LouisianaVoice reveals pair of frustrating episodes that reveal problems of state hospital privatization, closures

Our general funding to DHH has almost trippled over the last 6 years in the wake of Bobby Jindal’s hospital privatization scheme that included the legislature approving a blank contract submitted by the Jindal administration. Tom Aswell and his sources relay some examples of what we bought for so much wasteful spending. More taxing and spending can not fix this problem, only make it worse. Someone needs to take some responsibility here. Expanding Medicaid, as Governor Edwards is pushing for, in this environment can only lead to more waste – and and very likely more death.

Louisiana Voice

Bobby Jindal: the gift that keeps on giving.

It’s bad enough that colleges and universities are facing the threat of temporary closures, cancellation of summer school, and loss of accreditation. But coupled with the bad news on higher education is an equally grim outlook for health care.

A sample of the legacy left us by Jindal’s hospital privatizations and closures:

In Baton Rouge, the closure of Earl K. Long (EKL) Medical Center had a ripple effect on the low income residents of North Baton Rouge. The emergency room patient care shifted onto Baton Rouge General Regional Medical Center Mid-City became such a money loser that it closed its emergency room on March 31, 2015. That moved emergency room care 30 minutes further away to Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) Medical Center, located in largely white South Baton Rouge. One emergency room doctor confided to the author that it was…

View original post 1,022 more words

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Solutions to and Analysis of Louisiana’s Budget Crisis

I’ve been seeing numerous vitriolic statements from various folks recently assigning blame to each other over Louisiana’s budget crisis.  For those of you who don’t know, Louisiana is short approximately one billion dollars of general funding revenue. We have to make that deficit up over the next 4 months or we will start defaulting on our financial obligations.  Next fiscal year, starting July 1st, we are looking at a 2 billion dollar deficit.

Our entire general fund is roughly 9 billion dollars.  One outspoken critic, who has little room to talk, is our State Treasurer, John Kennedy.  Kennedy should have been warning us before things got as bad as they are.  Kennedy has been issuing numerous proposals to fix the current crisis, however many of the proposals from our Treasurer are based on misappropriating federal funds – like those allocated to welfare and food stamp recipients by the federal government, or involve inconsequential amounts that will take years of investigations to realize.

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The idea that “we should take care of our children before we take care of able bodied, childless adults” is a great philosophy and hard to argue with from an ethical standpoint. It also makes great talking points for Kennedy’s recently announced Senate campaign. However it’s an unworkable solution in that the money is not fungible (that money came with strings attached and it can’t simply be re-appropriated and used for any other purpose -any decent treasurer would know this) and because the funds involved are, relatively speaking, insignificant compared to the size of the deficit.

So while our revenues may be less than we budgeted for, we have no shortage of grandstanding around unworkable solutions for political points.

I’ve heard some folks blame our situation on “global markets” that are “outside our control” and the decimation of oil in the commodities market, but that didn’t create the problem.  Our revenue estimating folks were way off in their estimates and assumptions. Their estimates were pushed through by Team Jindal to make his budget "balance".  While that didn’t help, that’s also not the root cause for our current problem. 

The collapse in oil is terrible for us and it’s why our economy is falling into what will be a deep recession for many years to come, but we had an unsustainable situation even before that.  However, this collapse is just one more reason I think we should implement real permanent cuts to government rather than raising the sales tax to the highest in the nation – taxing the poorest people in the poorest state to turn around and provide benefits for them seems like a really horribly inefficient idea to me.

Still, what I haven’t heard is anyone identifying the true root cause of this fiasco. Complaining about something “outside our control” is a weak excuse.  We have known for decades that oil prices are outside our control.  This shouldn’t be something we just figured out last month.  If our government was a good steward of our state and tax dollars then it should have planned for the inevitable crash.

Unless Louisiana diversifies out of the oil and gas sector our fate as a state will always be tied to the booms and busts of the energy sector. We should to be stockpiling funds during the boom years to wait out the lean years – without having to resort to new taxes during recessions – when Louisiana can least afford it.  However, because of the ephemeral nature of politics and politicians, that will probably never happen.  Still, I’d like to make a point about what I’d like to see happen over the next four years.

The resources the oil and gas industry are extracting from public lands belong to the people of Louisiana. The people should be getting a better share of that revenue, at least during boom times, to keep taxes as low as possible.  Much of our government is controlled by the oil and gas industry, so we are basically at their mercy unless people start to stand up to them, but that’s another set of issues entirely.

