Jindal scrutinizes micro-contracts

I’ll be honest.  When i piggybacked ( http://wp.me/p2iZLF-Kp )on Mercedes  Schneider’s post about John White seeking to stealthily contract out PARCC like questions on the sly last week, (and recommended someone notify the Jindal administration I didn’t really think that anyone would do it, and if they did I didn’t think it would amount to much.) 

Then i saw this article:


This situation bares watching.  This could get interesting.  Jindal is now public about knowing about this, and John White is running out of time to build or buy some tests for the Spring.

You guess is as good as mine as to how this will turn out.  Get some popcorn though, this cluster might be fun to watch pop.

Nice tip, sources who will remain anonymous.  :)

Common Core Chaos, Loss and Betrayal

Common Core Chaos, Loss and Betrayal

Recently I was interviewed by WAFB about the latest developments in Louisiana’s Common Core lawsuit saga and the recent court loss. You can see the full story here: http://www.wafb.com/story/26328975/common-core-debate-continues

On a personal note, I was amused that this was a story I’d watched earlier in the day while working out, but without sound. I remember wondering what the folks were saying, but figured it was just a bunch of face saving and sparring . . . and that I’d probably never know. I wasn’t far off of my analysis, but I was wrong about not seeing it again. A few hours later I was weighing in on the situation myself and ended up appended to the same video. Lol. That’s a strange feeling to be sure. Earlier in the week I was contacted by Motoko Rich at the New York Times to provide some background and commentary. I actually didn’t know I would end up being quoted, I’ve been contacted by reporters at various times and outlets to provide background info from a local perspective and I usually try to point reporters to other folks if I can. Tonight I was contacted by a producer from Al Jazeera, America to explain some of the complex issues and nuances in our Common Core battle. I’ve gotten some feedback that this contact makes people a little uneasy, but I try to keep an open mind. Maybe that’s my strength (or my Achilles Heel)? I prefer to think of it as the former.

Ultimately I can’t control what any of these folks do with the info I provide them, but I feel it is important to provide a counterpoint to the corporately funded Reform line on so many issues important to our community. Mainstream coverage is important and my blogging helps me break into that market. For instance, without mainstream media coverage by folks like Stephanie Simon at Reuters, I have little doubt that inBloom would still be in business selling out children’s data to not just the highest bidder, but any bidder.

Once this information gets out there, it’s going to be abused. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Jason France, a father of two in Louisiana.

In case you were wondering, I think the above linked article by Stephanie Simon was perhaps the most important story in terms of raising national awareness of this issue as an issue that we should all be concerned about. We can’t know who our next Stephanie Simon will be ahead of time though.

I’ve provided info and interviews to folks at the Advocate, Reuters, LPB, Monroe News star, NPR, Louisiana Anthology, WBOK, Al Jazeera, Channel 2, Channel 9, and various New York Times folks on numerous occasions, researchers, documentary makers and many, many blogs. Sometimes it’s been flattering coverage, sometimes not so much. (You’d think I’d be better at it by now too, but hey, we can’t all be reality stars.) I’m still (not so secretly) hoping I get a call from the Daily Show or Colbert Report to do a segment or to even just be an audience member. (They had Michele Rhee on, and she’s a fraud who recently resigned her position at Student’s First in disgrace, so why not me, right?)

But wow, that was a digression, wasn’t it?

Let me bring this back in.

What I can control is the content of my blog.

Let me state up front: I did not initially flag Common Core as a problem. I was concerned with charters, virtual schools, data, VAM, privacy, RSD, school based corporal punishment, accountability, dropout rates, shadow schools, massive layoffs, excessive discipline rates, data quality, TFA taking over LDOE, vouchers, MFP funding, Special Education and 504 issues, poor teacher evaluation systems, and so forth. You’d think that would be enough! J

It took some researching, numerous discussions and investigations and real world experiences for me to see the harm it posed and the great corporate specter behind its creation and implementation. When I looked at my daughter’s homework assignments, Math especially, I became very alarmed and disturbed and wrote about my experiences. A lot of people identified with my raw post, which also contained details about how Common Core was secretly (basically since no one really knew what they heck it was) adopted in Louisiana before the Standards were even published or finalized. But the story didn’t end there.

A lot of parents had problems across the spectrum of Common Core assignments and curriculum. Some parents in some settings had minimal issues, or didn’t care. Organizations like LaBAEO and Louisiana Stand For Children came out strongly in support of Common Core. Most folks didn’t realize these organizations are headed by former senior staffers from the Louisiana Department of Education, Kenneth Campbell and Rayne Martin. I’m not sure of Kenneth’s situation, but I know Rayne is not an educator nor a parent. She is highly compensated by out of state funders and supporters of Common Core. She is a “reformer” that was living in Chicago until former RSD superintendent, the nomadic and politically connected Paul Vallas (former Illinois Governor candidate currently running for Illinois Lieutenant Governor after being chased out of his Connecticut superintendent position he was determined by their court system to be illegally placed in) brought Rayne here a half dozen years ago, and now she runs an organization called Louisiana Stand for Children (of which she has none.)

I showed up to BESE meetings where cadres of redshirted Exxon “Common Core cheerleaders” showed up for a few minutes and testified en masse about how awesome high standards were for STEM careers (ahead of all the parents who had been waiting all day to speak) and then filed out immediately after – after cheering each other on.

