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.
I tried to speak to John White’s credibility, or lack thereof, at the BESE meeting, (now yesterday) as I write this. I presented handouts that call into question White’s honesty on numerous issues. I gave handouts about the various inBloom memos and correspondence to each BESE member as well as a little bit of bonus material I picked up today on a rumor I heard and thought to verify.
I was told that White and his executive “unclassified” staff are slated to get 6% raises this budget year coming up. I’m still waiting to see if any specific documentation is forthcoming on that (I’m sure it is being buried in the darkest hole he find after he burns the paperwork) However while looking for info on this I came across some other info that seems to call into question White’s credibility on numerous things he’s done recently, including legal documents he’s filed with Civil Service. To recap, John White laid off as many as 70 Louisiana Department of Education classified personnel because he claimed he did not have the money pay their salaries. He filed as many as 20 individualized layoff plans to do this citing financial reasons. John White also claimed after the Course Choice funding was ruled unconstitutional he was not going to be able fund course for thousands of students unless the legislature allocated him more funds from somewhere. Recently John White and his Department of Education made what seemed to me like a claim that LDOE folks were not going to get raises this year due to financial concerns. He even sent out this letter to his staff about the financial hardship his agency was facing:
From: John White Sent: Friday, September 27, 2013 2:00 PM To: _DOE-Entire DOE Subject: Message from John
Dear Department of Education Team:
I want to first thank you for the work you have done in the first couple of months of the school year. Each division has taken on ambitious priorities that will benefit the children of our state, and I know that each of you is working tirelessly to ensure those priorities are achieved.
As you know, over the past two years, our department has faced budget cuts that have led to reductions in staff size. I would like to avoid, to the extent possible, any similar reductions in staff size this fiscal year.
At this time, state revenue projections continue to be modest. As such, the Department will be taking a set of measures to minimize the impact of any future budget cuts on staff size. First, the Department will be under a hiring freeze after Oct 7. Any currently vacant positions not posted by that date, or any positions that become vacant after that date, will require my approval in order to be filled.
Next, the Department will not provide performance adjustments this year. Given your efforts, and given the years since such an adjustment has been made, later this fall I will re-assess our budget position and will determine whether our agency will offer a one-time incentive award to our employees. Taking this approach gives me confidence that we are not over-spending in a way that would lead to layoffs, while at the same time allowing an opportunity to honor all that you have accomplished for our state.
Please look for word from me on this within the next three months. In the meantime, please accept my thanks for all that you are doing on behalf of the students of Louisiana. If you have any questions, please reach out to Jason Hannaman.
White also apparently gave information to the Advocate that may be technically correct, I’m pretty sure it leaves people with the wrong impression, namely that LDOE employees did not get raises, especially ones that kept their same job code.
Departments which have not come up with the dollars for pay raises include: the state Department of Health and Hospitals with 6,815 classified employees, the state corrections agency with 4,885 employees, the state Department of Education and a related entity, 721; Juvenile Justice, 853; the Department of Natural Resources, 354; the Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism, 636; and the Department of Economic Development, 65.
This is not true if you look at the period from 9/12 – 10/13. In fact some employees received as much as 25% raises, most were for unclassified folks, and the ranged from 9% -25%. I wonder if Bobby Jindal is ok with this? Someone should probably ask him if some people can give 25% raises if they feel like it even if they are laying off dozens of people at the same time claiming fiscal hardship. If I was a lawyer working for some of these laid off folks I would probably have a few questions for John White too.
You will also note that during this time John White hired around 30 or so employees with titles such as “fellow” or “consultant” at as much as 99999.90 (less than 100k to avoid legislative oversight and approval) annually. The total amounts in new unclassified positions came to over 1.1 million dollars annually. This was done during the same time period when John White was claiming he had to lay off scores of LDOE classified employees, and refused to pay for the Couse Choice program he himself pledged to find the funds support. Unclassified personnel can be fired at will. They should have been the first to go before scores of classified employees were laid off. Civil Service has to accept the statements of department heads are honest. In this case it appears to be very clear that John White was not honest. He was not honest about raises to select employees (Can he really claim he can make 25% raises for some but not even 1% for others?). He was not honest about being under financial hardship and needing to lay off scores of employees when he can hire dozens more with over a million in annual salary commitments. He was not honest about not having the money for Course Choice when he can still terminate all of these newly hired unclassified employees, or the dozens more and millions of dollars he spends beyond this list.
In case you were wondering. My favorite John White employee title is “Team Member.” I wonder what that looks like on a resume?
So John White told us yesterday Common Core is good. He claimed his powerpoint was filled with “facts.” He did not show us facts, just opinions. Here are some facts John White. Perhaps you can apply the Common Core principals you tout? Analyze this report. Write a summary. Explain what it means to various audiences (like your boss Bobby Jindal). Show me how zero raises means 25% raises using Common Core concepts I will understand. You might also want to explain to your staff tomorrow why you saw fit to lay off so many, stiff so many, and lie to so many of them.
(This will be a long one, and has some ranting folks, so buckle up.)
Is student privacy hopeless?
Sadly, this may be little more than a rhetorical question after the last week of horrible setbacks on the student privacy front. I’ve been gathering information and leads for months now, researching some, and holding onto others. I was hoping some of these issues would become non-issues if EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, was successful in their lawsuit against the US Department of Education’s change to FERPA that allows vendors to use student data and resell it as they see fit, for any reason and without parents or students having any rights or say in the matter. Unfortunately the lawsuit was thrown out because the courts did not believe EPIC had the standing to bring the suit.
But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court in Washington issued summary judgment for the Education Department, ruling that the plaintiffs have not suffered any real legal injuries stemming from the regulations and thus they lack legal standing to bring their suit.
In order for someone to have “standing”, they must first be victimized. When that happens it won’t be one child affected. The data being transmitted and bartered belongs to every child on any DOE databases, many of which are now adults. We are not talking about just one child, but quite likely millions, if not all of them. All of our kids data will have to be sent to third party vendors, and then shared or sold based on the policy change, then many years of lawsuits and appeals will have to take place, during which vendors will continue to collect and sell student data for students through cloud based infrastructures, with no liability for the damage they cause. If you went to school after computer records were kept in your state, probably the eighties or nineties, then your data is at risk too. This data can be used, abused and misused by anyone, and because the federal government changed the policy defining what student privacy is, and what vendors can do with this data, even if the lawsuits are successful, this will be of small comfort for the millions of children and adults who have their data permanently dispersed throughout cyberspace, in the hands of criminals, pedophiles, and companies selling information and making employment decisions based on this information. Our students will become adults, and they will never be able to reclaim their data or their identity that other adults like John White and Arne Duncan have stolen from them.