I would also like to see us address the whole issue of 80+ year corruption scandal whereby former Governor Huey Long’s descendants continue to reap financial benefits from public property. That won’t fix the current year’s budget problem, but we have spent hundreds of millions over the years on the basis of what is most likely an illegal contract. It would be a nice start to show our government is ready to finally be good stewards of our lands and tax dollars by ending this boondoggle.

However I admit these are distractions from the root issue as well.

I decided to start looking at the problem as if I was making the decisions.  Initially I started looking at small agencies to nickel and dime some money from to equal a billion dollars but the budget figures are present as annual amounts. To actually address the problem we would have to cut 3 times that amount with only 4 months remaining in the fiscal year.

For instance if an agency was budgeted 1 billion dollars for the year, you would have to eliminate their budget for the remaining third of a year to save just 333 million dollars, only about a third of what we need to recover. To put this problem in perspective, the state’s portion of MFP is about 3 billion dollars. To fix this problem with just cuts you would need to stop all payments to all schools in the state starting March 1st until the end of June (assuming the situation doesn’t continue to get worse.)  Bankrupting every school district in the state is probably a bad idea as well.

As part of my own research I also looked at the feasibility of furloughing employees as an option.  I know people like to suggest this every year we have serious budget shortfalls.  Unfortunately the entire payroll for the state is 3.2 billion dollars.  With a billion dollar deficit and only one third of year to make it up, we would have to furlough, fire, or lay off just about every single employee.  About half of the employees are state college employees so that would mean immediately closing every single public university in the state – and probably result in looters carrying off whatever they wanted since we wouldn’t even be able to pay for state police or even security guards to oversee the campuses.  Since many of these positions are actually federally funded that would get us in a whole lot of legal trouble as well. So the solution can’t even be solved by sending state employee home for the next 4 months without any pay.

Things are really that serious, but how did we really get here?

Many people have blamed this year’s budget for the problem.  I still don’t understand what Jindal and the Legislature did this year to pretend to balance the budget while appeasing Grover Norquist and his tax pledge slaves, and I have a degree in Accounting.  Generally speaking you want financial transactions and budgets to be transparent.  The more financial wizardry you employ to make the numbers work, the more likely your spells will backfire and end up cursing you.  That’s why a lot of banks, financial institutions, and even countries (Merril Lynch, AIG, GM, Citibank, Lehman Brothers, Ireland) went bankrupt or had to sell off their assets in fire sales to kick off the Great Recession.

To add to the complexity of the situation and duplicity of our elected officials, many politicians were running for reelection this year and Jindal was still intent on his Quixotic quest for the Presidency. I think many folks just wanted to pass a budget and worry about the implications later (or let their successors fix their mess.) I know some legislators just wanted pass something with the knowledge Jindal would be gone after the elections and they might have someone less obsessively obstinate and deceitful to work with.

Well here we are, right where most of our reelected legislative incumbents left us. With his presidential campaign in the toilet, and the job he said he wanted officially over, Jindal apparently has nothing better to do than tweet cryptic and childish things at his political opponents.  I think that’s actually a fitting end for someone who may come to be known as the Martin Shkreli of Governors.

However the problem we are having now actually has roots much older than 2016.  Based on a review of the last 10 years of general fund outlays, it’s pretty obvious what happened when you get to 2010, when Jindal decided to privatize all our hospitals pay outrageous sums to private entities.  Sometimes privatization can work, but if you look at DHH’s budget for the last 10 years, you can see this was an example that clearly did not. 

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DHH was averaging a little more than a billion dollars a year in general funds.  After Jindal’s meddling that price tag skyrocketed to 2.7 billion today. It has been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  That’s roughly equal to our entire corporate and personal income tax collections for the entire state!

At the current rate of expansion, general funds for DHH might very well eat up our entire General Fund budget before Edward’s first term is even over.  Ironically, if DHH was still funded at its 2006-2010 average we would have had surpluses in Louisiana every year, including this one. Next year’s 2 billion dollar deficit would have been only a mild concern easily remedied with our vast surpluses. 

Our healthcare spending is killing us.

I can’t justify spending all of our taxes on DHH, or raising taxes to cover these ballooned and ballooning costs. Can you?  These privatization deals occurred while most of our current legislators were in power.  They did not do their job during Jindal’s reign of error. They let us down; perhaps gambling on following Jindal to a Federal role. . .

