Archives for category: Louisiana

If anyone doubts that big money is buying our democracy, read Mercedes Schneider’s post about the recent election in Louisiana.

Anyone who doubts that ueber-wealthy ed reformers are purchasing elections in other states need only consider this November 10, 2019, campaign finance reportfor the Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) Action Fund PAC. Even so, as one quickly realizes when following ed reform money, the connections readily become numerous and complicated.

Let’s see how concise I can keep this this post centered on a single, LFC campaign finance report.

LFC is a state-level tentacle of the American Federation for Children (AFC), the school choice vehicle formerly chaired by US ed sec, Betsy DeVos. Louisiana gubernatorial challenger, Eddie Rispone is the former LFC chair. and also the former treasurer of the LFC Action Fund PAC.

According to LFC Action Fund PAC’s November 10, 2019, filing, three out-of-state donors (two individuals and one PAC), donated a combined $825K in October 2019. The same three donated a combined $2.6M in 2019 alone. They are Arkansas billonaire and Walmart heir, Jim Walton; California billionaire William Oberndorf, who succeeded DeVos as AFC chair, and a school choice PAC, Public School Allies:

  • William Oberndorf (CA): $275K in 10/19; $550K YTD (year to date).
  • Jim Walton (AR): $350K in 10/19; $912K YTD.
  • Public School Allies (VA): $200K in 10/19; $1.2M YTD.

Public School Allies lists as its address “6312 Seven Corners Center #354
Falls Church, VA 22044,” which is a UPS drop box. However, the October 24, 2019, Chlakbeat reports that Public School, Allies is the “political arm” of the City Fund, created in 2018 to spread school choice by three individuals, including former New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) CEO, Neerav Kingsland. From Chalkbeat:

The political arm of The City Fund, the organization with ambitions to spread charter schools and the “portfolio model” of school reform across the country, plans to spend $15 million to influence state and local elections over the next three years.

That political group, known as Public School Allies, has already directed money toward to school board races in Atlanta, Camden, Newark, and St. Louis, and state elections in Louisiana, Georgia, and New Jersey. Donations have ranged from $1 million to as little as $1,500.

The information was shared by Public School Allies and, in a number of cases, confirmed by campaign finance records. The $15 million comes from Netflix founder Reed Hastings and former hedge-fund manager John Arnold, the organization said.

According to his Linkedin bio, Kingsland worked for both Hastings and Arnold “leading education giving” immediately prior to establishing the City Fund.

Sure makes it read like the City Fund “belongs” to billionaires Hastings and Arnold.

But they are not alone. In 2018, billionaire Bill Gates gave the City Fund $10M “to increase the number of high-quality public schools in Oakland.” Of course, to the City Fund, a “public school” is a charter school.

Those complex ed-reform funding paths always seem to end with a few millionaires and billionaires, tossing their cash and puppeting the strings of American K12 education.

Open the link to read the list of officials who were elected by out-of-state billionaires.

Here is the thing: They can buy the seats, but once they have bought them, they have no plans that will actually improve anything. They love power. They buy elections.

Big money is a malignant force in our democracy.

I am not sure that I agree with Steven Singer’s point here, that NAEP scores tell us nothing other than that students from affluent homes have higher test scores than students who live in poverty. 

His main point is undeniable. All standardized test scores are highly correlated with family income.

We could use income and poverty data to learn what the test scores tell us, without wasting billions on standardized tests and corrupting instruction.

But I think that NAEP does tell us something we need official confirmation for: the utter failure of Disruptive Corporate Reform.

The Disrupters have promised since No Child Left Behind was proposed in 2001 that they knew how to raise test scores and close achievement gaps: Test every child every year and hold schools accountable for rising or falling scores. That will do it, said George W. Bush, Margaret Spellings, Rod Paige and Sandy Kress. They rode the wave of the “Texas miracle,” which turned out to be non-existent. Texas in 2019 is stuck right in the middle of the distribution of states.

Then came Jeb Bush, with his fantastical claims of a “Florida miracle,” which are now repeated by Betsy DeVos. Look at the NAEP scores: Florida is right in the middle of the states. No miracle there.