I attended meetings and heard stories from parents who had tried to meet with officials from the Louisiana Department of Ed, their BESE members, or in some cases their local school boards, where instead of listening to their concerns, they were lectured. . . for hours, and commanded to sit passively and just listen. At the end these folks giving presentations, like BESE members James Garvey, Holly Boffy and regional leaders like Gayle Sloan could not answer questions and did not register, acknowledge or report parents’ concerns, after wasting so much of parents’ time and patience.

This went on for more than a year into the implementation, and goes on today. The implementation of Common Core in Louisiana was also likely sabotaged by John White on purpose, with dueling implementation dates, conflicting messages, and what looked like (to me) as intentionally mixed signals. It is not even a widely disputed fact that the Louisiana implementation and rollout was terrible, uneven and completely bungled in many cases. Rather than acknowledge the failings, address parents’ concerns, and address or acknowledge widely agreed upon shortcomings in the initial rollout and gaps in the standards, LDOE and so many groups inside and outside the state closed ranks and closed their eyes to the chaos swirling around them; that they created. Rather than address the deficiencies head-on and honestly they chose to ignore them, to point to deficiencies in the old curriculum (in a never ending circular he-said/she-said finger pointing contest), or point to their lofty goals which for which they had no evidence their Common Core standards and curriculum could achieve – even if the goal was something everyone wanted to achieve.

Look! It’s magic, and 100% evidence and fact free!

Parents had and have real problems and questions with Common Core, and all they get are fluff PR pieces like this willfully ignorant infographic. Many of those opposed to Common Core are professionals, Engineers, Programmers, Writers, Doctors, Lawyers, PHd’s, Teachers, University Professors, Scientists. We understand what the STEM careers demand, because we work in them, and we are not buying what the Common Core folks are selling.

I understand this was a very ambitious project. I understand the goals on Common Core (I just happen to not agree with them.) I don’t think the sole purpose of public education is preparing students for community colleges and introductory careers they are never able to grow out of. There may be a place for those, but our current education system allows (or allowed) students to acquire educations in a broad range of subjects, to become informed and responsible citizens and to hopefully learn to enjoy learning for its own sake, and not just for test score or accolade. The US has never been leader in test scores that the Reform movement implies we were; or should aspire to be. We got where we are in the world based on our freedom of thought and creativity, neither of which are quantifiable or test well. Some of our greatest minds were not that scholastically adept or persistent. Bill Gates, who is pushing the college and career ready curriculum dropped out of college to found one of the most important tech companies of the last century (Microsoft) and became the wealthiest person on the planet in doing so.

Add to that list these innovative college dropout billionaires:


Many of who are pushing the Reform agenda and urgent need for increasing test scores. I have to wonder if we’d even have computers (at least to the extent we have today) now if these guys:

  • Michael Del (Dell)
  • Steve Jobs (Apple)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
  • Larry Ellison (Oracle)
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft)

had been subjected to Common Core instead of being able to experiment in their electronics garage hobbies and electives and exercise their imaginations.

I’m not suggesting college is unimportant or that everyone should dropout and try their hand at creating a tech startup. I am explaining why it is hypocritical for folks like Bill Gates to demand this as the only path for everyone and I am suggesting if we forsake education for the sake of test scores we are doing ourselves a vast disservice. This is the ultimate tail wagging the dog situation. Tests were meant to give us a baseline to judge student performance. Tests were never meant to be the end all be all for education. That move is beyond just foolish, it is destructive and ridiculous. But to understand why these successful and smart folks think they know more than you do, in fields they’ve never experienced success but which their vast fortunes allows them access to alter the landscape in fundamental ways. You must understand these folks think in data points. If something is not measurable it is not valued. Many things in life are important but not measurable. Faith. Love. Spirit. Freedom. Imagination. Creativity. Education is one of those immeasurable things too. We can roughly measure how many words you know, or math problems you can solve, but we can’t measure everything you know or might think. Education is not just about numbers and words, not just about what we know, but what we can create with our minds and what we can learn in the future. Once we leave schools, we no longer take tests, but we must always learn to live, to grow in our relationships with each other, to take care of our children, neighbors, family and country, and to master the skills of the various jobs we will hold throughout our lifetime. After formal schooling I’ve learned numerous computer languages, software applications, reporting tools and even picked up an avocation or two that required a great deal of self-study, motivation and very little in the way of formalized recognition and rewards. The latter is learning and education for its own sake. What I have described will be the majority of life for everyone but eternal academics. Preparing students for endless Common Core testing (so we adults can feel better about providing measurably identical “educations”) is not preparing students for life – quite the opposite.

So when Bobby Jindal seemed to come to our rescue in the anti-Common Core camp, I admit I was overly trusting. I had been assured this move was coming for months ahead of time. Bobby Jindal seemed to speak passionately and say the right things (for the most part.) I tried to explain away the warnings I received from numerous sources claiming this was a carefully orchestrated ruse. I really didn’t give him enough credit to pull that kind of ruse off, but I had been told this was a ploy to take the heat off Jindal from the conservative groups, Tea Party groups, and to give Jindal a stance and platform to differentiate himself from other potential Republican presidential candidates. Victories have been few and far between but I liked to think that wasn’t influencing my hopeful thoughts. . . but the pieces weren’t adding up. Jindal donated and channeled massive amounts of funding to candidates that put John White in place. Surely that would give him some pull with some of those folks? But every one of those folks he helped elect not only refused to consider his demand to end Common Core, they voted to sue him. . . personally. . . claiming he was violating the state’s constitution. Not a light matter. But that wasn’t all. Jindal appoints three members to BESE’s 11 member Board. He recently appointed Jane Smith, knowing she was opposed to Common Core, which seemed like a positive move. But she only had two allies on BESE to give them a 3 to 8 voting bloc. Jane has been a valiant fighter, but she’s not enough to alter the basic power equation. Jindal’s other two appointees also ignored their boss who appointed them and also voted (or allowed the others to vote at times) to sue the Governor who has appointed them as his representative voice. I can understand having minor disagreements, but this is a major, big time, enormous departure! Jindal has never been shy about seeking revenge on those who cross him, including a previous BESE member named Tammie McDaniel who Jindal demanded resign after she voted a way he didn’t like on a single issue. Tammie was replaced by Connie Bradford, who remains untouched for her seeming brazen defiance. That was a head scratcher. For a list of some of the other folks Jindal has sacked for even minor offenses look here. So that doesn’t add up one bit. If they were really defying the governor they could be “Tegued” as the term Tom Aswell from Louisiana Voice has coined to describe the consistent (until now) phenomenon of how Jindal handles anyone who disagrees with him to even the slightest degree in public.