That didn’t work out for them, and certainly not for us. Now it is time to hold them responsible for their gambling with our future and the futures of our children.  I would recommend that the Governor’s office, State House, and State Senate take on the lion’s share (percentage-wise) of the necessary short term cuts to get us through the end of the year.  They allowed this situation to transpire with their negligence and they should literally pay for it before tapping any other agency. (The budgets for the House and Senate are about 50 million and the Governor’s budget for this year is 121 million so obviously more cuts will be required.)

However, in the long term we have to address the DHH situation and stop the profuse bleeding of our tax dollars.  Not only has the general fund cost for treating our poor tripled during Jindal’s tenure, we’ve managed to simultaneously close charity hospitals and emergency rooms across the state.  A double whammy of out of control spending coupled with less accessible care.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our state our Treasurer and State legislature put in a little more time monitoring our finances before we got into crisis situations like this one?  Maybe if they are forced to pay for their mistakes this time, they will be less likely to just go with the flow next time?

Instead of blaming, I’d like to see some of them finally accept some blame. 

Instead of demanding unrealistic cuts on others, I’d like to see them show some leadership by committing to some cuts to themselves first.  It’s easy to blame others, and cut others, but that’s how we got here in the first place. We won’t fix this problem doing the same things over again and expecting different results.  That’s either just crazy, or just a gamble we can no longer afford.

Jindal’s Meddling in DHH Caused Our Budget Crisis

I’ve been seeing numerous vitriolic statements from various folks recently assigning blame to each other over Louisiana’s budget crisis.  For those of you who don’t know, Louisiana is short approximately one billion dollars of general funding revenue. We have to make that deficit up over the next 4 months or we will start defaulting on our financial obligations.  Next fiscal year, starting July 1st, we are looking at a 2 billion dollar deficit.

Our entire general fund is roughly 9 billion dollars.  One outspoken critic, who has little room to talk, is our State Treasurer, John Kennedy.  Kennedy should have been warning us before things got as bad as they are.  Kennedy has been issuing numerous proposals to fix the current crisis, however many of the proposals from our Treasurer are based on misappropriating federal funds – like those allocated to welfare and food stamp recipients by the federal government, or involve inconsequential amounts that will take years of investigations to realize.

The idea that “we should take care of our children before we take care of able bodied, childless adults” is a great philosophy and hard to argue with from an ethical standpoint. It also makes great talking points for Kennedy’s recently announced Senate campaign. However it’s an unworkable solution in that the money is not fungible (that money came with strings attached and it can’t simply be re-appropriated and used for any other purpose -any decent treasurer would know this) and because the funds involved are, relatively speaking, insignificant compared to the size of the deficit.

So while our revenues may be less than we budgeted for, we have no shortage of grandstanding around unworkable solutions for political points.

I’ve heard some folks blame our situation on “global markets” that are “outside our control” and the decimation of oil in the commodities market, but that didn’t create the problem.  Our revenue estimating folks were way off in their estimates and assumptions. Their estimates were pushed through by Team Jindal to make his budget “balance”.  While that didn’t help, that’s also not the root cause for our current problem. 

The collapse in oil is terrible for us and it’s why our economy is falling into what will be a deep recession for many years to come, but we had an unsustainable situation even before that.  However, this collapse is just one more reason I think we should implement real permanent cuts to government rather than raising the sales tax to the highest in the nation – taxing the poorest people in the poorest state to turn around and provide benefits for them seems like a really horribly inefficient idea to me.

Still, what I haven’t heard is anyone identifying the true root cause of this fiasco. Complaining about something “outside our control” is a weak excuse.  We have known for decades that oil prices are outside our control.  This shouldn’t be something we just figured out last month.  If our government was a good steward of our state and tax dollars then it should have planned for the inevitable crash.

Unless Louisiana diversifies out of the oil and gas sector our fate as a state will always be tied to the booms and busts of the energy sector. We should to be stockpiling funds during the boom years to wait out the lean years – without having to resort to new taxes during recessions – when Louisiana can least afford it.  However, because of the ephemeral nature of politics and politicians, that will probably never happen.  Still, I’d like to make a point about what I’d like to see happen over the next four years.

