SPEDGate: How the Louisiana Department of Education is Misappropriating Millions of Dollars a Year from their Federal Special Education Funding for Cronies and Political Favors

What follows is an investigative story about the Special Education program run by the Louisiana Department of Education which reveals how numerous players have profited by funneling Federal IDEA funds to their own pet projects and personnel.

This illegal misappropriation of public money has left many special education students, parents, and district staff without the support those federal funds were mandated to provide.

My story has many twists, turns, and villains, but I will try to lay out the details as clearly as I can.  This story exposes what appears to be criminal behavior and corruption at our highest levels of government.  There is undoubtedly more to the story than I know or will be able to relay here, but I will present what I have and let the public, legislators and law enforcement agencies decide if this matter is worth investigating further using tools beyond my power.

A few months ago I received a letter from a concerned Special Education activist in Louisiana.  This source to whom I have given anonymity provided some internal documents prepared by the Louisiana Department of Education which were distributed to certain Louisiana legislators.  Much of the information provided had been previously relayed to me over several years, but I have been unable to prove those assertions, until now.

The first element that was revealed to me is that LDOE has destroyed the Special Education Department.  Most of the staff who previously dealt with Special Education issues were reassigned or fired,  but LDOE kept the money the federal government was providing specifically to support special education staff.  To justify this, LDOE allocated these funds I to 129 different staff members across the department, many of whom had absolutely nothing to do with Special Education.  I have provided a list of these allocations as attachments labeled “salary” and “salary 2”.  I’m told this documentation was provided to Representative John Schroeder when the department was trying to make a case that they did not have the necessary staff to comply with Act 833. (Act 833 was signed into law in 2014 and requires LDOE to provide alternate graduation requirement guidelines for certain disabled students.)


salary 2

According to guidance documents I have provided, it is acceptable for LDOE to allocate salaries on a pro-rata basis.  However, this basis must be determined by the employee for the amount of time they actually spend solely on Special Education issues.  Employees are required to sign off every week on “Time-and-Effort Certifications” like the one shown below:

Cert schedule




As you can see, employees are supposed to document how much time they spend on actual Special Education focused issues and to then sign this affidavit.  Their supervisors then sign off on this form.  However employees at LDOE do not enter the percentages.  Their supervisors provide documents with these percentages already filled out, or they instruct their employees what numbers they must use based on how they have been allocated for budgeting purposes, not based on any actual work.  Many of the LDOE employees allocated to Special Education couldn’t work on Special Education issues if they tried.  Employees that have tried to refuse committing fraud have been threatened with immediate termination by their supervisors.  One source I interviewed relayed a story I had been told several times before.

“…when one LDOE employee said he/she did not want to sign the verification sheet – because it was untrue – the person was told the alternative was to be fired.”

Some state employees are blackmailed into committing payroll fraud every week.  They cannot reveal this because they cannot prove the supervisor told them they would be fired for not signing the sheet, and if they confess to committing the fraud, the supervisor can claim they were ignorant of the situation and the employee acted on his/her own.  This would result in the employee being fired and then subject to criminal charges.  (This is how many criminal organizations and gangs trap people in cycles of crime.  Once you commit a crime, that crime can be held over you to keep you silent and to blackmail you into additional criminal activity.)  Below is one of the relevant federal directives:

Support for Salaries and Wages of an Employee Working on a Single Cost Objective

The Appendix to 2 C.F.R. Part 225 (formerly OMB Circular A-87, Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian Tribal Governments) requires an employee whose salary and wages are supported, in whole or in part, with Federal funds to document his/her time spent working on Federal programs in order to ensure that charges to each Federal program reflect an accurate account of the employee’s time and effort devoted to that program.  The Appendix addresses two types of documentation:  semiannual certifications and personnel activity reports.

Personnel activity reports

If an employee works on multiple activities or cost objectives, a distribution of the employee’s salary and wages must be supported by a personnel activity report (PAR) or equivalent documentation.  The Appendix lists instances of multiple activities or cost objectives for which a PAR is required — that is, if an employee works on –

  • • More than one Federal award.
  • • A Federal award and a non-Federal award.
  • • An indirect cost activity and a direct cost activity.
  • • Two or more indirect activities that are allocated using different allocation bases.
  • • An unallowable activity and a direct or indirect cost activity.