It will be impossible to fix the damage done, to unring the bell and much if this information will be incorrect, and haunt our citizens, our children, ourselves, throughout life. In the very near future, every job interview, every interest rate they or you get, every credit score, every rejection for college or a job, every insurance rate or refusal, every mortgage rate, every failed background check could be directly related to this information, and you will never know, and never, ever, be able to remedy this situation. This will make many people very rich. Many of these soon to rich, or richer, people are those who secretly lobbied the US Ed Department to change this policy to render it worse than worthless. This is not an overstatement. I say worse, because not only does it not actually protect children from the ones their data needs to be protected from most, strangers, thieves, criminals, corporations, hucksters, it outright protects the despicable uses and users. FERPA is now an indemnification clause to allow anyone to harvest and use student data without anyone having any way to stop them. How can you take any recourse against those who have been told by the federal government to take our data it use it however they see fit? Are you going to sue the federal government? Would you sue them for not having a law that does what its supposed to do? When wouldn’t you sue the government if that was something you could do? The other harmful thing this law does is It makes average people be deluded into believing there is a federal privacy law that protects them, when FERPA is anything but. You almost have to admire the corporations that distorted a student privacy law into a legal blanket for themselves to use children’s data however they see fit.
The way the law now works, the less direct contact you have with a student, the less legitimate reason you have for possessing it, the more freedom you have to exploit a child and their data. Schools still have to notify parents if they plan to share student data, but once that data is handed over to a corporation that corporation has no restrictions on use or misuse, no liabilities and the only restrictions they have are ones they place on themselves. These terms can be modified at any time, as often as Apple modifies your iTunes terms of service, but leaving you with less recourse. If you don’t like the iTunes terms of service, you can throw out your iPhone and discontinue using the ITunes store. You can’t throw out your children or yourself, or disconnect yourself from the data being used against them.
FERPA also protects many of the lying education reformers running US Ed, State departments of education and our local LEAs. FERPA allows dishonest superintendents like John White to share data with whomever they want, with any restrictions they choose to apply or not apply such as was done with CREDO recently. They can also refuse to turn over data anyone for any reason, but the reasons it is being denied right now is to protect people from learning the truth. What is happening in Louisiana and in many states is our state departments of educations are failing in epic ways. All of their reform schemes are colossal utter failures that cost anywhere from 2 to 10 times as much as other solutions, but which gets terrible results, almost without exception. I suppose I should clarify, the results they get are often great for charter schools, contractors, reformers and their bottom lines and salaries. For children and taxpayers the results are nothing short of criminal, but you will never know, thanks to FERPA.
What these DOE thieves and charlatans, like John White, are doing is preparing completely false reports, reports with absurd self-serving conclusions, results that they slice and dice the data to find something remotely positive to report. These results are often reported as percentages without any context, without history, without magnitude, without mitigating factors, without costs either direct or opportunity costs (programs terminated to fund vouchers or teachers fired to pay for Common Core.) These reports in some cases are simply outright false. Our department of education also fails to report anything they can get away with not reporting that shows them in a bad light, even if that same information was used in the past to create a sense of urgency in the public for the need for “education reforms.”
For instance, RSD sucks bad. No pretty phrasing needed for the shithole that RSD, the state takeover of public schools, has become. No RSD schools have ever been returned to their original districts, as was the original intent of the legislation. RSD conquered schools are sold off to unscrupulous charter operators who apply for charter grants they use to pay themselves exorbitant salaries. Many of these charter schools treat students and parents like your butt treats toilet paper, use once and dispose of. Charters falsify exit reasons to hide the fact they exclude disabled students, English language learners, and students with behavior problems. I’ve been told many of them cheat on state tests, remove students that will do poorly after they get funding for them but before they take state exams, or simply don’t administer the exams to many of their students they don’t expect to do well. They report fantastic success, but what they don’t tell you about their high completion rates is that only 5 students were tested. What they don’t tell you is that 90% of the students that could have taken the tests don’t take them so their score look fantastic, for the few students that end up taking them.
Our DOE thinks that if they simply deny access to this data, no one will call them on it, but I am. LDOE is lying to you about graduation rates, dropout rates, class schedules, VAM, COMPASS, test scores, enrollments, student classifications, enrollments and exit reasons and test scores. They are lying outright and through admission and they are using FERPA to do this. I saw the data. I collect the data. I analyzed the data. I knew the data, the data was a friend of mine. And believe me, John White is no data steward . . . but he is a paragon of pure dishonesty and disdain for the people of Louisiana. White has fired, force retired, or driven off everyone who collected or analyzed, audited or evaluated data in LDOE so he can now almost honestly say he has no earthly idea what’s going on. He’s driven off all the programmers that maintained our databases and systems and used their salaries to hire scores of unqualified TFA spawnlings who he gives fancy titles to so they can spread their filthy incompetence and corporate welfare programs throughout the world on the backs of their unearned titles, on the backs of needy children, on the backs of our children. LDOE has no chance of processing accountability scores themselves, collecting data themselves, maintaining data systems themselves and this is entirely a planned situation. This was done so White will have no choice but to contract out data collecting, processing, and analyzing services to vendors who will charge much more, magnitudes more, than it ever cost to do in-house. inBloom was just the tip of the iceberg, which is why White was so cavalier about sharing and selling it our student’s data through them. To him that is nothing, and we are nothing. That data will be given to anyone and everyone if it has not already, through dozens of other contracts we can never hope to keep track of.
