience as a former LDOE data manager continues to be invaluable as the Louisiana public seeks a level of transparency that current state superintendent John White and the current BESE majority fight to conceal. As a BESE board member, France will be in a position to truly hold White, LDOE, and BESE accountable to the Louisiana public they are supposed to serve. I wholeheartedly endorse France as the next representative for Louisiana BESE District 6.”

And indefatigable New Orleans Education Advocate Karran Harper Royal adds:

“Jason France is extremely knowledgeable about the issues facing public education in Louisiana. As a public school parent, Jason will bring the kind of informed and invested voice that has been missing from education policy making in our state.”

Jason’s work has not only been on the local and state level, his advocacy has extended to the national level as well. His work with the group Student Privacy Matters helped bring about the destruction of data giant inBloom.

Jason’s work has gotten the attention of NPE President Diane Ravitch, who said:

“Jason has the deep knowledge of education that’s needed for BESE. More than that, he is a parent of public school children. BESE needs Jason France.”

Louisiana is one of only nine State Boards of Education’s in the nation with elected, rather than appointed members. The opportunity to elect advocates like Jason to BESE should not be squandered. It is time to bring the voice of the people to a board that has shut out the community for too long. As Jason wrote on his blog:

“We won’t have successful community schools without the community. We have mobilized communities in many parts of the state. This BESE and LDOE ignores them, mocks them and alienates them.”

We urge those in District 6 to get out and vote for Jason, and help spread the word. There are links on his website where you can sign up to volunteer or donate to his campaign. Please help Jason take Chas Roemer’s seat and give it back to the people of Louisiana.

Jason France-the blogger known as “Crazy Crawfish”–is running for the Board of Elementary and Secondary
Education in Louisiana. He met with a reformer who said, I know what you against, what are you for?

This is Jason’s answer.

Start with the recognition that the costly “reforms” of the past decade have not moved the needle on student test scores. On the 2013 NAEP, Louisiana outpaced Mississippi by a whisker. Jason would not be surprised to learn that Mississippi outpaces Louisiana in 2015, making it the lowest performing state in the nation.

Jason dissects the state’s many misguided deforms, like charter schools, vouchers, and TFA.

And he lays out common sense ideas to stop the data manipulation, privatization, and lying.

Change course, he urges, before we lose public education altogether.

“Our schools have been plagued for many years by poverty, apathy, and acceptance. In many parts of the state we have allowed our schools and systems to fall into disarray.

“Our more affluent parents have abandoned the schools and they have taken their resources and parental involvement with them. Out of these ashes we’ve had some outstanding new school districts form with the backing of their communities, like Central and Zachary. (Obviously Baker is still a problem.)

“However the solution is not having the state/RSD come in and take control from the locals or chartering the school to a company based out of New York or Michigan. Rather than simply punishing low performance or problems, and completely pushing the locals out of the way, we need to work with these folks and help guide support them. This is what the LDOE used to do when our scores were going up – serving in an advisory and support capacity. This is what we need to do resume our climb from the performance dungeon the education reform movement has commissioned us to – while they drained our coffers dry.

“In New Orleans we have many local communities seeking to have their schools returned to them, like the perpetual failure John McDonogh.

“Rather than ignore and disregard these folks the state needs to embrace them and their efforts.

“We won’t have successful community schools without the community. We have mobilized communities in many parts of the state. This BESE and LDOE ignores them, mocks them and alienates them.

“Many public school parents of means are taking their kids out of public schools to homeschool them.

“Those are not victories, but tragic losses we must reverse now, before it’s too late!”

In an interview, John White made it clear that he wants to keep his $275,000 job as state superintendent in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal pushed the state board to hire him after his brief stint as superintendent of the Néw Orleans Recovery School Diistrict. White loyally implemented Jindal’s agenda of vouchers, charters, for-profit schools, and attacks on teachers’ due process, as well as test-based evaluation. But then Jindal and White locked horns over Common Core. Jindal wanted out, White didn’t. (White’s only school experience is TFA. Also he attended the unaccredited Broad Superintendents’ Academy.)

Now one of the leading candidates for governor has said White has to go. Open the statement for links.

John Bel Edwards issued the following statement;

Contact:; 225-435-9808
Edwards: John White Will Never Be Superintendent On My Watch

BATON ROUGE, La. – State Representative and candidate for governor John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) responded to news that State Superintendent John White wishes to remain in his current position under the next governor’s administration.