A PAR must –

  • • Reflect an after-the-fact distribution of the actual activity of the employee.
  • • Account for the total activity for which each employee is compensated.
  • • Be prepared at least monthly and coincide with one or more pay periods.
  • • Be signed by the employee.

Employees are told what to put on their timesheets and if they refuse to do so and sign off on them, they are threatened with termination.  That is clearly not what the USDOE had in mind when they issued their guidance.

LDOE was asked about their special education resources, alignment and composition in a December 17, 2014, Joint House and Senate Education Committee hearing.  They responded on January 5, 2015, describing how they had reorganized internally to better address Special Education classes concerns that could potentially span across the department.  Here is the question they answered and LDOE’s response:

8. Please identify the Department’s Special Education staff and describe their support of local school systems.

Historically the Department has been organized into a fragmented system of divisions in which various elementary and secondary school sectors have been isolated – not only special education, but also career and technical education, curriculum, educator support, assessments, accountability, federal programs, early childhood education, and more.  This structure did not foster planning or collaboration among divisions, nor did it reflect the real-world environments of public schools where all of these needs must be addressed every day in the same schools, even in the same classrooms.  The isolation of special education staff, in particular, ran contrary to the goals of inclusion for students to be able to participate in and benefit from the total educational experience as their non-disabled peers.

Because special education is a service for student who need it, and because all Department of Education staff and local school system staff are obligated to providing that service, not just “special education” staff, the Department began integrating special education supports throughout the agency:

Network Teams: […]

Program Staff: […]


memo 2

Most of this passage is gobbledygook designed to take up space and bore the reader into dozing off and accepting LDOE’s presumed expertise on the subject.  The section I’ve highlighted is the basis under which LDOE is operating. Their reasoning is not supported by federal laws, regulations or policies, but it does describe the philosophy they are providing to legislators.

In plain speak, what LDOE is saying is:

“Because all school systems have or could have disabled students, and all support staff provide information for all students (which include disabled students), all employees support disabled students.”

This is not just wrong but the opposite of what the federal government has provided this funding for.  LDOE knows this is wrong, but they are willfully ignoring the laws and relevant federal guidance because no one is holding them accountable for following state and federal laws and policies.

LDOE is using earmarked Special Education funding as a way to boost employees’ salaries and employ personnel for the programs they deem more important that Special Education.

As a result:

  • Many initiatives such as 833, an alternative pathway for disabled students to earn a diploma, are faltering.
  • Students are being denied services and corporally punished for their conduct related to their disabilities.
  • Parents are being told to fill out invasive surveys and are required to provide information illegally in order for their children to receive services.
  • Charter schools are not only refusing to provide disabled students services but are being paid money for services they never provided.
  • The state and RSD are being sued on a regular basis because of their handling of Special Education.

Here is one of the of the class action settlements related to violations of special education students’ rights (ironically hosted on the LDOE’s website, www.LouisianaBelieves.com)

Some of the complaints against RSD and LDOE involved students with disabilities being repeatedly locked in closets or disciplined for minor infractions until they could be expelled.

Leskisher Luckett, whose third-grade son was repeatedly locked in a school closet as a means of punishment, described the effect this discrimination has had on her son. “After being treated like a lost cause for years, Darren has come to believe that about himself. My son, my 9-year old son, is too young to give up on his education.”

Robyn Flanery’s daughter began suffering from profound emotional troubles upon entering the seventh grade. But rather than receive any type of services to address her condition, she was repeatedly punished for minor infractions until she was finally expelled from the school she had attended since kindergarten. Ms. Flanery reported that this led to even greater emotional trauma.

These situations are largely attributed to the fact that special education coordinators across the state are lacking in guidance (have lacked it for years), direction and training on special education issues.  The state is provided millions of dollars annually to employ staff to support school district personnel, but they are shirking these duties.  Taxpayers are not getting what they are paying for.  Instead, taxpayers are now also paying for lawsuits and settlements because disabled children and their parents are suffering abuse, neglect and ignorance as a result of the incompetence and lack of expertise of staff employed by the LDOE.

For this story, numerous parents and other sources involved with Special Education in Louisiana were interviewed and asked to provide their thoughts on LDOE and their handling of Special Education for the state.

Liz Gary, a mother of a student receiving special education services in St Tammany,  and a staunch Special Education rights advocate in Louisiana had this to say about LDOE’s recent changes to how they handle (or don’t handle) Special Education training and oversight:

The state department has offered no training, professional development or oversight in years.  They believe their webinars and newsletter is all that is needed.  Unfortunately, as you know, they have let a lot of experienced people go and replaced them with inexperienced people.  It is not good.  If districts are not doing what they are supposed to do there is no one to monitor them because the state department is not doing it.