Just about everyone who is forced to attend RSD hates it and would rather any other solution which is why in Baton Rouge only 1500 of the more than 6000 RSD seats are filled, and RSD is still seeking to expand until students have not choices, but RSD. (So much for choice, eh parents?) In St Helena RSD made the case that its presence is helping the cause of desegregation. RSD claimed that if the local school board opened up new grade levels, white students would flee and the segregation would be worse. They also claimed they were doing a good job in St Helena. RSD provided data that to a casual observer might back up their case. They removed all the data from their website that might disprove their assertions, but I have folks that archived just enough for me to prove show them as completely deceptive unscrupulous liars that they have always been. St Helena’s white population is increasing since RSD came to town, but only in the non-RSD schools. In RSD the population is declining by about 20-40%, in the elementary school it has increased by that much. The data RSD showed the judge was for a single year, between October and February, which shown as a percentage after students left at mid-year and a few students transferred in looked like a small increase. Over the actual 7 years they have been there the trend is completely opposite. RSD and LDE knew this, they have all the data, but chose to submit a legal document to a federal judge that lied about this. RSD also showed how their schools have been improving. RSD has schools all over the state. Instead of showing the progress at the middle school, which has gotten progressively worse, they showed information about RSD as a whole, including most of the schools in New Orleans. (Incidentally I have evidence of systematic cheating at RSD New Orleans schools to incrementally increase their scores, more on that on part 2 of John McDonogh story .)
Here are a few of the stories detailing St Helena, but replace St Helena with the name of your own school district, because this, or some version of it, will be the story of your district soon enough. The methods and actors might change, but when you have someone without a shred of human decency, honor, or morality determined to destroy you, he will win.
Even now, the voucher case Jindal and White are making much hay about is nothing more than poor theatre to prevent people from learning the truth about the voucher program and the destruction it is quietly wreaking on minority communities. Laws and agreements were already in place that Jindal and John White violated with his voucher program, in much the same way Jindal violated our very state Constitution, repeatedly and viciously throughout his tenure as our tyrannical governor. As part of the agreement consent decrees in many parishes throughout the state, White and Jindal were supposed to notify the Attorney General’s office about programs that might have an impact on desegregation progress, as vouchers have clearly done. Jindal and White knew this, and refused to comply with existing law and legal agreements because they were afraid their plans might be stalled or found to be out of compliance, so they willfully violated those agreements and orders. In response a federal judge asked for data to determine whether the programs had a negative impact on desegregation. White and Jindal refused to comply (knowing full well that their voucher program was removing poor black children from public schools and putting them in substandard schools that teach kids with DVDs, teach kids with uncertified teachers, and teach kids so poorly they score on average 30 points lower on state tests than their public school counterparts) and instead characterized that request, that the Federal government was bound by existing law and orders to uphold, into a power grab. Read the MOU for yourself.
So to reiterate the absurdity and dishonesty of John White and Bobby Jindal: In the span of the same three months John White and Jindal argued allowing parents the choice to attend a public school instead of RSD would jeopardize desegregation. (Knowing full well that not only was this not true, but that in fact RSD was driving white students out of the system and intentionally misleads a federal judge with irrelevant data) They also refused to turn over data that would show their voucher program was having a negative impact on desegregation in numerous other parishes, knowing full well that it did. Their argument was that since most of the recipients of the scholarships statewide were black it would be absurd that the impact could be harmful. This is a ridiculous argument. There could be local issues where every single white student in a majority black district pulled out for instance. The vouchers could make the public schools less financially viable (as was the case RSD also made for rejecting St Helena to add grades to their existing schools). The results could be sporadic since they only reported a majority of students statewide, individual parishes could have been unharmed, and some dramatically harmed. As time goes on, these impacts could get much much worse, but Jindal and John White have successfully fended off the feds, and fooled the majority of the public with their grandstanding. Have children been the losers in this equation? Quite likely, but neither of these phonies cares one whit about other people’s children. They care about images and political careers and their donors, not ordinary people.
Our only hope is if we resist the status quo and momentum Jindal and John White have built around their plans, their multilayered deceptions. Drastic methods are required to confront and prevent this and keep them from succeeding. White knows you are onto him, which is why he is signaling his reformer kin to change their tactics and brand parents the enemy. I knew this was coming. I’ve seen it and said it form months now, but he has branded us the enemy now.
“An aggressive form of populism has asserted itself in the rhetoric of our day,” White is expected to say at the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s headquarters in Washington. “I see it in a tone that is skeptical of reformers in the same populist way our country today is skeptical of authority generally. This is, I believe, greatly damaging for an education reform effort that has done good in America and that needs to be sustained. And it needs to be addressed, lest this generational effort wash out with the tide of the next administration.”
“How we manage our newfound authority in a populist time is a critical and tenuous question,” White will say. “Our most important responsibility as reformers is no longer just to clamor for change but to sustain and expand the positive direction of our nation’s education system. The greatest risk we face in doing this is not the validity of our ideas but the pitfalls of authority itself.”
The aggressive populism White speaks of is you, is parents, is children, is teachers who are tired of being told what is good for our children by folks who don’t have them. Teachers are tired of being told how to educate children by folks who took a 5 week TFA correspondence course, or who never taught a day in their life, like Bill Gates, who says his reforms will take 10 years or more to see if they were effective! These bastards want to literally experiment on a whole generation of our children, on their hunches, that data has heretofore proved not just wrong, but damn wrong. The few reformers, who have children, enroll them in exclusive private schools that do the opposite of everything they preach is great for our kids. Put Bill Gate’s kids and Michele Rhee’s kids in a class of 50+ students, glued to a computer all day, learning Common Core drilled mathematics.
They preach choice, but deny us ours. They choose different than what they choose for us! I choose different than what they would choose for us! Who is with me?!?! Do these cowards who hide behind wealthy donors and speak at secret meetings beyond parents dare subject their own children to these education tortures, these heinous crimes against education that they would subject the rest of us to in the name of choice, in the name of global competitiveness they have never documented? Do they dare face us! They are miserable sniveling cowards picked by even more cowards to lead us like lemmings of the cliff while they parachute down to their pavilions paid for on the backs of our children. If that be an aggressive form of populism, letting the people decide what is best for their own children than wealthy overlords, then sobeit. I am a populist. I am a knuckle dragger. I am for the people. I am for what is best for my children and what is best for yours, not what is best for their wallets. When you see them at your schools, at your town halls, at your school board meetings, at your churches wearing their smug smiles of confidence and control, let them know you are onto them and their little game. Let them know you are for people, for your children, for your neighbor’s children, and not the filthy blood money lining their pockets.
Do I seem angry? Damn straight I’m angry. You should be too. This has gone on long enough. The time for politely making 3 minute statements in a highly staged BESE meeting or before an orchestrated legislature is over. They are told how to vote by Bobby Jindal before they even set foot in those venues. They think they have this and you all wrapped up in a pretty little bundle, and I tell you it’s time to blow that package apart.