But the final and ridiculous last straw is how Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal’s “defense” attorney chose not to defend Jindal’s executive orders to prevent LDOE from purchasing PARCC tests in a partial ploy to exert pressure on John White and LDOE to reconsider remaining in PARCC and Common Core. For the ruling refer to this and pay attention to page 4. I’ve copied the relevant section below, but here’s the gist. Jindal’s team did not present any witnesses, like Kristy Nichols, to explain how the contract procedures are supposed to work. Kristy was available for media statements afterwards and did testify at BESE, just not under oath. Jindal’s team did not explain or refute the claim that the damage irreparable. It was illusory, certainly not irreparable, and any “perceived” damage could be easily remedied numerous ways. Jindal’s team did not even make the correct argument to judge Hernandez, the one that they explained outside of court. Jindal’s team threw this fight. Their argument and approach wasn’t the strongest to begin with, but this loss is not just inexcusable, it’s ridiculous and intentional. I would much rather have an enemy I know, than an enemy masquerading as a friend, that betrays you at the last minute after you had placed your hopes with them. The chaos we are experiencing was intentionally fomented by John White, Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal to distract people and wear them out. This betrayal was planned.

Sadly, this is just another ruse perpetrated by those in power to avoid listening to parents’ real problems, and another reason parents are right to fear and fight Common Core. I expect this distraction to last until Jindal leaves office. John White and Chas Roemer were correct when they stated Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was politically motivated. The irony is that they were quite likely complicit in the deception from the get-go; to increase all of their profiles. That ploy has worked. Now we get to decide if their profiles are ultimately positively or negatively impacted by this fiasco.












As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins I find myself more than a bit confused by what is going on in Louisiana education these days. Lately it’s felt a little like forces outside of my control are dictating the outcomes of a whole lot of situations (with a whole lot of crazy) mixed in with a generous helping of frivolous lawsuits. I use the word frivolous not because the topics are unimportant, but because I don’t really see anything coming from them in a timely manner. Jindal will be wrapping up his second term by the time anything substantive takes place with his lawsuit, and the odds makers in Vegas probably have David Vitter pegged as our next chief executive.  Vitter has come out strongly in favor of Common Core (after initially sending out fundraising requests deriding it as a Washington plot to take over our schools.) My guess is David got some nice fat checks from Common Core corporations, wrapped in a diaper, to change his mind (and diaper) at the same time.

But back to more important things. . . like what I’ve been doing. :)

I have been chatting with folks from across the political spectrum and on both sides of the education reform/pro-public education issue and have come across some well-meaning folks on both sides that appear to want many of the same things I do, but have different ways and ideas for achieving those. Something I found disturbing was what Reformers tell their allies about us.  Let me dispel some myth reformers like to spin about pro-public education folks. I believe just about anything is possible and almost nothing is perfect . . . so almost anything can be improved with constructive criticism and honest analysis. This comes as a shock for some reform folks when I talk to them. Reformers narrative about us in the pro-public education camp is that we are for the status quo (whatever that is), we are for doing nothing, standing still, ignoring problems and blindly supporting teachers unions. This is a ridiculous falsehood. Quite often we have been fighting the very same policies they claim to want to do away with; policies put in place by the very people same advocating for new policies; as if they had nothing to do with the state of education and many of the legitimate problems we all see!

Is it any wonder so many of us fight back against new untried ideas and policies promoted by the same people that promoted that last slew of horrible ones? Every day many of the Reform ideas of the last decade are now clearly shown to be big losers.,There is still no admission of this, just another set of new new untried ideas an no accountability for the string of failures Reformers discard (and distance themselves from.)

Recently (like a few hours ago) I got in a Twitter argument with a Reformer that claimed his side was being maligned by all that money from us pro-public ed folks. I was incredulous to say the least. Billions are spent by US Ed, numerous billionaire philanthropists like the Waltons, Bloomberg, Gates, Broad, not to mention the countless departments of education (like Louisiana’s department of education) that employ thousands of people full-time to advocate for their policies on the public dime.

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @DmitriMehlhorn we can’t find truth when so many in Reform movement spend so much time energy & money lying & r rewarded 4 it

Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus Many reformers feel that way about other side. Lots of money spent attacking reform, much of it not nice.

2:18 PM – 15 Aug 2014 · Details

Reply to @DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus

 crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus lots of money????? Are we in same country let alone same ballpark here? Reformers spend money to make money

 Perapiteticus ‏@Perapiteticus  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @DmitriMehlhorn You’re concerned with BATs? We’re outspent, what? 10-to 1, 20-1, 50-1? Truth has funny way of edging door ope

 Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @crazycrawfish Unions have $2.2b in annual revenue from compulsory dues. Reformers have tiny % from voluntary gifts.