Arne Duncan has been promoting Tennessee, which as one of the first Race to the Top states, which is also ensconced in the middle of the distribution.

Look for yourself.

Two states that were firmly under the control of Reform heroes, Louisiana and New Mexico, are at the tail end of the distribution.

What do the NAEP scores tell us?

Don’t look for miracles.

Don’t believe propaganda spun by snake-oil salesman.

Look to states and districts that are economically developed and that fund their schools adequately and fairly.

The scores in states may go up or down a few points, but the bottom line is that the basics matter most. That is, a state willing and able to support education and families able to support their children.

 

Mercedes Schneider teaches high school English in Louisiana. She has been a close observer of the corporate reforms (the Disruption movement) under State Superintendent John White. White has been in charge since 2012. He has had the authority to pursue his own agenda, with the unwavering support of a state board elected by out-of-state money.

Schneider lays out his record, based on NAEP scores and ACT scores. 

It is not a pretty picture.

Schneider is accustomed to John White’s cherry-picking of data. But she will not let him get away with it.

She writes:

On October 30, 2019, the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores were made public.

After seven years of John White as Louisiana’s state superintendent, the results were so unsavory White and his Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) that his Louisiana 2019 NAEP Results Summary does not include a single actual NAEP scaled score.

Instead, the propagandistic flier advertises “change from 2017 to 2019” (differences in the actual scores that are intentionally excluded) and features “Louisiana ranks No. 1 in the nation for 2019 improvement in 8th grade math scale scores and
proficiency rates” and “Louisiana’s pace of improvement since 2009 in all subjects significantly exceeds national trends.”

So, let’s look at Louisiana’s NAEP average scaled scores across time– not just from 2017 to 2019.

She posts all the state’s NAEP scores from 2005-2019 (White has been superintendent since 2012)

But then there are the ACT scores.

She writes:

On the same day that 2019 NAEP scores were released, so were Louisiana’s Class of 2019 ACT scores.

Louisiana’s Class of 2019 composite was 18.9— the lowest since all Lousiana graduates began to be required to take the test, beginning with the Class of 2013. In that year, Louisiana’s baseline composite was 19.5 (or 19.1, depending which LDOE info one reads).

Louisiana’s ACT Composite Scores (2013 – 2019):

  • 2013: 19.5 (or 19.1)
  • 2014: 19.2
  • 2015: 19.4
  • 2016: 19.5
  • 2017: 19.6
  • 2018: 19.3
  • 2019: 18.9

Not so surprisingly, White has no press release for Louisiana’s 2019 ACT dive.

That does not mean he has not been asked.

New Orleans Public Radio education reporter, Jess Clark, asked White to comment on Louisiana’s falling ACT score and received the following vague response, including NAEP-propaganda deflection:

Asked for comment on the latest ACT results, Louisiana State Superintendent John White sent an emailed statement pointing to progress the state made in 8th grade math on another national standardized test, the “Nation’s Report Card,” or NAEP.

While the nation’s report card shows Louisiana tops the nation in 8th grade math progress, it’s important that we look at other indicators of our challenges,” he said.

John White wants to look at other indicators of “our” challenges.

I’ll bet he does.

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Gary Rubinstein, math teacher at Stuyvesant High School, is a skilled myth buster. He frequently unmasks “miracle” stories.

In this post, he demolishes the claim that Louisiana has improved faster in 8th grade math than other states.

This is the last gasp of the Disruption movement, which has controlled federal and state policy for 20 years but has little to show for it.

As Rubinstein shows, Arne Duncan and John White are leading the effort to find the “bright side” of the latest NAEP results, which were stagnant In 2019 and have been stagnant for a decade.

Duncan says the nation should look to Louisiana for inspiration. Louisiana ranked among the bottom  states on NAEP, 44th to 49th, depending on the grade and the subject. But how creative to point to one of the lowest performing states as a national model! Do what Louisiana did and your state too can rank among the bottom five states in the nation!

Gary points out that Louisiana has indeed improved, but its 2019 scores on 8th grade math were actually a point lower than its scores were in 2007! In other words, Louisiana hasn’t gained at all for the past dozen years!.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the leaders of the Disruption movement admitted that their 20-year-long policy of test-and-punish is both stale and failed?