The resources the oil and gas industry are extracting from public lands belong to the people of Louisiana. The people should be getting a better share of that revenue, at least during boom times, to keep taxes as low as possible.  Much of our government is controlled by the oil and gas industry, so we are basically at their mercy unless people start to stand up to them, but that’s another set of issues entirely.

I would also like to see us address the whole issue of 80+ year corruption scandal whereby former Governor Huey Long’s descendants continue to reap financial benefits from public property. That won’t fix the current year’s budget problem, but we have spent hundreds of millions over the years on the basis of what is most likely an illegal contract. It would be a nice start to show our government is ready to finally be good stewards of our lands and tax dollars by ending this boondoggle.

However I admit these are distractions from the root issue as well.

I decided to start looking at the problem as if I was making the decisions.  Initially I started looking at small agencies to nickel and dime some money from to equal a billion dollars but the budget figures are present as annual amounts. To actually address the problem we would have to cut 3 times that amount with only 4 months remaining in the fiscal year.

For instance if an agency was budgeted 1 billion dollars for the year, you would have to eliminate their budget for the remaining third of a year to save just 333 million dollars, only about a third of what we need to recover. To put this problem in perspective, the state’s portion of MFP is about 3 billion dollars. To fix this problem with just cuts you would need to stop all payments to all schools in the state starting March 1st until the end of June (assuming the situation doesn’t continue to get worse.)  Bankrupting every school district in the state is probably a bad idea as well.

As part of my own research I also looked at the feasibility of furloughing employees as an option.  I know people like to suggest this every year we have serious budget shortfalls.  Unfortunately the entire payroll for the state is 3.2 billion dollars.  With a billion dollar deficit and only one third of year to make it up, we would have to furlough, fire, or lay off just about every single employee.  About half of the employees are state college employees so that would mean immediately closing every single public university in the state – and probably result in looters carrying off whatever they wanted since we wouldn’t even be able to pay for state police or even security guards to oversee the campuses.  Since many of these positions are actually federally funded that would get us in a whole lot of legal trouble as well. So the solution can’t even be solved by sending state employee home for the next 4 months without any pay.

Things are really that serious, but how did we really get here?

Many people have blamed this year’s budget for the problem.  I still don’t understand what Jindal and the Legislature did this year to pretend to balance the budget while appeasing Grover Norquistand his tax pledge slaves, and I have a degree in Accounting.  Generally speaking you want financial transactions and budgets to be transparent.  The more financial wizardry you employ to make the numbers work, the more likely your spells will backfire and end up cursing you.  That’s why a lot of banks, financial institutions, and even countries (Merril Lynch, AIG, GM, Citibank, Lehman Brothers, Ireland) went bankrupt or had to sell off their assets in fire sales to kick off the Great Recession.

To add to the complexity of the situation and duplicity of our elected officials, many politicians were running for reelection this year and Jindal was still intent on his Quixotic quest for the Presidency. I think many folks just wanted to pass a budget and worry about the implications later (or let their successors fix their mess.) I know some legislators just wanted pass something with the knowledge Jindal would be gone after the elections and they might have someone less obsessively obstinate and deceitful to work with.

Well here we are, right where most of our reelected legislative incumbents left us. With his presidential campaign in the toilet, and the job he said he wanted officially over, Jindal apparently has nothing better to do than tweet cryptic and childish things at his political opponents.  I think that’s actually a fitting end for someone who may come to be known as the Martin Shkreli of Governors.

However the problem we are having now actually has roots much older than 2016.  Based on a review of the last 10 years of general fund outlays, it’s pretty obvious what happened when you get to 2010, when Jindal decided to privatize all our hospitals pay outrageous sums to private entities.  Sometimes privatization can work, but if you look at DHH’sbudget for the last 10 years, you can see this was an example that clearly did not. 

DHH was averaging a little more than a billion dollars a year in general funds.  After Jindal’s meddling that price tag skyrocketed to 2.7 billion today. It has been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  That’s roughly equal to our entire corporate and personal income tax collections for the entire state!

At the current rate of expansion, general funds for DHH might very well eat up our entire General Fund budget before Edward’s first term is even over.  Ironically, if DHH was still funded at its 2006-2010 average we would have had surpluses in Louisiana every year, including this one. Next year’s 2 billion dollar deficit would have been only a mild concern easily remedied with our vast surpluses. 

Our healthcare spending is killing us.