Districts are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.  I’ve heard this refrain many times for years. This cry has only gotten louder since State Superintendent John White destroyed the Special Education department in the name of improving coordination and efficiency.

White and his staff dismissed, demoted or drove off most of the qualified and experienced staff members and replaced them with politically driven appointments like the current Special Education Policy Director Jamie Wong.  Jamie spent a few years teaching pre-k and kindergarten in DC as a TNTP teacher.  (TNTP is The New Teacher Project, an organization founded by the now discredited Michelle Rhee, a former Teach for America Alum who is widely believed to have rigged test scores and overlooked or even encouraged cheating during her tenure as the Superintendent of DC public schools.)  Jamie now earns $95,000 a year at LDOE with only a few years of teaching experience.  Not so coincidentally, Jamie Wong is married to Michael Thomas Wong, one of the chief campaign strategists for Senator David Vitter who is widely presumed to be Louisiana’s next governor.  It appears that Michael Wong is paid at least $90,000 to serve as Vitter’s Capital Area Director, and  gubernatorial campaign advisor and strategist.  Michael’s salary for just 6 months of last year was $43,318.54.


Sources have claimed that Jamie’s job is a quid pro quo from John White to David Vitter, who is presumed to be John White’s next boss as the Governor of Louisiana.

Perhaps that is true, or perhaps that was just the icing on the cake, but what I want to know is why no one else in Louisiana or at the Department of Education was considered qualified for her position? I’m having trouble understanding why a recent college graduate living in DC (someone with a few years of teaching experience and a degree in political science from Southern Mississippi) is in charge overseeing all Special Education for the State of Louisiana, or why she was appointed when folks with 30 and 40 years of Special Education teaching and experience and PhDs were cast aside.

Dr. Laureen Mayfield, President of the Louisiana Association of Special Education Administrators (LASEA), had this to say about LDOE’s recent attempt at implementing Act 833:

They are not rolling out the training until August, after school has begun for many of us. The Special Education Directors and Supervisors in the state have clearly communicated to LDOE that they needed advanced training on writing IEPs for students pursuing an alternate pathway to graduation under Act 833. In addition, LASEA members have repeatedly expressed that they do not need “IEP Writing 101” for beginning teachers, but instead, higher level training for experienced teachers who just need guidance on developing thoughtful, effective IEPs for Act 833. The drafts modules that have been shown to a stakeholder group, however, appeared to be basic “what is an IEP and how do you write it” information—which is exactly what LASEA clearly communicated they did not need. We will not know until August if LSU listened to feedback from directors, or if the modules will “have Act 833 embedded in them” by including a slide or two quoting from the legislation.

LDOE has as many as a third to one half of their workforce reportedly dedicated to Special Education issues.  According to LDOE’s own report to the legislature in January, these staff members were imbedded across all areas of the department, particularly curriculum, and yet they had to obtain a quarter million dollar contract with Alan Coulter at the LSU Human Development Center to provide guidance and training for Act 833 which is what the preceding comments are referring to.

However, instead of actually providing that training, the Human Development Center produced a basic “IEP 101” course because LDOE, under John White, with 129 special education staffers, had lost the capacity to do even the most basic Special Education task.

One former attendee of previous professional development sessions hosted by LDOE (in the pre-John White days) reminisced about how LDOE used to tend to Special Education issues:

Pre-White [and former state superintendent Paul Pastorek] the Special Ed Directors from the entire state, including those in charters, met for quarterly meetings in BR with the Special Ed State Director and all the SPED staff. It was a whole day meeting and they updated us on everything–changes to laws, innovative practices, etc.

In addition to that, an Ad Hoc group […] met monthly with Susan Batson and all the SPED staff at the LDOE. We went over everything going on of importance, including vetting and discussing any changes they wanted to make to bulletins. We talked and “argued” professionally until we all came to consensus. They also kept us up to date on all changes we needed to know about, listened to our concerns, and actually addressed them.

I also spoke with former staff members from LDOE to get their take on what had happened. Here is one of the descriptions:

You can point out that every student with disabilities in Louisiana has been affected by the greed and political aspirations of our so-called leaders. Districts have no guidance from LDOE because anyone with any knowledge or experience in special Ed has been run off either by layoffs or out of sheer disgust over the way things are being done. They (districts) are left to figure it out for themselves. The districts with stronger special Ed leaders are surviving; those with weaker leadership – not so much.