Wouldn’t it be great if they said, “Whoa! We’re on the wrong track. We’ve inflicted nonstop testing on the nation’s children since 2002. We have spent billions on testing and test-prep. Scores went up for a few years but leveled off in 2007. Enough! Our answers are wrong. Time for fresh thinking.”

 

Mike Deshotels is a retired educator in Louisiana who blogs as “Louisiana Educator.”

In this post, he appraises State Superintendent John White’s record as state superintendent. 

He characterizes that record as “pitiful.”

John White, you may recall, is a “reformer,” that is, a specialist in Disruption. He is formerly TFA, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy, and before coming to Louisiana, worked for Joel Klein in New York City, preparing public schools for takeover by charter schools. He supports charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing.

Deshotels writes:

After over 7 years of John White as Louisiana’s education reformer, Louisiana ranks 47th on national reading and math tests, and 49th on the ACT.

John White’s propaganda mill had the unmitigated gall to put out this press release Tuesday claiming that Louisiana was “number one in the country in 8th grade math improvement” as measured by The Nations Report Card. This tiny bit of data selection is insignificant compared to overall achievement of our students in reading, math and college readiness. The press release neglected to mention that despite all this “improvement” Louisiana still ranks third to last compared to the 50 states in 8th grade math. There is also no mention that Louisiana ranks 47th out of the 50 states in overall performance on all the latest NAEP tests. No mention was made that the latest ACT tests now rank Louisiana second to last in the country in college readiness! Our ACT test score averages have been declining significantly for the last 3 years. White’s press release trying to portray total stagnation in student performance as “nation leading outcomes” is pathetic.

Deshotels reviews the state’ low NAEP scores, then turns to the steadily falling ACT scores:

For ACT scores, there is no press release at all from the LDOE, probably because they have not yet found a way to spin three years in a row of declining ACT scores as some type of success. Average ACT scores in Louisiana was 19.6 in 2017, 19.2 in 2018, and 18.8 in 2019. This is a very significant drop in three years. Don’t just take my word for it that Louisiana is performing poorly in college readiness, just take a look at this article by Will Sentell in The Baton Rouge Advocate casually mentioning that Louisiana has now fallen to 49th in the nation on the ACT.

 

 

 

Mercedes Schneider reports that the deluge of out-of-state money into the election of the state board of education was sufficient to elect a board amenable to the failed strategies of testing and choice. 

No fresh ideas to be expected from Louisiana. Just the same tired nostrums that were written into federal law nearly 20 years ago.

Schneider wonders if the new board will reappoint State Superintendent John White, a former TFA corps member and a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy. White was appointed in 2012 and was a cheerleader for charters and vouchers. Under his leadership, Louisiana has not only stagnated on the authoritative national test called NAEP, it has dropped almost to the rock bottom. One thing we have learned about corporate reformers: they are never dissuaded by failure. They fail and fail, but they never change course.

 

Bracey Harris writes in The Hechinger Report that teacher activism is making the governors’ races in red states competitive. 

This is great news.

Paula Howard teaches in a Republican stronghold in north Mississippi, along the Tennessee border. She usually votes Republican and is closely following the campaign of Jerry Darnell, a Republican educator running to represent Howard’s home district in the state Legislature.

But — while energized about the possibility of sending a conservative colleague to the state Capital — for governor she’s backing the Democrat, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. She likes his calls to dramatically increase funding for education, including raising teacher pay, directing an additional $300 million to school districts, and expanding the state’s public pre-K program.

And, like other teachers around the state, she hasn’t forgiven the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, for opposing a 2015 school funding initiative that would have increased money for education.

“It’s not about a ticket,” Howard said. “It’s about what they can do for our children…”

Spending on education is a wedge issue in the other two governor’s races this year, in Louisiana and Kentucky. A teacher sickout roiled the Bluegrass State in February, and the two candidates there have clashed on issues like teacher pensions and charter schools. Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said part of the playbook for Democratic candidates is to stay focused on local and state issues.