“I have no intention of allowing John White, who isn’t qualified to be a middle school principal, to remain as Superintendent when I am governor,” Edwards said. “We have so many highly qualified candidates right here in Louisiana that we don’t need to go looking in New York City for our next head of K-12 education.”

White’s tenure as State Superintendent has been frought with controversy and accusations of wrongdoing. In 2012, White was embroiled in scandal after emails revealed political motives behind his fight to ensure that expanded school vouchers were approved by the Louisiana Legislature. Thanks to testimony by Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Supreme Court later found the voucher scheme to be unconstitutional, because it did, as White denied, illegally divert funding designated for local city and parish public schools. Later, voucher schools approved under White’s watch were shown to lack a requisite number of teachers, lunch rooms, and other resources common to any proper school. In 2013, he was accused of having purposefully inflated letter grades for certain schools. For at least three years, White knew about inequities in special education funding which violated directives in the La. Constitution, but declined to take action to correct the problem even after the Legislature urged and requested that he do so in 2014. Under White’s watch per pupil funding for public k-12 schools was frozen despite many new unfunded mandates. During the same time period the per pupil amount paid to private schools through the state voucher program increased each year.

Citing these controversies Edwards said,”We need genuine leadership at the helm of the Louisiana Department of Education. We will have that when we elect a genuine leader as governor.”

White’s only formal training in educational administration was earned during six weekend trainings at the Eli Broad Superintendent’s Academy, meant to be an introduction to issues facing Superintendents at the local level.

Adam Hubbard Johnson was trying to verify the claims of a miraculous transformation in Néw Orleans, and he went in search of the pre-Katrina data. Reformers said the graduation rate had grown from 54.4% before Katrina to 77% in 2012. That’s huge. But was it accurate?

He corresponded with a reporter. She used those numbers but didn’t know the source. He kept digging. Eventually he realized that the source was not city or state or federal data, but a charter advocacy group.

He writes:

“A thought experiment:

Imagine, for a moment, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had said five years after 9/11:

“I think the best thing that happened to the defense system in New York and Washington was 9/11. That defense system was a disaster, and it took 9/11 to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better’.”

We would rightfully find this crude and opportunistic. But in 2010 when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said

“I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better’.”

the media either shrugged it off or embraced its thesis. The political and moral rot of the New Orleans education system pre-Katrina wasn’t just taken for granted – our political classes saw it as so manifestly depraved and corrupt that it validated the deaths of 1,833 people. Such is the hysteria with which conventional wisdom cements itself.

Like a tale out of an Ayn Rand variation of Genesis, the story of Katrina wasn’t one of nature’s caprice or racism’s legacy, it was instead the fortunate and righteous correction of liberal excess. And though graduation rates are not the only point of comparison used to prop up this perception (I will explore others later), they are the most accessible and finite.”

Why the missing pre-Katrina grad rate?

“The answer to this question illuminates, in a limited but potent way, what a corporate coup looks like up close. When education becomes charity rather than a right, an investment instrument rather than a civic good, the ability to distinguish between substance and marketing becomes by design, overwhelming. Like a refund department with a six hour wait time, the frustration in attempting to navigate this neoliberal maze of “private/public” responsibilities is precisely the point. Even the most basic of acts – hosting a website – turns out to be one of the primary reasons finding data is so difficult. The LDOE has had, inexplicably, five differnt primary domains in the past decade – from to to to to its current, full-flown corporate iteration”

He writes about the framing of the reform narrative:

“The story of Katrina and how it justified charter schools can best be summed up by Arthur Miller’s observation that “the structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.”

“So went the Katrina reform school narrative in all its moral clarity. Circa 2005 charter school leaders, largely funded by the Walton, Gates, Koch families and given cover by neoliberal corporatists whose primary purpose appeared to be the act of looking busy, sought a PR coup. Though they were making incremental headway, there was little urgency to their cause. Two weeks after Katrina however, while 96% of corpses still remained unidentified and the Superdome had been reduced to a “toxic biosphere”, the story of how the birds had come home to roost was too good to pass up. Koch-funded and proto-Tea Party outfit FreedomWorks was the first to float this narrative on September 15th, both in the pages of the National Review and on their website, in an op-ed by Chris Kinnan.

[Kinnan wrote:] “There is a second rescue urgently needed in the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and one that is long overdue: saving New Orleans school kids from their broken public-school system. The tragedy of the storm provides America with a golden opportunity”

This idea of a “golden opportunity” to perform a dramatic experiment in New Orleans became conventional wisdom.

