Louisiana Superintendent of Education and Governor Bobby Jindal are experimenting on Louisiana’s Special Education students. This might seem like a harsh assessment, but as far as I can see the only alternative to this is that these guys are straight up stealing state and federal dollars allocated for special education students to fund pet projects, plug budget holes and provide additional funding to charter and voucher school operators – and that would be a violation of federal law and criminal – so I’m actually giving them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Superintendent John White takes his marching orders directly from Bobby Jindal, who recently had to abandon eliminating the state’s hospice program and an ill-conceived reverse robin hood tax scheme that increased the taxes on the poorest citizens of our state so as to eliminate taxes for the wealthiest citizens and corporations.  This follows on successful Jindal campaigns to eliminate the office of elderly affairs, over the objection of the head of this agency – whom Jindal fired immediately after she voiced her assessment under oath that eliminating this agency would lead to a decrease in support for our state’s aging citizens. Jindal has also closed most of the state’s mental hospitals, eliminated the state’s charity hospital system, rejected a largely free expansion of Medicaid that would have provided life-saving benefits to Louisiana’s poorest citizens, and slashed funding for state university’s by more than half – with more cuts on the way. Jindal, a “theoretical” devout Catholic, also executes inmates as often as possible, refusing even to delay them by one day despite objections from his own Bishops to postpone one until at least after Ash Wednesday. Obviously Jindal is not exactly trying to win any awards for devout Christian, or nicest human (or even for someone with a shred of any humanity) so it should be no surprise that he has decided conduct experiments on Louisiana’s Special Education students in the name of fiscal responsibility and accountability.  What follows are the hypothses Jindal and White are testing:

Hypothesis 1:

Disabled students improve their performance when you take away the money for providing educational services to them.

Hypothesis 2:

Disabled students can exceed expectations year after year until they are no longer disabled so long as you reallocate their funding when they don’t improve. (Less funding means increased performance.)

Hypothesis 3:

Students classified as “Talented” (for instance music, drama, art, or performing arts) can also excel at academics when you stop funding their talented programs.

Hypothesis 4:

Gifted Students can improve infinitely when you reduce their funding for academic programs when they don’t improve any given year.

These ideas may seem obvious to some of you. To me they seem less so. Nevertheless our Governor, and his trusty steed, have set a course to determine if these ideas have merit. The vehicle for conducting this experiment is something called the MFP funding formula. This is the formula through which Louisiana funds public education students each year. In the past the basic formula could fit on an index card and was pretty straight forward.

  • If you have a vanilla student, school districts get funding for one student.
  • If that student is classified as “disabled” districts get a weighted amount equal to 2.5 students.
  • If you have a gifted or talented student districts get funding equivalent to 1.6 students.

Now the formula is 26 pages long. This new formula was either devised to allow John White to conduct experiments on Louisiana children in all sorts of nearly incomprehensible ways, or to secretly steal the funding from Louisiana school children so it can be plugged back into the State general fund. Because Jindal and White have roundly rejected they are stealing money, and that this change is about accountability, I will take their word for this in my analysis of their plan.

Hypothesis 1: Disabled students improve their performance when you take away the money for providing educational services to them.

According to the formula proposed by John White on page 5 of 26

A. Student Performance – A weight is provided for student performance using the Value Added Model (VAM) and the LAA1 and LAA2 accountability data from the latest available data. The weight is provided under the following circumstances:

i. Category 1 provides a 135% weight times the number of students whose score in English Language Arts (ELA) or Math “exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model or whose LAA1 or LAA2 test results improved one achievement level or more, or

ii. Category 2 provides a 175% weight times the number of students whose performance in English Language Arts or Math “significantly exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model.

B. Graduation Rate – A weight is provided for students with disabilities that graduate using the latest available data. The weight is provided at 150% times the number of students who graduated within four or five years of entering high school.

I know what you’re probably thinking. At least John White filled his 26 pages with easily understandable gibberish and jargon. I’m sure most casual readers will understand what this means, but for those who don’t, allow me to translate.