I can’t justify spending all of our taxes on DHH, or raising taxes to cover these ballooned and ballooning costs. Can you?  These privatization deals occurred while most of our current legislators were in power.  They did not do their job during Jindal’s reign of error. They let us down; perhaps gambling on following Jindal to a Federal role. . .

That didn’t work out for them, and certainly not for us. Now it is time to hold them responsible for their gambling with our future and the futures of our children.  I would recommend that theGovernor’s office, State House, and State Senate take on the lion’s share (percentage-wise) of the necessary short term cuts to get us through the end of the year.  They allowed this situation to transpire with their negligence and they should literally pay for it before tapping any other agency. (The budgets for the House and Senate are about 50 million and the Governor’s budget for this year is 121 million so obviously more cuts will be required.)

However, in the long term we have to address the DHH situation and stop the profuse bleeding of our tax dollars.  Not only has the general fund cost for treating our poor tripled during Jindal’s tenure, we’ve managed to simultaneously close charity hospitals and emergency roomsacross the state.  A double whammy of out of control spending coupled with less accessible care.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our state our Treasurer and State legislature put in a little more time monitoring our finances before we got into crisis situations like this one?  Maybe if they are forced to pay for their mistakes this time, they will be less likely to just go with the flow next time?

Instead of blaming, I’d like to see some of them finally accept some blame. 

Instead of demanding unrealistic cuts on others, I’d like to see them show some leadership by committing to some cuts to themselves first.  It’s easy to blame others, and cut others, but that’s how we got here in the first place. We won’t fix this problem doing the same things over again and expecting different results.  That’s either just crazy, or just a gamble we can no longer afford.

Letter to the Auditor

 

I recently received this letter from a friend named Mark Joyce, who has been getting very actively involved in Louisiana’s education scene and in particular the malfeasance at the LDOE.  (Mark has recently been investigating and publishing pieces about campaign financing for candidates in the Advocate and Louisiana Voice.)  After reading about the latest disgusting revelations that have come out about ReNew charter in New Orleans he apparently recognizes this systemic abuse and neglect is something we all need to be concerned about and he as written the legislative auditor to try and rekindle some interest in some of the auditor’s own findings as well as these latest developments.

Mark summarizes some more historical revelations about now LDOE and RSD have squandered precious funding over the years without any repercussions.  Local school districts are also dramatically impacted by the way our state has chosen to implement charter schools. This is putting a strain on local communities and school systems over the same time period that funding for local systems has decreased.

The State has devised a scheme whereby they essentially steal locally local tax dollars allocated to pay for public schools overseen by the local district and hand them off to charter schools that the state “oversees” (not very well if at all as the ReNew situation shows) and approve and which the local district has no oversight over.  In light of our state’s current dire financial situation can we afford to permit this systemic and commonplace incompetence continue?

 

 

February 3, 2016

Daryl G. Purpera, CPA, CFE

Legislative Auditor

1600 North Third Street

P.O. Box 94397

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9397

Mr. Purpera,

I applaud your office’s efforts to help ensure transparency and accountability in the use of taxpayer funds. With a budget deficit in the billions, there is no room for fraud or financial mismanagement.

The Financial Audit Services Management Letter issued December 21, 2015 by your office, highlighted the Recovery School District (RSD)’s inadequate financial controls for the ninth year in a row. As your office noted, “We determined that the prior year findings related to inadequate controls over movable property and inadequate controls over payroll terminations and overpayments have not been resolved by management and are addressed again in this letter.”

Problems are not limited to RSD; more generally, your audits have repeatedly shown deficiencies throughout the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE)’s financial systems. Problems with LDOE’s fiscal management of public money are pervasive.  The system lacks fiscal responsibility for both public and charter schools (within the RSD and elsewhere).

Charter school growth has added to the financial management and oversight problems for LDOE. The gaps are showing.  Some examples are highlighted below.

Recently nola.com reported January 29, 2016, on fraud in testing and special education at a charter school in New Orleans.

The former principals of ReNEW SciTech Academy in Uptown New Orleans were accused Friday (Jan. 29) of special education fraud, failing to follow federal special education law and breaking state testing rules. Louisiana Recovery School District officials said the principals, Tim Hearin and Alex Perez, snagged almost $320,000 in public money for the school in the 2014-15 academic year by artificially inflating special education services. They also broke numerous test security rules, including asking at least three teachers to look at testing books — one during the test itself — to improve future results.