Sahila ChangeBringer ‏@Kiwigirl58  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn have 2 ask U this – R U serious? Have U any idea what @BillGates, all by himself, has spent? @crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus Note to Reformers: if you want good publicity and people saying nice things about you, don’t be jerks. TYVM

Apparently the only voices Reformers hear are those of unions, but not us poor parents they claim to speak for. If they really listened to us they wouldn’t have to spend so much money (and feel so put upon they feel the need to cry about it on Twitter.)

Unlike most reformers, I do not receive money for my advocacy.

Unlike most Reformers I actually have kids, and I actually put my kids in the school systems I advocate for.

Reformers claim their charters are so successful (although they often refuse to produce any data that shows this in Louisiana) that these charter schools should replace all traditional schools (literally, they send out e-mails that say this.) If their reforms have made traditional public school systems so awesome, if all charters are so incredible they require zero supervision or minimal review processes, why do reformers always enroll their own kids in exclusive private schools that employ very little of the policies and curricula they insist on for everyone else’s children? (This is not a trick question, it’s an obvious one more reporters should be asking.)

Reformers name themselves and their groups StudentsFirst and Stand for Children to pre-emptively declare themselves and their morals and motivations to be pure and child centered.  How many times have you heard them declaring something is necessary to do “for the children?”  Seriously. “Why would they lie to us,” they seem to say when they have the word children or students in their name. . .  These groups are founded on lies, cloaked in lies, supported by shrouded benefactors that benefit from the reforms they tell us are “for our own good.” These groups are defended by faux researcher organizations and act as foundries for manufacturing more lies and to perpetuate the ones they have sent out among the media and the masses. Despite their lofty self-anointed titles, these Reform groups are principally preoccupied with teacher’ issues (namely defaming and defiling the legitimate teaching profession and teachers) and promoting charter schools at all costs. Eventually folks do catch on, as happened to Rheeform darling Michele Rhee, who like a run of the mill disgraced politician facing a sex scandal or cocaine addiction, has stepped down from the lofty post she created for herself to “spend more time with her family”.   Rather than sex or drugs, her failing was her personality and charm (or lack thereof), so not much to fix there! Rhee’s family lives in Tennessee, with her husband Superintendent of Tennessee schools Kevin Huffman, while Michele has remained in California and appears poised to take over running some California charters for good ole Kev, so I’m not sure how that spending more time with her family works exactly?  Will she be tweeting more often to them in between pot shots at real educators?  Perhaps liking more Facebook posts of her children?  Don’t get me wrong, I think she should definitely spend more time worrying about her family and less about mine.  I just don’t get I I suppose, but then so little that national Reformers leaders say makes any sense to me. . . and truthfulness has never been one of their strong suits.

Now while I am pretty harsh and unforgiving to the leaches leading the Rheeform movement, I feel it’s important to point out not all Reform allied folks understand this complete disconnect and disregard for honesty or facts. Some are lulled by the seductively compelling marketing and messaging of for profit charter schools and the various hedge fund entrepreneurs and bored billionaires that fund the reform movement.  Unlike Andrew Carnegie who donated his vast fortune to build up schools and universities across the United States, today’s billionaires apparently see destroying education as a philanthropic mission to remake our society to their liking.

Reform organizations actively create and support cultish brainwashing organizations like what Teach for America has become and the sibling organization The New Teacher Project was designed to be, to subvert impressionable and passionate college students and recent graduates. These groups and their members in turn branch out into other organizations and infiltrate all corners of our society. (I will have more on this development in later posts I have planned but exploring this issue could take a whole book.) Many of these folks don’t understand who we, in the pro-public education movement, are. They have quite literally been brainwashed with tactics not far removed from the latest psyops manual or Nazi propaganda program. They have been told to fear us, they have been told we are the enemy. They are taught chants that dehumanize us and extol their movement’s virtues. To them teachers and society are apathetic, lazy and incompetent, and that apathy is the enemy – thus so are we. These groups form their own secret societies and covens where they are instructed to limit contact with local communities and leaders. They judge us through carefully crafted windowed narratives.

It would be easy to judge them, as they so often judge us, but many of these youth are idealistic victims that we can reach with compassion, persistence, honesty, competence, knowledge and our humanity. To break the back of this reform Beast they have created we must reach these youth and get them to tell their stories for others to hear as this former TFA teacher has done. We musty enlist those we can to our side – not with coercion, threats, lies, fear or hate but with truth and honesty. We must let them ask the hard questions their leaders won’t have pat and rehearsed answers for. They can awaken from the Matrix world that TFA and the Reform movement has created for them. Not all will take the red pill, because what they will see will shatter a lot of what they have worked hard for and believe, but those that do will be some of our strongest and most devoted allies. They will show they are the education leaders they want to be. They will learn that road is a hard one; not lined with cushy high paying jobs, lazy fellowships and blank checks and free rides to grad schools of their choosing carelessly paved with edReform dollars on the bowed backs of poor children – education dollars that should go to underfunded communities and schools.  These idealistic kids should really know better, but who wouldn’t like to believe they could make a small fortune and make the world a better place at the same time for those less fortunate? Coming from elite private colleges and sheltered upbringings many of them already come from gilded backgrounds. It’s not a very hard sell and they have to do something with those, history, general studies, English, and Poli Sci degrees. While they figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. . . why not help some of us poor Southerner’s out?  The messaging they are bombarded with is we can’t take care of ourselves so the have to save us from ourselves.