John White sees this as just a little game where their only problem is the messaging, not the horribly destructive agenda. White is so arrogant he tells us “reformers” are manipulating us with meaningless semantics and “framing.” In White’s play we are merely actors with parts he has written for us. In this passage he says as much.
To prevent that from happening, White is offering a three-part solution. “First, if we are to sustain our positive impact on the future of American education, reform leaders will shift their mission to national responsibility over self-righteous sympathy,” he will say. Reformers who rely too much “on an easy sympathy for the urban poor” can hurt the cause, he will say.
Second, he will call for the narrative around reform to be “refreshed.” This means taking the fight to enemies beyond teachers unions. While White argues that the media paint reformers as “ideologues,” what he calls the real “establishment bureaucracy” — the management of huge federal programs like Title I and Head Start — takes little flak.
“Without the new fight, what we have is stale story,” White will say. “We are letting the populist story of reformer versus working person tell itself.”
But John White is no Shakespeare either. Those of us that were educated before Common Core supplanted real Shakespeare with “informational texts” recognize the real stuff versus a pathetic imitation.
So in answer to my initial question. Yes. As long as we have people like Bobby Jindal and John White calling the shots, student and parent privacy is impossible.
I would like to thank all of you who came out to support our call to take back public education in Louisiana at the Rally this Saturday. I spoke with many parents and teachers (in both public and private schools) about their concerns about the federal Common Core Curriculum, and informed them of many other goings on at the Louisiana Department of Education. I explained just tiniest fraction of the issues I’ve covered over the past two years and I literally saw jaws dropping open in disbelief. Most parents and teachers have been oblivious to what has been going on with education in our State, but they are starting to wake up and ask questions, and for that I am especially thankful.
As I said during my speech to close out the rally, we must engage our political leaders, and ask them the hard questions that they have never been asked. They have lived a life of legislative leisure, ignoring any opposition and critiques of the policies that have been handed to them by non-parents; by outsiders; by corporations and wealthy individuals seeking to profit from our children and our state. I asked you to contact these leaders that have pledged to represent our interests and ask them real questions, to go beyond the pat talking points John White literally delivers to their doorsteps, and inboxes. One of you did and I received this transcription of the event.
From a parent who called his BESE representative:
“Chas Roemer (District 6 BESE Representative) just returned my call. I left a message for him to please call me, but I did not tell him what I wanted to discuss. My goal was to express to him my concerns about Common Core Standards.
After our ‘conversation’, I can say that Mr. Roemer is a person who is elected by the people BUT who does not want to listen to the people.
He stated that they are trying to create a “workforce” that can compete with the world.
When I asked when we went from educating our children to creating a “workforce“, he stated that they needed to create skilled workers.
Again, how is that the purpose of education?
When I asked why we are adopting a standard that has no textbooks, proven testing, or curricula, he told me that they were giving each district the power to do that.
When asked why he was just giving the standard rhetoric, which is all we seem to get from him concerning Common Core, he started yelling at me and wanted to know where I got my information.
When I stated that myself and my wife have been researching this, he stated that what you read on the internet is false information.
He started actually yelling at me about how he didn’t have to listen to me.
Yes, I’ll admit it; I did raise my voice back and said he is an elected official and that it is his job to listen to me. He then said if I have a problem then run for the BESE board where we could debate the issue, and then he hung up on me.
This man obviously does not want to hear from anyone that does not agree with him.”
My thanks and admiration goes out to the parent who took this necessary first step. However this was just a first step, a first blow in what will be a much longer battle. Even now John White, Bobby Jindal, and their media allies are coordinating attacks on parents and students, calling them “populists” and special interests, tea party fanatics, and crazies in an attempt to marginalize them; to marginalize us. Chas Roemer’s reaction is what you should expect from any of John White’s allies, and Jindal’s puppets. They are incapable of defending these policies because they don’t understand them, because they are indefensible, and because no one has ever dared ask them too. They are incapable of answering these questions because they do not allow dissent, they do not allow discussion. Even on BESE, 9 of the 11 members all vote in lockstep with John White and Bobby Jindal’s agenda on every single issue. Look closely the next time you attend a BESE meeting and you will see tiny strings attached to these nine that travel all the way to the Governor’s mansion and up to the 5th floor of the Claiborne building where John White holds court with his entourage of out-of-state henchchildren.
The sad part of the whole exchange between Chas Roemer, and one of his constituents he was sworn to represent, is that even if this person were elected to BESE (as Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill have) Chas Roemer, in his role as BESE president, would still not allow them to speak or discuss these issues. The only solution I can offer to deal with Chas and so many puppets like him is to run out own candidates to replace them. Chas has served on the BESE board long enough. He is obviously overburdened having to listen or discuss issues with his constituents. The only person he’s had to represent up until now was Bobby Jindal.
We will run or support a candidate against Chas or anyone he endorses in district 6. It is time a parent, not a lawyer without any kids in the public schools, represents other parents. I encourage all parents with children in our public schools to consider running for BESE in the next election and replace these phonies like Chas Roemer and Kira Orange Jones that use BESE as a stepping stone in their careers, not as one of the most important jobs in state government, looking after our children.
Hey Chas, any guesses which district I live in?
Now get out there and have yourselves a little puppet show!
As I promised at the Rally, here is a list of resources you can use to contact relevant legislators and representatives:
You might also try contacting your local superintendents and local school board meetings as well as the BESE meetings for voicing your concerns. All of those folks will communicate your dissatisfaction to LDOE and John White.
Not sure who your BESE rep is, or which district you want to consider making a run for? Here’s an easy reference map.
You will probably note that the “member’s at large” portion (Jindal appointees) is outdated for at least two of the members. I suppose they are trying to say it doesn’t really matter who fills those spots, they might as all say Jindal Proxy votes.
I have been teaching for 191/2 years. I teach kindergarten. Most of my students are not ready for common core. When I read then a book and teach them a skill for example like predicting and ask them what I just taught them they would say you taught us about mice because that is what the story was about. Most of my students can’t even write their name or draw a picture. My principal asked me the other day why they are not writing sentences. All this goes on my evaluation and every parish can see what she think. It is not my fault my students are not ready. I do all I can do. I make my 20 in January. I may not return in Feb.