Republican candidates have made low taxes their highest priority. But voters seem to recognize that low taxes hurt schools and children.

If Southerners started voting for the best interests of their communities and their state, not for the wily promises of the 1%, it would be a new day for the South.

 

 

The Walton Family is collectively worth more than $150 billion, and their hobby is undermining and disrupting public schools across the nation. Since Louisiana has an election for the state board of education in a few days, you will not be surprised to learn that Jim and Alice Walton dropped $200,000 on candidates pledged to support charter schools, vouchers, and Teach for America.

Mercedes Schneider reports in this post that the Waltons waited until close to Election Day so that Louisianans would not have time to learn that out-of-State billionaires were trying to buy the state board elections.

The Waltons are determined to harm the public schools that educated their father Sam Walton and most of them.

The family belongs on the blog’s Wall of Shame for their ceaseless attacks on public schools, unions, experienced teachers, and communities.

Louisiana will hold elections for its state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on October 12. This year, as in the past, out-of-State billionaires are spending heavily to keep control of the state board to promote privatization policies. During the tenure of State Superintendent John White, a former deputy to Joel Klein in New York, the state’s ranking on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Is near the absolute bottom in both mathematics and reading, in both 4th and 8th grades. New Orleans has gone all-Charter and its score are in the bottom third of the state’s districts while its schools are highly segregated and stratified. This much is clear: Disruption has won control of the state board but done nothing to improve education.

BESE recommendations from veteran educator Michael Deshotels –
 
Dear Friend of Public Education:
 
With just a few days left before the election of a new BESE, you can help restore sanity and independence to our State Board of Education.
 
Out of state donors are making huge contributions to elect candidates that LABI  and John White will totally control. You will surely see their ads in your mailbox and on radio and television. Do not be deceived! These are not friends of public education. They will be committed to John White,  school privatization, obsessive testing, crushing test prep., etc.  But the results of these so called reforms have been terrible using the very measures they (the reformers) think are so important; Our ranking on NAEP is the worst ever! Why would we want to continue failed policies? Just so that LABI never has to admit that they were wrong, that they know noting about education, and that our students are suffering instead of thriving because of their takeover of education?  See this latest post on my blog. http://louisianaeducator.blogspot.com
 
Here is my abbreviated voting guide listing independent minded, solid public education advocates. Please do your best to get them elected!
 
District 1: including St. Tammany and Jefferson. I recommend Lee Barrios
 
District 2: including Orleans, St. Charles, St. John, St. James and part of Assumption: I recommend Dr. Ashonta Wyatt
 
District 3: including St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Mary, Iberia, St. Martin, part of Iberville and part of St. Landry: I recommend Janice Perea.
 
District 5: including Northeast LA and down to Rapides and Evangeline Parishes. I recommend Dr. Stephen Chapman
 
District 6: including EBR, Livingston, Ascension, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes. I recommend Gregory Spiers
 
District 7: including Southwest LA. I recommend Timmie Melancoin
 
District 8: including part of EBR, East and West Feliciana, St. Helena, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, Avoyelles, part of St. Landry part of St. Martin, and part of Assumption. I recommend Vereta Lee.

 

Mercedes Schneider discovered that Oregon-based Stand for Children is pouring money into school board races in Louisiana. Why should an Oregon organization try to choose school board elections in another state? That’s the way the Disruption Movement works. The funding comes from the usual sources, none of which is based in Louisiana.

She writes:

Since 2012, hundreds of thousands of dollars has flowed into Louisiana elections from this Portland, Oregon, ed-reform organization, and when I examined the campaign finance filings for these three PACs, I discovered only two Louisiana contributors to one of the PACs, the Stand for Children LA PAC…

SFC is anti-union, pro-Common Core, pro-school choice—usual corporate-ed-reform fare. As for some of its major money: Since 2010, the Walton Family Foundation has funded SFC (via the SFC Leadership Center$4.1M, with $400,000 specifically earmarked for Louisiana.

Then, there’s the Gates funding…

It all sounds so locally-driven, so grass-rootsy.

It’s probably best to not mention that SFC in Oregon finances the show.

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