They tell us our kids are as smart as any in the rest of the nation. If they were half as smart as they think they are, if they were one of us, they would realize how condescending and insulting that statement is by now.

It’s about time we showed those condescending creeps our kids’ parents know a thing or two as well. It’s time to take back our Department of Education and our local schools. I actually believe our parents are smarter and more savvy than the rest of the nation (we are survivors and not all our skills can be tracked with penciled in bubbles) and it’s about time we showed it. We gave a previews by kicking out inBloom first, passing real state privacy protections first. Common Core banishment is coming. It’s time we evicted out Reformers and their corporate charter thieves. We should do this first and took back our local control and show the nation how’s it’s done. We can do this.

Our kids are just as smart, eh John White?

Who you been talkin’ to that’s says they ain’t; that you feel this needs to be a talking point in every speech you make? Jus’ ’cause we choose to talk a little different sometime don’t mean we stupid, test bubble boy.















p style=”padding-left:30px;”>http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/legislative-session-to-tackle-common-core-curriculum/24870332#!bEjFNx

On behalf of all Louisiana parents, please shut the hell up.



Check out my new Common Core Video. I think this will add some clarity to the situation in Louisiana. . .or at least make fun of the people behind the “muddying of the narrative”

Check out my new Common Core Video.  I think this will add some clarity to the situation in Louisiana. . .or at least make fun of the people behind the “muddying of the narrative”

I just finished producing my first movie and publishing my first YouTube video.  (I decided to stop writing posts and focus on media that requires fewer words so the grammar Nazis will leave me alone.)

Check it out and feel free to make fun of it: http://youtu.be/NQ4Ryloo0Kc

But there’s no denying this crawfish is not now in the 21st century!

This is my response to the latest buzzword “Clarity” that came out of the BESE meeting July 1st.  If you found that meeting as frustrating as I did, I think you will find this parody amusing. I also get to take out some long overdue vengeance on some well known reformers and paid off Common Core supporters or profiteers.  What could be more awesome than that?

Don’t forget to check out my campaign site at http://www.jasonfrance4la.com and please make a donation if you would like to see someone like me on BESE. If you would prefer to see people like Chas remain on BESE then do nothing and you will get your wish.



Plan B: One-Step for Addressing PARCC and Common Core

Plan B: One-Step for Addressing PARCC and Common Core

Today was an interesting day at the Claiborne building in downtown Baton Rouge. Today was the much anticipated climax of significant back and forth politicking between Governor Jindal and his mail ordered State Superintendent of Education, John White. Today was the day Louisiana got a front row seat to the attempted abortion of the illegitimate Education Love Child known as Common Core and the testing consortium known as PARCC, conceived in back room deals and between these two star-crossed (and now double-crossing) education reformers.

Of course John White insisted on boring and dubious analysis of the situation that everyone who was there already knew all too well. Usually this is simply annoying and infuriating, but today was a little different since he didn’t have a trusty and redundant PowerPoint to stall over and guide him through the highlights. It appeared White was talking somewhat off the cuff. When you talk for hours on end you eventually make some mistakes. When you lie about everything to everyone, it is inevitable that you will contradict yourself and your previous statements.

Let’s discuss some of them.

John White confirmed that the test questions for next year will be different than this year and that test questions always change every year, regardless of who cast the testing contract and regardless of the test containing PARCC questions or not. This contradicts John White’s earlier testimony and assertions to the legislature related to disclosing previously administered tests to parents to review. White claimed this would cause a lot of unnecessary expense and force the department to create new questions. When White testified before the legislature this spring he claimed if test questions were released the tests would need to be reworked because those questions could never be used again. However today, before BESE, John White confessed these questions are changed every year. They are not used every year anyways so releasing these tests should not be a problem, right? Inadvertently he defeated his own argument against allowing parents to review the exams being administered to their children.

Today John White made an assertion that the current environment is very confusing and clarity was needed for teachers, parents and students. (Who wouldn’t agree with that?) He claimed this clarity could only be achieved by seeking a legal expert, seeking a legal opinion and filing a lawsuit to resolve the legal conflicts between BESE, LDOE and the Governor’s office. He was partially correct. What is going on is very confusing. Bobby Jindal and BESE conceived this chaos 4 years ago today when they adopted Common Core without it being finalized. John White midwifed Common Core for Jindal and BESE, but then snuck around on the state and cheated on us, conceiving a PARCC contract during his philandering with other reform organizations. White tried to pass off PARCC as the governor’s offspring by adopting it through an old non-bid contract. White thought he could force Louisiana and Jindal to adopt PARCC and pay to support this progeny of his relationship with CCSSO and the PARCC board – both organizations he holds leadership positions with. White obviously wants to hold onto these relationships, while also courting Louisiana and Jindal as the sugar daddy that will pay for him and them. Where John White was incorrect was in his proposal for resolving this conflict in time to bring clarity to our teachers. I have never heard of a situation where bringing lawyers and lawsuits into a dispute resolves that situation quickly. White also claimed lawyers and lawsuits will bring clarity. . . Maybe in a few years. . . but school starts up next month. Can anyone say with any confidence getting lawyers involved with resolve this situation swiftly or with clarity in the next few weeks? This is a recipe for complete disaster; one which John White could mitigate by simply putting everything on hold while these questions are resolved to the clarity level he feels comfortable with.