I don’t know what you can do. My students want to play. There is no more play just work work work.
Frustrated in K
Naturalized US Citizen (non-parent)
I praise you for your courage to take a stand on this very important issue.
I am not a parent, but every year I get my tax bill for schools in my area, which is ok, I don’t want ignorant kids around me.
I have decided to join the several parents that are starting to wake up about CCS because, as a foreigner (and American Citizen at the same time), the American Educational level has been an international embarrassment for the last three decades, and this new standards will set us below the poverty level worldwide, if an analogy like that could be made.
I also got involved because I believe in the Republic, I believe each state has to have its own sovereignty and I see this administration eroding that concept by leaps and bounds.
Question #42 of the Naturalization test study materials expresses clearly the responsibilities of the Sates as independent entities: a) Provide schooling an Education, b) Provide protection (Police), c) Provide safety (Fire Departments), d) Give a Driver’s License and e) Approve zoning an land use.
Question #41 establishes the responsibility of the Federal Government: print money, declare war, create and army and sign treaties, among others.
So, to me, it was more than clear who was in charge of the education in Louisiana, and it is us!! Why is the Federal Government interfering?
Because the states are so lazy to take care of it anymore?
Because we did sign our fate away by accepting this.
We can take our schools back as well and that is why several parents from the New Orleans/Covington area are going to go to the Baton Rouge Capitol this Saturday Sept 28 to demand Governor Jindal to do something about it. The media will be there… of course, that doesn’t mean anything if they decide to keep this in the can.
You are not alone. Please join us. Spread the word to other parents and teachers and concerned citizens.
And thank you for writing this. I tweeted to Jindal, Vitter, and some reporters.
Parent from Livingston Parish
My name is [redacted] and I live in Livingston Parish. I just wanted to say that as a parent I deeply appreciate and whole heartedly agree with you stance on Common Core! I can’ tasty thank you enough for your efforts on behalf of teachers and parents in Louisiana! I read a lot of news stories, along with the comments sections, on the internet. I guess it was sometime over the summer where I read a comment on a news article where a parent said something to the affect of, beware if they try to implement Common Core! Well at the time I had no idea what that meant. Now since the implementation of it in Louisiana I have read PLENTY of article from across the United States about the horror story that is Common Core!! I, along with a few people I know, are going to stand and fight to have this indoctrinating tacking system removed from our children’s classrooms! There is supposed to be a protest this Saturday across from the street from the State board of Education office, I’m sure you’re aware, I’m going to make every effort to attend. I hope to see you there and again thank you.
Samantha Thibodeaux – You are my hero!…. and the hero for every public/private school child and teacher being tortured by Common Core, Arnie Duncan, Bobby Jindal and John White. I sat with you in that meeting my friend and was blown away by your passion for the TRUTH. Thank you Samantha – You are an inspiration to us all!
I have never been affiliated with the tea party. What I am is a ticked Republican who is very disappointed in the leadership in Louisiana. BTW, what difference does it make? The comparison between Obamacare and Common Core is leaders signing onto massive program without knowing the details. The standards were not completed or published. The cost has skyrocketed and this is before the testing component has been put into place. Riddle me this, how do you measure the effectiveness of cradle to career standards?
Non-conspiracy theorist J
Mr Cook says :”Incoherent, disorganized chaos dosen’t describe the LDOE as much as it describes the thinking and arguments of CCSS opponents/conspiracy theorists.”
wow. Mr. Cook, I am not a conspiracy theorists, yet I don’t agree with Common Core. Be careful how you lump people together, that is a drastic assumption on your part.
Thank you so much Jason for being part of this opposition to CCSSI – we know it is an INITIATIVE that has to be stopped. We are not misinformed, we know what the CCSS INITIATIVE is and we REJECT IT.
Why implement something they, themselves admit may not work. The system we have now works. It is evident because Governor Jindal, President Obama, the ones who made up Common Core and every other living American has gone through it. It fails when the student decides he or she does not want to study and the parent does not want to help their child progress. The blame cannot all fall on the teachers. This is America and yes all people are created equal, but people decide themselves when they give up equality when they stop trying or working to accomplish their goals. Life is to easy now because everything is given to them by the government. The Federal Government should have no right telling schools what and how to teach. Mr. Cook, you seem like an intelligent man…did you go to a secret school that implemented Common Core before it’s time or did you work hard for your education? The Federal and State is squeezing citizens so hard before long you will have no choice, but to depend and answer to them for everything. We do have a Constitution. It was put there for a reason. We are starting to see the reason now. No I’m am not a republican or democrat. I am independent. I look at what’s right, period….. Common Core is wrong by all accounts.
Full time Working mother of 3 from Ascension Parish
Common Core is so frustrating for parents. I now come home from a full time job, to three children in three different grades struggling with school work. Apparently, Common core automatically gave me a position as a substitute teacher. We are spending four hours each afternoon doing homework that should take us an hour. I am having to reteach my kids what they are learning in class to make sure they GRASP what they are being taught. Then they cry that I am not teaching them the way (or method) that they were shown in class. .If our students are moving so fast and don’t grasp what they are being taught, moving on is just setting them up for failure. After getting our first progress report this year, their confidence levels have dropped. My nine year old has always loved school. This year he comes home and tells me he is not smart. My twelve year old begs me to homeschool him. At the end of the day, instead of coming home to enjoy my family, I come home to tears and fits. I am not sure how many parents will continue to do this. They are going to give up!!! I believe we are setting them up for failure.
Grandmother raising grand kids
Our govt is destroying the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. This was the only thing on Obamas adgenda when he ran for president..
All the people that voted for him will soon learn they made a huge mistake………………………. All we can do is fight the govt and refuse this way of teachings. get back to the simple ways kids understand. When God was taken out of schools we started to lose our children. Look what is happening to our schools since prayer is not allowed. every crazy psycho that goes
coo coo wants to shoot up schools and teachers.
The govt needs to have better mental health care for people. Stop trying to dictate all of our lives. Everything I have seen happen since Obama has backfired and cost trillions of dollars. From education to healthcare to religion. We were a christian nation. Now they are trying to reform ev1 into muslim world and fighting tooth and nail to convert ev1 in the U.S.A. Until we all ( every state, town, city in AMERICA join together and say enough is enough.) we are doomed. Prayers for all. I am a grandmother raising grand kids and it is very difficult now days. Prayers for you and yours.