One parent from Central had this to say.  Her children were denied Special Education services at Tanglewood elementary because she refused to fill out an offensive questionnaire asking about her elementary children’s sexual experiences and drug use and if anyone might have abused them.

Things are much better homeschooling. Two of my kids were finally able to skip a grade, so now they are working at a level that actually challenges them. My two that needed IEPs are getting one on one and are able to work at their own pace. And I’m NOT accountable to BESE :) Maybe they’ll get their act together, and a few of them will get unseated. Maybe John White would be de-throned. Then I would maybe consider public school again. I looked at the website for Tanglewood so I could give you the name of the lady who told me my son could receive “intervention” but no “services” unless I filled out that stupid paper. She’s not on there anymore, so I don’t know what happened with her.

Of course refusing services because a parent refused to complete an illegal questionnaire is illegal, but despite 129 employees being paid at LDOE with Special Education funds, there is literally no one to train these folks, no one to oversee them, no one for parents to complain to and obtain any help.  Parents are forced to either subject themselves to illegal requirements or have their services illegally denied.  Parents are forced to withdraw their kids and homeschool them or simply forced to watch their kids suffer while LDOE and John White doles out SPED funding to vastly unqualified political appointees.

St Tammany and Central are by no means the only school systems suffering from neglect and malfeasance.  Most of our districts are suffering in one way or another but cataloguing all the stories would require several volumes.

This last story clearly illustrates the situation.  I contacted Kathy Edmonston, the Parent Resource Facilitator for the Ascension Parish School System, to get her take on Special Education in Louisiana under LDOE’s guidance. (Kathy is also a District 6 candidate for the upcoming 2015 BESE election.)    She had this to say about how disabled children are faring in her parish school system:

Hey Jason. Thank you for taking time to express concern for our SPED kids.  They are struggling so much with the new standards. My title is Parent Resource Facilitator for Ascension Parish School System.  It looks as if it has been forgotten at DOE as it is difficult for parents to find any one there to talk to when they are experiencing difficulty in their schools. I have not been told so, but it seems that SPED department at state department has been dismantled. We in Ascension have done pretty well moving along with Act 833. It will be more fully implemented this coming school year.  The transition has been difficult as the DOE has given very little guidance.  If there had not been an ACT 833 steering committee established to stay on them, I am not sure if we would have gotten any direction!  Fortunately, we have a very good SPED director in Ascension who didn’t wait, but started digging right away and communicating with other parishes, so at the end of the year, most of our teachers knew what to do.  Since the implementation of the current [Common Core] standards, our SPED students are experiencing lots of stress and difficulty because they are taught and tested on standards that are above their academic functioning level.  It is so sad.  Parents have nowhere to turn, and teachers can’t answer their questions!

When I explained to Kathy many of the things I’d heard from the Ascension Parish leadership and that everything there was peachy keen, she had this to say:

Nothing is going peachy anywhere in the state right now!!!!!!!!!!!!  Ascension is struggling just like all other parishes in the state with the new “transformation” we are experiencing.  Our parents, teachers, but most importantly, our children.

I’d say that about sums things up nicely.

Note: ( Liz Gary was not a member of SEAP.  This piece has been edited to reflect that change.  We apologize for this error.)

LDOE Lays an Egg: Violates FERPA and Their Own MOU Providing Data to CREDO

LDOE Lays an Egg: Violates FERPA and Their Own MOU Providing Data to CREDO

I know its reaching, but I thought I’d give everyone a little Easter reference with this surprise post.  Smile

Before I left LDOE 3 years ago I was asked to help assemble some de-identified data for a research outfit named CREDO.  At the time most of my colleagues didn’t know who CREDO was or what they were all about.  (It turns out they are a pro-charter funded propaganda machine masquerading as legitimate researchers.)   We had a standing policy not to provide this type of data to anyone. . . except a few local research universities like ULL we had established contracts with – to provide analysis services to LODE for specific grants.