John White previously made the statement that there was no Plan B, because there was no legal option no Plan B was conceivable. Today however White backtracked and not only admitted that he had a Plan B, but that the situation is beyond his legal expertise and does not look like it will be resolved before the start of the school year. That’s why he and BESE President Chas Roemer are seeking legal experts. . . because they recognize this is a complex situation that will need to be decided in the courts based on the decision made by Jindal, John White and Chas Roemer. That was the ultimate decision of today’s meeting; to acquire the services of legal experts to council and perhaps file a lawsuit. This decision to make this issue complex is entirely John White’s and Chas Roemer’s, but they will not be the ones that have to bear the brunt of their decision. Teachers will be impacted. Students and parents will be impacted. Just about everyone but the ones creating this chaos will be harmed by the confusion they have chosen to sew into this situation. They are content to consult a lawyer and point their finger’s a Jindal while this slow moving train plods towards the August cliff of the imminent school year.

When you find yourself in a hole, and decide you need to get out, you stop digging. Before implementing new changes that may harm one of the parties, judges initiate injunctions to prevent either party from proceeding while the courts resolve the differences. As was brought up multiple times during today’s BESE session by BESE members Lottie Bebee, Jane Smith and distinguished educator and blogger Michael Deshotels, Louisiana had some of the highest regarded, nationally recognized standards in the nation. They were defined as one of the top 2 sets of standards in the United States. We used them for the most part last year and all the years before. We have those standards to rely upon while we await the rulings John White and Chas Roemer feel we need to bring clarity to this situation. We have our tests from last year that were aligned with the current curriculum. We spent quite a bit of time and money developing them. They contain some questions based on the national standards White and Roemer claim we are obligated to benchmark our tests against. We can stay the course while the courts resolve these questions Roemer and White claimed multiple times they are unqualified to clarify for themselves without involving lawyers and filing lawsuits. We adopted these standards 4 years ago blindly and without any input from parents – because they weren’t finalized and there was nothing to comment upon. Now that we have seen these standards implemented parents see they are worse than what we had. Education Reform has put our state in hole and riled up parents across the state to reject this corporately driven and funded agenda of which PARCC and Common Core are a significant part. The hole we find ourselves in is just getting deeper and less stable. Even our political leaders can’t decide among themselves what to do without resorting to lawyers. This was a mistake born of too much inexperienced enthusiasm without enough thought towards consequences or protection. It’s time for plan B. It’s time to stop digging. After 4 years, it’s time to stop screwing around with education and start being responsible.

Further Investigations of LDOE and John White are Warranted and Long Overdue

Further Investigations of LDOE and John White are Warranted and Long Overdue

Now that some investigations are underway by the Jindal Administration into John White and his Department of Education and how they allocated and spent funds on PARCC test and Common Core promotion and training I thought it would be a good idea to advise folks about some ongoing and perpetual financial mismanagement and malfeasance in office on the part of John White and LDOE. I have been gathering tips and reports for months from numerous current and former employees about vast amount of intentional mismanagement (although it was termed fraud and theft by those reporting it to me) of a wide variety of programs and functions maintained and performed by the LDOE. I was even told there are reports available that document part of the story and I was pointed to the Legislative Auditor’s site for some public reports that may not have been fully understood by the public and properly investigated when they were released. I was also given some of the backstory on a few of them – details that did not make it into the published reports but which Daryl Purpera (who heads the Legislative Auditor’s Office) and Steven Street at the OIG should probably consider investigating on their own.

So let’s just get into the nitty gritty. . .

Payroll Fraud – Type 1: Employees, mostly from John White’s executive team at LDOE, are not showing up for work, but are documenting that they are. Some live in New Orleans or outside of Baton Rouge. Some of them have offices at both LDOE and in the New Orleans RSD headquarters and are not at either location, not visiting schools, and claim to be working from home. As you might imagine happens, the real LDOE employees check up on these folks that waltz into the department making outrageous salaries with little experience and produce nothing tangible but padding to apply to their resume’s. These employees are not actually doing any work from home and are unreachable to regular department staff most of the week, most weeks. This has been going on for years, since John White took over at LDOE. John White cycles through employees that produce nothing for Louisiana, but which he then is able to send to other departments of education and charter organizations throughout the country equipped with fancy titles, fat salary histories and glowing recommendations from him and his lackeys. This has been reported by numerous employees and confirmed by numerous time and attendance keepers across the department who are frustrated at covering for these people.

Payroll Fraud – Type 2: John White has been misallocating federal funds dedicated to specific programs for years since he came to power. The federal government provides specific funding allocations for specific programs like IDEA (Special Education.) The funds provided by the Federal government come with strings attached. These funds are required to be spent on employees performing a specific role for a specific federal program. To attempt to circumvent these rules John White and his staff started having staff across the department (code) allocate a portion of their salaries to these federal programs they had nothing to do with. When reporting to the federal government how we are spending their funds we tally up these percentages to equivalent FTE’s, (Full Time Equivalent) employees. I heard this became a widespread practice shortly after I left. To provide some cover for this scheme John White also secretly reorganized the Department of Education, without first getting any legislative approval as is required (by laws he doesn’t follow.) When the legislative auditor’s office went in to audit the department they found 22% of the employees from a random sample were “miscoded” to federal programs. What the auditor’s office did not realize was this was not an accident, this was intentional. Moreover, the auditor’s office found that 100% of recent changes to coding (when they just examined recent changes) were incorrect.