I feel so much better that I know Samantha is on our side (parents)!!!!! Thank you so much!!!!!!
“Parents have had no information regarding Common Core. No informational meetings, no written material sent home, no formal venue to be introduced to and ask questions about Common Core. Therefore, at first they made the assumption that it was in the best interest of their children. As homework began to come home, they realized they were less and less able to help. Just now are we seeing parents rising up and contacting their principals, administration, and school board members, asking to know what Common Core is, explaining how it is affecting their children.”
This quote speaks volumes – we got a flyer sent home 3 bullets about CC. That was it. My child has F’s in everything related to this CC stuff and there seems no way to right this ship. I have spent a fortune now to enroll her in Sylvan . I feel absolutely helpless and I have a child that is frustrated and has given up. We google the problems sent home to virtually no avail. Completely at a loss……
At the June 18th BESE meeting John White relayed that he did not recall seeing my opt-out letter and did not reply because it was something he characterized as a “form letter.” Technically this was true. Mine was the first letter to get sent, so it was not a form letter, however Tom Aswell at the Louisiana Voice republished it after redacting my personal info so other parents could likewise opt their children out of any data sharing using my letter as a template. (I subsequently learned there was much swearing of my name by John White, as a result of my letter and privacy petition and campaign, but we must pick and choose our battles, right?)
A form letter type approach was adopted because Louisiana has not provided an organized method of transmitting or submitting opt-out requests and some very specific information needs to be submitted for Louisiana to identify children that are opted out, while not revealing too much information (like DOB and SSN) which could be used by identity thieves that might intercept the e-mail making the opt-out procedure as dangerous as the data sharing.
My son will be starting pre-k this year in EBR so I will be updating my opt-out request in a few weeks with his info.
Feel free to use this letter as a template for your own, or simply write your own and simply make sure to send the bolded data elements. Since John White did not recall seeing my letter, even thought I sent it to him and most of his senior staff and legal counsel, I would recommend making sure you send it to more folks than just John White. I asked him to provide a method by which parents could opt-out their children without this hassle, but White did not address any future plans to make this process easy in the meeting.
My name is (PARENT’S NAME) and I am a parent of children in Louisiana public schools. This is to formally inform you that you do not have my permission to share my children’s personally identifiable student information with any external agency, researcher, non-profit group, vendor or government or quasi-government agency under any circumstances (specifically, name, DOB, SSN). They are public students in the (parish/city/parochial) school system and you have not asked my permission to share their information as required by law. I am purposefully informing you that you do not have permission to share their information unless I provide appropriate parental guidance. Their/his/her name(s) is/are (STUDENT’S OR STUDENTS’ NAME[S]). If you already have, I would like you to promptly request that his/her/their information be expunged from any data set you have already shared.
Mr. White, on the basis of your e-mails it appears you are planning on sharing this data and I will hold you personally responsible for any subsequent violations. I will be recommending that other parents likewise notify you if they do not wish their information to be shared with corporations/vendors whom you have agreed to not hold liable for any security breaches or unauthorized releases (which I don’t believe you have a legal right or authority to do). Moreover, any such release of personally identifiable information without each parent’s express permission will be a direct violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and a willfully unnecessary one since you have non-personally identifiable student identifiers and have taken great pains to claim FERPA exclusions for all other releases of de-identified student data to the media, researchers, and the general public.
Please note the section in the last paragraph below. Schools may disclose, without consent, directory information. But you must notify us when doing so. You, however, do not have my consent and you are not a school. You have my absolute, unequivocal, official refusal on record.
You also do not have a legal right to require social security numbers from any student in Louisiana. I will be recommending parents and school districts to promptly stop providing them as you seem unwilling to guard this information as required by law.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible students.”
• Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
• Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
• Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
o School officials with legitimate educational interest;
o Other schools to which a student is transferring;
o Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
o Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
o Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
o Accrediting organizations;
o To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
o Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
o State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.
But before I get into some of the nitty-gritty details of where I am today as a small part of a grassroots rebellion, it’s important to note that none of this happened in a vacuum. I suppose I was a little like every little state worker bee for the first few years. I believed I was a simple civil servant, but that was ok. I had a job to do, just like everyone else, and we all wanted to work toward a common goal, and help our fellow citizens and our state. At the Louisiana Department of Education I enjoyed my job, and I despite some political jockeying in the upper echelons of management and the occasional slacker (every agency has one or two, but that’s not something confined to the public sector), I believed most people were bound by the same general common goal: To serve our state, to help our school districts, and to improve the lot of children in whatever role we served.
At first I didn’t really pay attention the difference between classified and unclassified personnel. To me, unclassified personnel were simply folks that had specialized skills, temps with specific projects, or agency heads that needed to be reportable directly to our elected officials so they couldn’t hide behind the Civil Service rules that theoretically protected classified folks. I was a classified worker. This mean I had to meet and document my qualifications for a given job level (or grade) that my salary and promotional opportunities would largely be handled by a strict schedule, but I wouldn’t be subject whimsical or politically driven termination. I wouldn’t get rich, there would be no bonuses or raises in good times, but I would be able to support a family, plan for a stable retirement, buy a house and invest in the community, and serve my stat and the people of my state, my friends, neighbors, teachers and their children. That seemed like a pretty good deal to me and I was content.
My primary role was collecting data used for funding school districts and reporting and evaluating school districts. As I stayed on I realized I was learning some pretty specialized and skills and developing a lot of institutional knowledge that allowed me to streamline processes in the department. I discovered that due to a process misunderstanding, school districts were missing out on as much as 20 million dollars in state and federal funds, annually – which I was able to correct because of my knowledge of all the relevant parties and their roles. Part of my job was data auditor, so I became pretty adept at reading and recognizing education data, and realizing the significance of small changes and trends which allowed me recognize when one of school districts was probably having a system issue before they did. I rewrote a 34 page dropout calculation down to about 3 pages, which in addition to saving loads of processing time actually fixed a problem that was accidentally marking additional students as dropouts. I successfully championed allowing students that have completed 12th grade, but failed to graduate due to lack of credits or passing the GEE, to remain in school to work on these requirements until meeting the necessary requirements. Not bad for just a little data collector and data reporting guy – I thought. After Katrina and Rita hit I built some extraction and importer tools to automate the process of retrieving school records from multiple databases that could be shared with the 48 other states our children ended up enrolling in. This enabled them to quickly restart the education part of their lives that was so significantly disrupted by mother nature by allowing other school districts to place our children in appropriate educational settings . (Most of the states we worked with were impressed with our organizational and response abilities in the face of a once in a century catastrophe but I could not have done it without a great team of dedicated civil servants and friends to back me up.) I also created terms that were used to describe students the very transient and migratory nature of our multiply displaced students (some students were evacuated as many as 4 or more times due to Katrina, Rita, and overcrowding) – nomadic. I first had to lobby for this internally once I learned all the expenses districts were incurring even for temporarily enrolling students before they were often mysteriously whisked away in the night. I also helped to successfully lobby the federal government to fund these types of students and their situations and developed a system to keep track of these students without requiring any coding changes for our vendors, state systems or school districts.