These are special education funds. These dollars are precious.  Back in 2013, in your report, Louisiana Department of Education – Monitoring of Charter Schools, it was reported that three of the six schools that offered special education services either had excess charges for special education students or could not provide documentation of services provided to special education students. Obviously the issues around the management of these funds continue.

A rising financial issue that New York and other states are identifying is charter schools paying inflated leases for their buildings significantly above market rates. This is happening in Louisiana, also.  One example is the Mentorship Academy type 1 charter in Baton Rouge.

Annual rent is approximately $800,000 on a building (owned by an out-of-state Real Estate

Investment Trust) with an assessed value of $3.2 million. This equates to yearly rents equivalent to 25% of the building costs. More dollars for rent leaves fewer dollars for education.

Another example is Inspire Charter Academy, another type 1 charter in Baton Rouge.  It is owned by a company in Michigan that shares an office address with National Heritage

Academies. This site has an assessed value of $5.5 million and annual rent above $1 million.

Again, this money leaves state control and is not available for use in the classroom.  LDOE should have oversight systems in place to ensure that excessive amounts are not being paid in overhead at the expense of education.

Another example of lack of sound financial management systems related to the vouchers issued through the Louisiana Scholarship Program. This was highlighted in your report issued September 27, 2015, Prevailing Faith Academy May Have Used Scholarship Funds for Other Purposes.  The Legislative Auditor office uncovered this issue.  LDOE did not.

The issue of transparency, accountability and oversight is increasingly critical given that increasing amounts of local tax money is being diverted away from the control of local school boards without the commensurate growth in good financial management.

According to the most recent LDOE Minimum Foundation Program spreadsheet, over $242 million is expected to be deducted in 2015-16 from the state’s support of local schools and instead given to state-chartered schools, which effectively removes local tax revenue from local control.  This total has grown from $184 million in 2013-14.

Most of the local taxes transferred to the state for charters are in Orleans Parish, but the numbers elsewhere in the state are significant.  These figures include RSD but appear to exclude Type 1 (locally approved) charters. For 2015-16 the forecasts are:

• Orleans Parish will transfer $162,735,197 of local tax money to state control

• East Baton Rouge Parish School System:  $28,327,990

• Lafayette: $9,652,336

• Calcasieu: $9,599,131

• For the other 65 parish and city districts COMBINED, the total loss of local tax money to charters is $31,959,492

• The estimate statewide total diversion is $242,274,146

In the past three years, local education dollars rerouted from traditional public schools to charter schools rose by 39 percent in the East Baton Rouge Parish school district — to $28.3 million — and 73 percent in the Jefferson Parish school system — to $4.5 million, according to state figures (comparing the spreadsheet referenced above with similar reports from previous years).

These figures were reported in The Advocate: Critics say charter schools draining vital dollars.

Furthermore, it does not appear that either the RSD or the LDOE consistently audit student home address data to assure that school systems are having money transferred based on students who actually live in the districts whose local revenue is being taken away.

Regarding the distribution of funds, I have seen no evidence that the Superintendent has established systems to avoid the issue you reported in Louisiana Department of Education –

Monitoring of Charter Schools in 2013 that found that LDOE overpaid or underpaid half of the participating schools in academic year 2012-13.

Even parishes without charter schools are involuntarily contributing local tax revenue to support them.  “BESE is overriding local school board decisions in the name of choice, and the local district is left holding the bag,” according to Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association said just last week at a BESE meeting.

The LDOE Bureau of Internal Audit lacks the size, funding or independence to provide sufficient oversight to review both the public school system AND the new charter and voucher school systems in Louisiana. Results of these (any) audits have not been made public. Of course, there is an annual report from LDOE, but this presentation has been roundly criticized for lack of independence and the lack of any provision of data to an independent third party. For such a critical issue as education, the department does not provide de-identified data in any raw form.

In any case, the presentation does not provide the oversight envisioned by the legislature.

Finally, as LDOE reported, they stopped conducting on-site audits of charter schools in 2008 because of a reported “lack of resources”. Currently, charters self-report.

Obviously, LDOE under the current superintendent has not been responsive to the results of external audits. As you know, recently LDOE responded that they do not need to develop a more comprehensive financial management and oversight process; it “is confident that its current practice … is sufficiently comprehensive.”