For the second consecutive year, DOE did not properly allocate federal payroll expenditures to the correct federal programs in accordance with the completed employee certifications. This resulted in $96,183 in overcharges to the programs which may have to be returned to the federal government. In a test of payroll certifications for 36 employees, the cost distribution report for eight (22%) did not agree to the federal program and percentage charged per the certifications, resulting in overcharges to the programs totaling $96,183. The Title I Grants to Local

Educational Agencies (CFDA 84.010) and Special Education – Preschool Grants (CFDA 84.173) programs and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Consolidated Administrative Funds (various ESEA programs) were charged $23,436; $227; and $72,520, respectively, for payroll expenditures that did not match the employees’ documented work effort. Also, in a test of 19 employees with system coding changes during the year, DOE did not maintain a properly completed payroll coding change form to support the cost distribution changes made for any of the 19 (100%) employees tested.

That is not a typo. Every single payroll coding “change” they looked at was wrong. The department made the excuse that this was because of a “reorganization” they undertook. (This was done so secretly, illegally, and without permission, but forget all that and don’t hold us accountable for breaking the law. . .  even though it is a direct result of breaking a different law. ) Below is LDOE’s response to these findings:

During the time period of the audit, the Department was undergoing a re-organization in an effort to better align the work of Department staff with the needs of teachers, students, and parents across the state. The reorganization of the Department resulted in some confusion as to how time and effort was going to be coded for individuals whose job location or job function and duties was shifting.

However this was not innocent incompetence. Employees advised their supervisors they had no duties to the programs they were told to code their timesheet with (to draw down federal funds.) This was done intentionally, possibly to free up funding for the voucher program or for Common Core materials and PARCC testing cost defraying. What is more, LDOE is reorganizing the Department . . . again.

Only a small portion of that annual billion dollar piece of federal pie was audited related to certifications (of which 1/5th were incorrectly accounted for). This 5 billion dollar annually baked pie is why so many outside groups invested millions in our BESE races last election cycle.

This decision has led to a vast information vacuum in the districts which relied on State employees to provide guidance on federal laws and programs.  I’ve heard numerous reports of how districts are not following federal law in regards to disabled children. This is not a victimless crime, it is impacted disabled children and their families. I imagine this is impacting other federal programs that have had their funding rerouted to John White’s general funding coffers.

Testing Fraud: One of the changes LDOE is planning to undertake is to have Kim Nesmith’s team (data collections) and Laura Boudreaux’s team (Data Analysis) report to Jessica Baghian who they recently moved over Accountability and Assessment. As some of you may have recently heard, these sections had some whistleblower(s) recently come forward and accuse John White of asking them to directly alter test scores to make RSD and charter schools look better and traditional public schools look worse. What you may not have known is that Jessica was moved down to make sure these sorts of “leaks” don’t happen again. Did you also know almost the entire Assessment team is employed and run by folks who are not US citizens and who are here on work Visas that are conditional they work for the Louisiana Department of Education? If they are terminated or quit, they have to return to their home countries. 2 weeks after the story broke two such employees did leave; one very suddenly and without warning. One employee returned to Canada. One went to China, without any notification or fanfare and came as a surprise to many in the department. This is an interesting development, no? I believe the feds may have lost their chance to discover how John White tried to falsify data to promote his agenda (but then again John White’s agenda seems to mirror that of President Barak Obama so maybe this was not an oversight on their part?)

Grant Manipulation Fraud: I verified this recent story (by Tom Aswell) about grant manipulation within the LDOE with some of my sources and it checked out.

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) for at least three years manipulated qualification requirements for several New Orleans charter schools so that they would qualify for millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a former LDOE employee who now works for a parish school district and who asked that his name not be revealed.

The employee told LouisianaVoice that the practice started under former Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek and continued at least in John White’s first year as superintendent.

My sources listed grants by name that they were involved in (Obviously I cannot reveal those without tipping off who these employees were) that recently returned Paul Pastorek and John White (and their affiliates) overruled grant criteria and selected winners based on favoritism or for political reasons. Some grants were posted that the winners had already been selected, but the Department under both John White and Paul Pastorek made their staff go through the motions of reviewing grants and interviewing applicants so individual superintendents and legislators would not be upset when their districts and constituents did not receive these grants.

Voucher Fraud: Whether you agree in using vouchers to send public students to private schools or not, no one (except fraudsters) should approve of public funds being used or paid out fraudulently to private school operators. According to the last audit of how these funds are being handled, 97% of schools are mishandling their funds, with John White’s blessing.

We found that the while the Scholarship Program is expanding, LDOE does not have adequate criteria in place to determine if participating schools are academically acceptable and have the capacity needed to serve the number of Scholarship students they request. In addition, LDOE should develop internal procedures with more specific criteria for removing a participating school from the program based on academic performance. Specifically, we found the following:

Program Expansion and Implementation

• Student participation increased 269% (by 4,937 students) from academic year 2011-12 to 2013-14, while school participation increased 282% (by 93 schools) during the same time frame. Funding for the program increased from $8.9 million in fiscal year 2011-12 to a budget of $44.6 million in fiscal year 2013-14.

• State law requires public schools that participate in the Scholarship Program to have a letter grade of “A” or “B.” However, there are no legal requirements in place to ensure nonpublic schools that participate in the program are academically acceptable.

• LDOE’s review process lacks formal criteria to ensure that schools have both the academic and physical capacity to serve the number of Scholarship students they requested.

• During academic year 2012-13, the number of Scholarship students in participating schools ranged from one to 336. The enrollment percentages at participating schools ranged from 0.1% to 86.8%.

Program Accountability

• A Scholarship Cohort Index will be used to measure academic performance of participating schools. It will be calculated “substantially similar” to the school performance scores.

• Overall, the proficiency rating for schools participating in the Scholarship Program is 41%. This rating is based on the percent of students who scored basic and above on standardized tests during academic year 2012-13.