LAA1 and LAA2 are tests for disabled students. Value Added Modeling is based on the idea that every student increases an average amount on a test each year. With a good teacher they will gain more, with a bad teacher they will gain less. The amount expected to be gained by a student is also based on each student’s previous gains. If a student makes an “exceptional gain” one year, they have to make an even larger gain the next year, and so forth. The first year they fail to make an exponential gain, they lose funding. The theory is, this loss in funding will cause the student to try even harder. Eventually students will have to score more points than are possible to keep up with their expected gains, so eventually all students will get less funding. I’m not sure what this is supposed to test.

The graduation metric is weird for a couple of reasons. Apparently hearing-impaired students who graduate in 3 or fewer years are not eligible for the additional funding, so on the one hand John White is setting average expectations for some students and punishing them if they exceed them. White doesn’t want disabled students graduating too soon. On the other hand he is assuming all students in Special Education, even those with severe mental disabilities, should be able to get a diploma. Many Special education students get training in life skills to help them be self-sufficient, or at least less dependent on full time caregivers. Apparently John White believes having high expectations for quadriplegic students with severe brain injuries will push them to both tie their shoes and get their highschool diploma.  If they don’t – he will take the funding that provides for their education.

Hypothesis 2: Disabled students can exceed expectations year after year until they are no longer disabled so long as you reallocate their funding when they don’t improve. (Less funding means increased performance.)

C. Continued Services After Declassification – The formula utilizes this weight in order to recognize the cost to the district associated with students declassified from special education but still requiring academic support services. This weight sustains funding once a student is no longer identified with a disability. The number of students that are no longer identified as a student with a disability from the latest available data is multiplied by 150% to determine the weighted student count. This weight does not include students identified as Developmentally Delayed or Speech Articulation Impairment.

Apparently in order to get the full level of funding for being disabled, disabled students should improve their performance until they are no longer disabled. I personally didn’t even know this was an option, but apparently John White believes disabled kids are really just slackers and just need a good kick in the pants to get over themselves. Just set some high expectations and they will cure themselves!  Limbs will regrow, brain injuries will heal, and eyeballs will regenerate! Get to work you disabled slackers!

Of course once they fix themselves our “no-longer-disabled-students” won’t be needing those Special Education dollars anymore, so Jindal can just plug those back in the general fund. Of course if disabled students don’t improve exponentially every year, or spontaneously cure themselves, we will also plough some of those dollars back into the general fund.  So it’s really a win-win situation for a politician, maybe less so if you happen to be a disabled child. . .

Hypothesis 3: Students classified as “Talented” (for instance music, drama, art, or performing arts) can also excel at academics when you stop funding their talented programs

Gifted and Talented Weight – The formula recognizes the cost of providing educational services to Gifted and Talented students. Students in grades Preschool through 8 identified as Gifted and Talented are provided a 60% weight. Gifted and Talented students in grades 9 through 12 are provided a weight of 30%. To determine the Gifted and Talented weight, the eligible February 1 Gifted and Talented Student Count (1.0) is multiplied by 60% or 30% respectively.

High Standards Weight – This weight is provided to recognize the cost of providing advanced coursework. A 30% weight is provided for students in grades 8 through 11 that meet the certain criteria on exams. To determine the High Standards Weight, the number of eligible students from the latest available data is multiplied by 30%. Students must meet the following criteria in order to be considered eligible:

o Students in 8th grade that score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests

o Students in 9th grade who score excellent on Geometry End Of Course (EOC) tests or score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

White seems to think talented students must either start taking advanced coursework and drop all those mamby pamby, arts, music and drama classes, or they should lose a portion of their funding. Additionally, not only must talented students take advanced courses unrelated to their talents, but now they must excel far and above most of their peers academically to continue qualifying for “talented” funding.  That seems reasonable.  It’s not like Louisiana is known for many musicians or artists anyways.