Given the findings in the report coupled with the existing lack of oversight by the Department of

Education, we respectfully request that your office formally audit LDOE’s financial oversight of ALL charter-type schools and update Louisiana Department of Education – Monitoring of Charter Schools.

Adequate oversight processes are necessary to ensure that monies are spent as intended, in this case, for the education of our children.

Thank you for your time and thank you for all you have done for Louisiana.

To verify that this email has been received, please reply and acknowledge receipt. If I do not receive a reply in a few days, I will resend it as a certified letter. Feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Mark Joyce

Full Circle

Four years ago this month I quit LDOE to pursue justice for the people of Louisiana.  I feel justice is the appropriate word, because I believe superintendent John White is a criminal and he should be brought to justice and answer for his crimes.  Now, four years later, it appears White has achieved a new form of legitimacy under a new Governor and administration of the opposite political party bringing new and local relevance to the cliche’ that “the more things change the more things stay the same.”

I’ve been told by former allies I need to hush myself, to be quiet and allow Governor Edwards time to work his magic.  To those who would seek to silence me, know this, I am doing nothing to stop him.  I strongly encourage him to continue his efforts; if those are serious and sincere.  It will be beneficial for him in the long run, as well as the rest of Louisiana, to remove White.

When I left the Department I had only vague ideas of what I would to accomplish.  I was very naive to say the least.  I foolishly believed that good always triumphed over evil, that crimes were punished once they were discovered, that deep down everyone wanted to take care of our state and our children (they just had different ideas about how to go about doing that.)  I thought the media still had plenty of Peter Parkers and and Clark Kents to battle all the Jonah Jamesons, but that just isn’t so.

Even so, I think many folks who knew me considered me plenty jaded before I left the department on my ill-conceived quest for justice, truth, transparency, and fairness. I’m sure many were genuinely surprised to find out about my extracurriculars after I left. . .  Now that I’ve peered behind the polluted political curtain personally, my anger and frustration has given way to something. . . new.  It’s not acceptance exactly, but it is the expectation that almost anyone involved in politics, law enforcement, and government in general is probably a crook – at least those in positions of power in those agencies.  So like, what’s the point in “exposing” anything really?  The Catch 22, no one in power cares or they wouldn’t be in power.  We reward personal loyalty over integrity in the government sector and our political system is geared toward electing liars and bribable double-dealers.   For instance, in Louisiana many of our agency heads are former or future politicians or relatives of connected individuals or donors.  Competency is probably the least important consideration for most appointees.

I imagine this is not an enormous revelation for most of my readers, but it is a sad realization for me, and poses a bit of a personal quandary.  I started my blog with the idea that I could make a difference and that the truth mattered.  That no longer appears to be the case.  Keeping up a blog and researching new material for it takes a lot of time if done well.  Usually you become the subject of scorn and mockery and you and your family can even be personally threatened if you anger the wrong folks as has happened to me on occasion.

I suppose the experience for bloggers like Peter Cook out of NOLA who proudly extolls the virtues of his not-so-secret unabashed bromance, is a bit different.  Those who support the status quo and the ideas of their wealthy benefactors probably walk on rose petal strewn paths to their keyboards every morning.  The life of an outcast, agitator blogger are a bit less pleasant and filled with a lot less triumph, reward, and recognition and you are always one post away from making a new enemy if you are acting true to your principles and beliefs and, well, the truth.  When people recognize my name from my blog I never know if they are going to punch me or hug me so I eye everyone a bit cautiously until I see if their hands are clenched and eyes are narrowing.

Believe it to not, writing a blog reporting on unpopular subjects that most people will never read or give you credit for is not the most inspirational existence.  Inspiration is a blogger’s stock in trade, to give and receive.  Inspiration is the only currency most bloggers will ever receive for their efforts and so when then that disappears. . .

I have the material, just not the will to curate or produce it for the time being.  I have taken on other projects, so I don’t lack for things to do.  Perhaps I am done, or perhaps my goals and objectives are evolving into something new?

Getting involved in the election process has taken a toll and I’ve been taking the decisions made by others too personally.  Accepting that I don’t have control of others, only myself, sounds obvious but has been more challenging than I expected.  I don’t like losing, elections, games, goals, but maybe this was a good thing for me personally and needed to happen for the next evolution of myself and my blogging to take place?

The problems are deeper and more entrenched than I’d thought.  I do have some ideas though. . .  and I don’t expect the next 4 years to be the same as the last.