I thought I’d done good. But then Paul Pastorek, RSD and death by a 1000 charters came to town.
Early on I was a bit overwhelmed by my job and the situation, and probably like a lot of New Orleanians, grateful for anyone offering to help rebuild the city and not put off by the enormous task. I don’t think enough of us questioned the motivations of people coming in. Since Katrina I’ve been through and observed several other local disasters like Gustav, BP, and the earthquake in Haiti. Now I see that for all the good folks, there are at least as many bad apples, spoiling to get a crack at any recovery dollars and to take advantage of the unwary, the infirm, and the desperate. This is something I’ve learned that education “reformers” are very good at – taking advantage of the poor and downtrodden. As US secretary of Education Arne Duncan confirmed on a visit to New Orleans, Katrina was a godsend, to them.
Noel Hammatt has produced a very terrific article on poverty in Louisiana and the perfect correlation between poverty and SPS (School Performance Scores) produced by the Louisiana department of education to rank our public schools. I strongly encourage anyone who thinks our school and student performance is based on anything other than poverty to read his analysis. Be aware, there will always be anomalies, we all know someone from a wealthy family that was dumb as rocks, or the poor kid from the tragic background that made good, but those stories are overwhelmingly outweighed by the preponderance of evidence we have, evidence that reformers use every trick in the book to disguise, deny, hide, falsify or even destroy as has been the case in of LDOE under John White reformer rule and to a lesser extent his predecessor Paul Pastorek. These are some of the actions that convinced me that not only do reformers not believe their own platitude strewn “Louisiana Believes” garbage; they consciously and methodically seek to mislead the public with both forethought and malice.
For years data rolled in from RSD (The state run Recovery School District) that was absurdly incomplete. Paul Vallas was brought to RSD town in New Orleans after ruining the education system in my hometown of Philadelphia with his charter school obsessed budget busting and bankrupting shenanigans.
(In case you’re wondering, reformers have never been successful in any city they’ve invaded and sacked like barbaric education Visigoths and Vandals conquering Rome. They usually leave the cities and states they lead in much worse situations than they found them, in many cases with irreparable damage so they become cyclically victimized by successive waves of “reformers.” You can look at the who’s who of reform cities, like DC, Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, St Louis, Atlanta, and you will see story after story of cheating, scandal, outrage, school closings, mass educator firings, fiscal mismanagement and blatant disregard for civil rights of minorities and disabled children. What you won’t see is real improvement that stands up to any scrutiny, and this is after decades of “reform” in many cases. None of the children few of the original teachers and principals are left in these “reform” havens, so why we not amazed and blown away by all the progress of these unfettered policies? Let me reiterate this point, education reform is decades old, but constantly changing its stripes and flavors to evade responsibility and accountability. Reform is a used and infectious band aid passed from one city (or market as they see it) to another, ushered in by snake oil salesmen like Paul Vallas, John White, Michelle Rhee, Tony Bennet, and Joel Klein, who sell their tainted products with fancy labels and move on just before the locals drive them out with pitchforks or their frauds can be revealed and definitively tied to them.)
And Paul Vallas was brought to us by Paul Pastorek, a lawyer playing superintendent with a salary twice the southern average for such salaries in the second poorest state (Thanks Mississippi!) (Incidentally Paul Vallas is like like 6’5″ and Paul Pastorek is like five feet nothing, so you just know we had to call them Big P and little pp or Dr Evil and Mini p.)
Apparently legislators were swayed by Pastorek’s argument that he needed nearly half a million dollar annual salary (including both base salary and allowances) to support his family (which at last check did not exceed 100 members and probably none living at home. . .) Of course Paul Pastorek is an unclassified appointee who had the qualifications for state superintendent waived. This argument rarely is a consideration for rank and file employees who have been denied raises for as many as the past 5 years in some cases but 3 to 4 in most. Of course most state workers earn less than 30k per year, and many at earn less than the poverty level, in one of the poorest states, so they are already used to making do with less than their family can afford.
This salary fiasco was our first introduction, lawyer/lobbyist turned education reformer Paul Pastorek but a pretty good indication of where his priorities resided. Some of his first actions were to commence laying off employees left and right so he could afford reform fellow and TFA alums like Jacob Landry and Chris Meyer to direct our first runs at Race to the Top funds. Despite the fact Louisiana was considered early favorites for these hundreds of millions in potential funding, we lost out in every application process. We were told our initial application was flawed and was missing some components. However we chose to ignore these comments and submitted virtually the exact same proposal and lost out again. Despite these failures and lack of funding to support the radical changes outlined in Louisiana’s proposal, Paul Pastorek vowed to pursue the changes anyways, and proceeded to lay off more classified workers and replace them with more unclassified TFA fellows who roamed our halls playing games with balled up pieces of paper and looking for things to keep them busy (There was a corral of them right outside my office.) After Bobby Jindal was elected, he appointed Erin Bendilly to run a newly created department called Parental Options, a department tasked with expanding charter schools, virtual schools, and vouchers and suppressing all oversight and regulations of the same. Whenever the legislature passed a law or requested information about charters and their ilk, her job was to confound that request, scale back the response, muddy the narrative, and to interpret the law as not applicable to charters despite what our own lawyers said. Since many of our lawyers refused to agree with her interpretations they were encouraged to retire or were fired and replaced with more pliable ones. (After all, everyone knows lawyers’ jobs are to creatively interpret the law to suit your agenda, not uphold the law or interpret it as intended, right?) It was also widely known that Erin was to be the Governor’s ears and eyes at the department.