Johnson writes:

“All of this is to say nothing of the core fallacy at the heart of the “choice movement”: the presumption of dichotomy. Schools going bad? Poverty’s not the problem, abject racism’s not at fault, underfunding is irrelevant (Louisiana spent $1,636 more in real dollars per pupil in 2012 than it did pre-Katrina). No, it has to be teachers’ unions and local school boards. Get rid of those and let slick PR firms, Ivy League idealists, and hedge fund real estate interest come in and do it right. A third option, or a fourth option or any cost-benefit was never discussed. Within 10 weeks of Katrina, while the state’s largely poor and African American diaspora were scattered throughout the Gulf states simply trying to stay alive – the Louisiana State Legislature called an emergency session, passing ACT 35 which, as even Tulane’s pro-school reform Cowen Institute acknowledged, radically changed the defintion of “failing school” from the flawed but objective criteria of having a state score of less than 60 to include any school that was below the state score median, which, at the time was 86.2. Put another way: the state assured itself that their own Recovery School Board would control, by definition, at least 50% of the state’s schools no matter what.

“Overnight, 102 of the 119 locally control New Orleans schools, all primarily poor, all primarily black, were put under the pro-charter, primarily white state control. Not because they were “failing” – a school cannot “fail” to meet retroactive standards – but rather because they were vulnerable. No study issued. No ballot measure campaigned for. No discussion had.

“The corporate forces were too overwhelming, the liberal class too monied and distracted. The official history of a broken school system that was simply washed to sea, too convenient. And the truth – like the shiny new charter school system that emerged at its expense – was simply torn down and built again from scratch.”

Blogger Louisina Educator writes of the combination of forces fighting for Common Core:

“These heavily promoted standards pushed by an alliance of so called education reformers such as the Gates Foundation, The Broad and Walton Foundations, the Pearson education publishing conglomerate, and the Obama administration are also supported by the Charter School Association, big business interests LABI, CABL, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce and two astro turf groups (phony grassroots organizations funded by the big foundations). All of these groups will also be fighting hard to kill HB 21 and 340 that would only modestly curtail the expansion of New Charter schools in Louisiana.

“The dedicated and informed parents and educators who oppose Common Core and PARCC testing are so outgunned by the privatization and Common Core promoters that the battle this week could be compared to confronting an Abrams tank with a BB gun.”

Robert Mann, professor of journalism at Louisiana State University, describes the effort by Louisiana business leaders and sympathetic legislators to drive “a fatal spear to the heart of the giant,” meaning the teachers’ union.

“Public school teachers, firefighters, state troopers and other law enforcement officials can have their dues deducted from their paychecks and remitted to their respective unions. House Bill 418, sponsored by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, would outlaw that practice. The bill is among the highest priorities in the current legislative session for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). The House Labor Committee approved the legislation last week in a 9-6 vote.”

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is hoping to pass legislation cutting off automatic deductions for union dues, known euphemistically as “paycheck protection.” Ostensibly, the goal is to save money. But Mann obtained a secret video where the business leaders revealed their real goal, which was to starve the union of funds to cripple it.

Mann saw the bigger picture after watching the video:

“Last month, when I first saw that this bill was among LABI’s top priorities for the 2015 session, I wondered how a supposedly minor issue could be so important to the state’s top business organization. Now, thanks to [industrialist Lane] Grigsby’s candid comments behind closed doors, we know. It’s about killing the teachers unions.”

BASIS, an Arizona charter chain known for its intense academic standards, plans to open five charter schools in Louisiana. BASIS expects all students to complete AP courses and work very hard to reach its high standards. It accepts everyone, but loses large numbers of students who can’t keep up with the school’s academic pressure.


BASIS is ranked high on lists of “the best schools,” because it gets top test scores after booting most of its students.


This is so far from the original conception of charter schools in the late 1980s. They were promoted by Albert Shanker, the president of the AFT, as schools that would recruit the lowest performing, least motivated students and develop innovative ways of reconnecting them with school. They would share whatever they learned with the public schools. They were intended not to compete but to help public schools by discovering better ways to help the reluctant learners.


BASIS, by contrast, is an exceptionally competitive school that appeals to high performing students and drops the reluctant learners.


Here is what Louisiana will get: This. This. And this.


Keep the best, get rid of the rest.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 159,112 other followers