White also seems to think allowing some students to study single women from foreign countries in 11th grade is also a pretty good use of state funding (or he ironically hires under-educated morons to run his department of education these days. . . )

Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

Hypothesis 4: Gifted Students can improve infinitely when you reduce their funding for academic programs when they don’t improve any given year.

o Students in 8th grade that score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests

o Students in 9th grade who score excellent on Geometry End Of Course (EOC) tests or score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

Any year a gifted student does not take an EOC or AP test, even if its a test they’ve already taken before, they will lose a portion of their funding. This change was done (to ensure testing companies have an ever increasing revenue stream) to make sure gifted students were getting their money’s worth out of all those fancy shmancey advanced course work they are taking. If gifted students can’t prove they are getting their money’s worth to the state every year by earning AP credit,  White takes their money away.  To his mind, this will ensure they try harder, or lose access to advanced classes.

As far as I can tell. . .

Bobby Jindal is a heartless tyrant trying to shoot-the-moon in terms of being the most horrible human being possible and John White is following Jindal’s lead. If you are poor, weak, old, infirm, disabled, gifted, troubled, sick, young, old, a student, a teacher, or cross his path, Jindal wants to be your black cat and your grim reaper all rolled into one.

If you are a legislator you need to finally stand up to this lame-duck shell of a human being. You may think that by going along with him you are sparing yourself a committee demotion or perhaps a pet project for your constituents, but if Jindal’s history is any indication he will be coming for you, and whatever you hold dear.  If you never stood for anyone else then who will stand with you? The only way you can fight a petty tyrant like Jindal is by showing a united front.  This was done with the hospice elimination issue and more recently with his reverse robin hood sales tax scheme that turned out to be a losing deal for everyone, except Jindal and his pipe-dream inspired presidential political aspirations.

Reject the 2013 MFP formula proposed by John White and approved by BESE. Tell John White to restore the MFP formula to what it was before, a fair and much easily understandable funding formula that doesn’t punish or steal from disabled students.

If you are a voter, please call your senators and representatives NOW and tell them to reject the current 2013 MFP.

If you need to find out who your elected officials are, please use this tool. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx   To use this web based lookup tool all you will need is your current address.  The tool will give you the names and contact details for your state representatives.

We took his funding, like John White said, but he's not getting any better. . .
We took his funding, like John White said, but he’s not getting any better. . . And now we can’t afford his equipment.
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22 thoughts on “Bobby Jindal and John White Decide to Experiment on Special Education Students

  1. Thanks for saying what everyone must be thinking but was either too incredulous or just too plain lame to cross that “politically correct” line. Even Jindal cannot make blind students see.

    Note: Supt. White is characterizing the funding for special education, gifted and talented as a “block grant” that he is giving to districts that they can best determine where to allocate those funds. That is inaccurate – in fact illegal. Here is how the statute that defines how weighted funds are to be used.

    Fact according to White: The MFP only calculates the total cost of educating students and provides a block grant to districts. It does not fund or make rules for specific programs, such as talented education. Individual education plans identify what is needed for a child and must be funded. In this case, students classified as talented must continue to receive talented education services.

    Fact according to statute: LA Revised Statues R.S. 17:7(2)(f) (at http://www.legis.la.gov/lss/lss.asp?doc=81172&showback=Y):

    (f)(i) In addition to any other requirements of the minimum foundation program formula as most recently adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and approved by the legislature, the state board, beginning with the 2010-2011 school year and continuing thereafter, shall require each city, parish, or other local public school board to expend funds generated by applying the weighted factors contained in such formula for at-risk students, career and technical education course units, special education students other than gifted and talented students, and gifted and talented students on personnel, professional services, instructional materials, equipment, and supplies that serve the unique needs of students who generate such funds and to submit annually a written report to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that details the types of activities on which these funds were expended to serve the needs of the weighted students at all schools that serve such students. The information contained in such annual report shall be published on the state Department of Education website in an easily understandable format.

    That’s not exactly block-granting, if we’re required to spend the money on those students. Yes, we can spend more, but there is a restriction there.

    Plus, the state does make rules for those programs – by defining the identification criteria and requiring the appropriate services.

    Of course with all the young TFAs running (or I should say running around) the Department of Education there is no assumption that the law is even a known entity.