My only real direct interaction with Erin was over the Shadow School situation, (usually her messages and missives were delivered by word of mouth by traitorous sycophantic toadies – we assumed to avoid an e-mail trail.) Shadow Schools are a phenomenon born out of the need to evade accountability sanctions. These are high performing magnet schools/academies that either don’t get reported to the state or federal government, such as has happened in Iberville with the MSA East and West Academies, or schools that have every single student routed to another low performing school to raise that schools scores. When Erin first learned of this situation she seemed alarmed that parents were being misled by this policy, but a few well connected phone calls later she changed her tune and decided to cover for Edward Cancienne and his ploys. Until then I’d had hope that maybe some of the appointed folks that Jindal appointed (or his appointees) had a soul, but money, power and influence peddling had sadly corrupted them all, probably before the got to DOE. When the legislature passed laws that were designed to document and reveal the extent of bullying and corporal punishment prevalent in our public schools, Erin’s only concerns and communications revolved around making sure charters schools were held exempt from these laws. This was despite clear and unequivocal communications from our chief legal counsel, Joan Hunt, that charter schools were explicitly not exempt from following these laws, at least at first. You see, after a string of bullying related suicides a few years ago the legislature amended Louisiana’s laws on bullying. They named the revised law after Tesa Middlebrook, a teen who attended a High school assigned to the Recovery School District and handed over to a charter operator that Pointe Coupee lobbied fiercely to keep out, but to no avail.
(Pointe Coupee is one of our poorest parishes, so they kids fair poorly on our tests that are inherently biased against the poor. They do not measure progress, if you are a parent without the means to send your kids to private pre-k your kids will fall behind those that do. If you are a poor parish like Pointe Coupee or St Helena you have no rights in this state, you are merely your chattel, your children are property waiting to be sold to their new owners. Look at this graphic below if you have any doubts about who is being targeted. In Louisiana these numbers are even more stark.)
This revised Tesa Middlebrook anti-bullying act was championed by Gene Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum because it allowed teens to be bullied if they were gay, so long as the students doing the bullying claimed there were doing so for religious reasons, and it officially excluded charter schools, like the one Tesa Middlebrook attended, from having to report or address bullying incidents. Tesa Middlebrook’s family was not consulted about the naming of this legislation after her, and I can’t imagine they were as pleased with tragic irony at play here. This was a revision supported by Superintendent White. To date John White’s DOE has not released any numbers on bullying or corporal punishment. If he did, he might have to do something about it. What he has done is lay off most of the folks in charge of keeping track of discipline issues or who ran our positive behavior support system. Personally I don’t think our kids can only be reasoned with wooden boards, but John White knows otherwise. Our children are just things to him, so I suppose that attitude is at least internally consistent with his world view.
I once thought Paul Pastorek and Patrick Dobard (the current head of RSD) were misguided, but their hearts were in the right place when I learned about their interest in ramming through some collections on Corporal Punishment and Bullying. I met with Patrick several times, and he seemed pretty sincere about wanting to collect this information, and that Paul wanted to collect the corporal punishment data in particular to provide evidence about how widespread this practice was. They seemed to think we could turn on a “switch” and immediately collect all this data, like it existed in a magic data fairytale land. It took a few meetings before I understood just how they thought data collections worked and then a few more to explain we would have to define what we wanted LEAs to start collecting before they could send it to us to report on. I tried to encourage them to wait for the next school year, so their vendors could have a chance to prepare their systems for the new elements, and their school staff would have a chance to be trained on how to collect and report this data but I was overruled. I was a bit miffed by this and initially refused to have any part in the initial haphazard collection designed, but then a colleague named Kim Nesmith approached me and told me about “the pictures.” Dozens of pictures turned over to the legal department related to lawsuits. Pictures of tiny bruised, and bloodied butts and genitals of children who’d been hospitalized for state sanctioned abuse. I believed Kim, that she felt this was something important to address so I took over the compiling of the initial data which was way beyond her abilities despite what she promised to Dobard and Pastorek. What I saw in the data truly sickened me. I couldn’t believe the numbers I was getting and had to call some of the districts up to confirm them. There were four year olds and 18 year olds being paddled indiscriminately. Some kids were being beaten for uniform violations.
I was told this was something done for the children’s own good, since the alternative was suspension from school, and loss of valuable instructional time. I’m not sure why the children were being beaten and not the parents for having enough clean uniforms? Perhaps some people fell this is a reasonable response to poor families unable to afford enough uniforms or their own washer and dryer but to me this seemed like a gross civil rights abuse, heavy on the gross.
Some of the children were beaten several dozen times over the few months we collected data, sometimes several times the same day. I would like the people to consider the implications of doing that the next time they blithely quote Einstein as saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This is perhaps one of favorite catch phrases of reformers, but it never applies to taking over the schools of poor children and turning them into charters, or irrationally expanding substandard virtual schools such as is happening in Pennsylvania, despite all the evidence that indicates these schools are worse for almost all students, and sap valuable resources from more appropriate and productive education venues. It also never seems to apply to Corporal abuse.
However once John White came to town this initiative was squelched. I couldn’t quite understand why. John White claimed to care about our children, but this was just one of many examples that showed me just how wrong that claim was. After I left the agency I tried multiple times to get DOE to release this data to me. Eventually I even contacted Kim, who by this time had managed to bluff her way into a director position over data collections. When I asked this person, who had initially plead with me help her with this data collection she mocked me. “What are you going to do? Who are you going to tell, the media,” she laughed (I think it might have actually been an LOL) “Are you an activist now? Why do you care?”
I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been. Of course it always appeared she was just kissing up to whatever ass was nearby, but for some reason I thought maybe this time was different. Crocodiles have tears for a reason I suppose. . .
Since then I’ve asked for all manner of data and over a year later I am still waiting. At this point I’m relatively sure I will never get any of the data I’ve asked for, but I will explain what I’ve asked for and why so you will see what they are hiding. For instance, did you know that many of the charters in New Orleans claiming graduation rates of 80-90% are actually only graduating around 50% of the students who initially enroll? They are using flawed numbers, semantics and percentages without numerators or denominators to disguise what is really going on. . . When I show you their tricks, maybe you’ll understand why they disgust me, and why I claim they are using our children as mutton more than sheep for the sheering.