• The proficiency rating of the 33 schools that participated in the Scholarship Program for at least two years is 41.8%. LDOE restricted admission for new Scholarship students at seven (21%) of these 33 schools for academic year 2013-14 based on poor academic performance.

• LDOE has not set standards or measures in the accountability system for removing a participating school from the program for academic performance.

Program Cost and Funding

• Independent auditors found that LDOE overpaid or underpaid 48 (41%) of the 118 participating schools in academic year 2012-13.

• Independent auditors were unable to perform all procedures related to the use of funding for 115 (97%) of the 118 schools because these schools did not separately account for the Scholarship funds.

• The source of funding for the program changed from MFP to State General Fund because of a May 2013 ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In a perversely ironic move, John White removed one of the only schools that segregated their funds enough to be audited. Living New Word in Ruston Louisiana was not removed from the program for poor academic performance, for teaching kids on DVD’s, for not having certified teachers or for not even having a building to house the children they requested to “educate”. They were removed for charging the state too much based on the financial information they provided; that 97% of the other schools in the voucher program did not provide and were not chided or sanctioned for by the department. In response to the report that 97% of this voucher schools were unaccountable and that 1/3rd of the audited schools had to be shut down immediately for engaging in egregious mismanagement of state dollars, John White had this to say:

“These findings are evidence that the oversight process is working and that there will be zero tolerance for fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, said State Superintendent John White.”

The findings I am disclosing are evidence that the oversight process of John White and LDOE is not working and that currently there is a high tolerance on BESE and within Governor Jindal’s office for fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars. I hope these disclosures lead to more oversight and investigations before John White leaves for greener pastures. With so much emphasis on district, school and teacher accountability, it would be nice if we finally held some of our education “leaders” accountable for their actions and inactions, and not simply reward them with a fat severance and pat on the head for a job so poorly done.

Is Common Core Dead in Louisiana?

Is Common Core Dead in Louisiana?

Yesterday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced he was withdrawing from PARCC testing and pulling Louisiana out of Common Core because while we believe in high standards for our children, we do not believe in federally imposed one-size-fits-all standards. Almost immediately Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White and BESE President Chas Roemer released statements saying they were staying the course on implementing both PARCC and Common Core, regardless of Jindal’s declaration. This is where things get interesting. At the mundane level, both White and Roemer have asserted that Jindal has no power to prevent PARCC or Common Core form going forward or prevent BESE or LDOE from entering into exclusive multi-million dollar contracts that violated the state’s contract bidding laws. Jindal’s commissioner of Administration, Kristy Nichol’s stated the state would not be purchasing the Common Core tests and she temporarily suspended the contract with the state’s current testing vendor to ensure White did not direct them to buy the tests. I see this as an interesting chess match.

I knew this move by team Jindal was coming weeks ago, although I can’t disclose exactly how I knew it, and while I was actually surprised this happened on one level, I was completely expecting it. Watching how this happened behind the scenes has been very enlightening, but this was not an off-the-cuff maneuver, I assure you. The framework for this decision was being laid for weeks, if not months. Some folks pointed to White’s quick response as indication this is just a play put on for our benefit and for the benefit of the national stage and to garner some Fox News interviews. While I can’t say for sure that this is not pandering at some level, I don’t actually think that’s all this is. What’s more, I would not use White’s quick press release as proof that there is collusion on this issue. This move has been telegraphed for some time – probably to feel out the waters before taking the final plunge. I would have been more surprised if John White was caught flat-footed or if this withdrawal did not happen soon.

Listening to this Jindal speech I admit I was a little impressed by the lack of strained small-talk and superficial frills. It was different than more widely panned ones like his Kenneth the Page impression Presidential Rebuttal some years back. It’s not just experience that has improved his delivery, his recent red meat CPAC speech was also painful to listen to, if less head-in-palm-of-handable. (I made that term up, impressed?) No, this speech actually made sense and made him sound like a human, echoing lot of parents and talking points we’ve been saying for years. I actually believe he believes this, and frankly, Jindal is not a very good actor. Seriously. Moreover, this change brings him in alignment with his conservative, fight the Feds, local control loving rhetoric. (I wonder if he will appreciate my defense?) J

I’ve been asked if I’m afraid if Jindal, White and Chas are just putting on a show for us. I am not worried one bit. Regardless of whether this is an elaborate dance or not, I will still be here as will all of the parents opposing Common Core. Jindal obviously has higher aspirations than Louisiana Governor, of that there is no doubt. This decision puts Jindal and his resources squarely on our side . . . for once. If one of the most powerful Governors in the United States can’t make a decision on National Television and get his handpicked Board of Education and Superintendent to tow the line. . .eventually. This says way more about whether Bobby Jindal is ready for Primetime or just a Saturday Morning Cartoon. (Remember those?) Jindal must make this proclamation stick or he will have no friends and no accomplishments to overshadow his failure to lead and reverse the damage he created when he invited John White into our state.

Jindal has staked his entire political future, at least in the short term, to the elimination of Common Core and PARCC testing. While it’s true his legal record is not all the great, at least this time he is fighting on the side of the Constitution, not fighting to reinterpret it as he did in the MFP and tenure battles. This is a big win for us, but the fight is not over. One thing you can do to tip the scales in our favor for the future is vote out BESE members like Chas Roemer, and elect folks like me to take their place. It just so happens I am running to replace Chas in the 2015 election.

Go to www.jasonfrance4la.com to sign up, or mail a check to:

The Campaign to Elect Jason France (or just Jason France)

235 Marilyn Dr.
Baton Rouge LA 70815

PO BOX 46393


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