      1. Sadly, it appears that only parents filing suits has the potential to stop this illogical and illegal means to grab IDEA funds to give them to other sources. If the USDOE does not do a rigorous audit of the LDOE’s use of IDEA funds, the USDOE is at fault as well. So sad for the children in Louisiana- especially those with disabilities. It will be interesting to see of there is an attempt to steal IDEA funds to use for the vouchers- especially since most of the nonpublic schools honestly say they are not able to serve students with disabilities.

  2. Why would someone masdquerading as a White Catholic give one rats ass about educating our American children, bobby is playing his one trump card believing this is his guarantee for a presidential nomination, both partys want an unfeeling, eradicator of the lame, the mentally hindered, and the poverty level masses, this is why he is closing medical facilities and attempting to privatize the medical care of everyone, believe this, every puzzlebutt politician will have the best medical care available. BOBBY WOULD LIKE TO CREMATE EVERY SLOW MENTALLY HANDICAPPED CHILD AND EVERY UNDER ACHIEVER

  3. These yahoos do realize that less than a dozen Louisiana HS offer AP courses and even less than those offer IB programs so they’re rally trying to screw over urban and rural students who do not have access to these services. What about those gifted and honor students who take dual enrollment courses at the local cc or the university instead of AP or IB courses? My sister was a gifted student and received services but her HS doesnt offer AP or IB courses so I’d like to know how would students at schools that don’t have those courses take them? Also, at some schools, students are eligible for AP courses until their junior years. Does that mean no funding as a sophomore? John White needs to go back to New Jersey and Eli Broad. Between White and the Atlanta Public Schools scandal, the Eli Broad Foundation has done enough damage to education.

  4. Crazy Crawfish– Thanks for describing Jindal but I would add one other  – a heartless form of another Hitler he is actually combing his hair like hitler. Stephen M. Crovetto  

    1. Hitler is used too lightly in my opinion. No one is like Hitler except maybe Stalin and Pol Pot.

      Jindal is more like bumbling super-villain Dr Evil, from Austin Powers. John White is his mini-me wannabe.

  5. “The theory is, this loss in funding will cause the student to try even harder.”

    You mean his teachers to “try even harder”, even though we don’t know how.

    How do we “try even harder” to keep up with projected gains? It was simple with the NCLB Act – get the kid to proficiency. If the kid was failing my quizzes and tests, I would keep him after school and give him one-on-one attention (AKA: prep even more for the test).

    How do we figure out which students are on track to make gains and which aren’t? Even if a kid is getting A’s on quizzes and tests, how do I know he will make gains?

    This is an impossible bar for teachers. And that is exactly how it was designed. VAM is completely punitive and it does NOTHING to help teachers offer help to struggling teachers. VAM is a retrospective judgement about my teaching, and none of us really know how its calculated or what it means. All we know is to teach to the test even harder under RttT than we did under the NCLB Act.

    Arne Duncan and Obama ought to be ashamed of themselves. And so should the republicans.

      1. Sadly, it is getting worse every day as the LDOE loses more people with knowledge of educational pedagogy and an understanding of why there are federal laws that govern how education is provided. If someone doesn’t take action soon, the $$$ will just be in the pockets of the private providers of course choice and vouchers- those who helped put Jindal and most of the BESE members in office.

        1. That is the plan, and it’s working perfectly. I heard they gave 60 folks their walking papers this week under a RIF (Reduction In Force) plan, but already have a list of TFAers to hire to replace them. Civil Service is a joke.

  6. Bobby Jindal and John White hate everything about Louisiana and the education system. John White and Bobby Jindal should be investigated by the US Department of Education and the US Attorney. Money is being stolen left and right, and there is no stopping them. Bobby thinks he is going to be the next republican presidential candidate and the sad truth is – he is going to lose his own state. Have they forgotten that federal law supersedes state law? They have forgotten about IDEA. Bottom line – we have morons (somebody with significant learning difficulties and impaired social skills) running our state and our education system. How much funding will it take to fix them?

  7. What is the International Bachelorrette program? I am familiar with International Baccalaureate programs, and wish more schools in Louisiana had the program, but a Bachelorrette program is not something I know about

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