Then came John White and CREDO.  We’d been telling CREDO “No” for years because the amount of data they wanted was excessive and the time involved with compiling it was also going to be pretty steep.  John White was not the State Superintendent when he started giving orders through Erin Bendilly, a Jindal appointee.  This request was one of those, and it was coordinated, reviewed, and delivered by Kim Nesmith, the “Data Quality Director” and department’s FERPA enforcer.  (The fact that this request was  being forced through quickly on John White’s behalf was confirmed by both Kim and Devora Davis, head CREDO researcher, in a conference call.)

happy Easter

FERPA tidbit:

US DOE requires State agencies to select a number between 1 and 10 to mask all their student level data to conform to FERPA. Kim actually required the department go one step further.  She insisted we mask by using less than (<) and greater than (>) symbols in the ones digits in most numbers reported.  (We can still derive the specific numbers from the percentages and enrollment numbers but I won’t tell if you won’t)


(You can Download the full report example if you’d like.)

Another provision of FERPA calls for agencies to restrict access to data – keep it private from those that don’t need that access to perform their specific role or function.  While I dealt with the student data of all students, I did not need to have access to their medical records or diagnoses, or their specific Special Education classifications.  This role was handled by the folks that worked directly with this data and these students in our SER system or those folks who produced necessary reports to the Finance department.  For the nine years I worked there, I did not have access to that data.

New Orleans based, Research on Reforms filed a lawsuit to discover just what data LDOE had released to CREDO.  When ROR eventually prevailed I learned what else LDOE had provided to CREDO.  (LDOE first denied the existence of this MOU until I agreed to testify for Research on Reforms.  Then LDOE argued that they could choose whomever they wanted to evaluate their programs and did not need to provide equal access to anyone else to cross examine the claims.  The first judge agreed, but the appeals court overturned this ruling.)

It turns out LDOE violated their own very expansive MOU.  What follows is a description of a few things that should not have been sent.

For instance, it turns out that LDOE sent quite a bit of detailed data on non-public students, their DOB’s, their teachers, their special education conditions, schools, etc.  Non-Public schools were not part of the research project and not part of the MOU.


Here’s a snapshot of some of the NPB (Non-Public School) records.  Hundreds of non-public schools’ data was disclosed – without their knowledge I would imagine.


And here is some of the specific data elements they handed over on nonpublic and public students – some of which is specifically prohibited and some of which should have been because it was outside the scope of the study.  This shows the full Date of birth (not just month and year) as well as any section 504 classifications and also identifies one student as blind and another one as deaf.  (Note: these records are from completely different sections and do not match up to any of the schools shown above.)


Of course if that’s not enough, they also included the specific teacher and the course they took with that teacher for each student. (Note: each snap shot is from different records to prevent identification of students.  Something LDOE might have considered.)


To make sure researchers could identify and use all these codes, LDOE created a decode file with useful tables like this one for Special Education classifications.


You will note in the study, none of this info is necessary, and if you look at the final CREDO reports none of it was used – but it was provided unnecessarily.

LDOE also can’t make the claim they did not know what they were providing or that they were unaware that to provide it was a violation of FERPA.  Most of the files, like the one containing Special Education data, carry a pretty convincing warning.

This report contains personally identifiable information or information that when combined withother reports and/or information a student’s identity might be revealed.  Personally identifiable studentinformation must be kept confidential pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)codified at 20 U.S.C. 1232g.  Information in this report cannot be disclosed to any other person,except for employees of a student’s school or school system who must have access to that information in order to perform their official duties and for those other persons and entitiesspecified in 20 U.S.C. 1232g.


In this case, LDOE provided this information without any masking for every school in the state (including Non-Publics).  They provided a file that contains the school, school year, grade, age, ethnicity, disabilities, gender.  They provided this information for counts as low as one single student.

You would think a Student Privacy Director and Data Quality Director would know better, wouldn’t you?

According to the MOU, here is the scope of the study:




The dubious nature of the decision to provide all the data they agreed to provide aside, I don’t see any reason to provide private school data, let alone disabled student data.  Do you?

This is an example of why LDOE needs to be fully transparent and properly overseen.  There is no telling how many other data sharing agreements LDOE has entered into that most of us are completely unaware of.  LDOE is apparently incapable of even adhering to their own internal privacy decisions and their own MOU’s.  This is not an example of a rogue department providing data accidentally.  This is an example of LDOE’s top privacy guru, the Student Privacy and Data Quality Director reviewing and assembling the data, personally, before handing it over to strangers in California.


It’s only a combination of chance and persistence that I stumbled across the details of this agreement and am able to share my findings with you.  How many more agreements like this are out there that are unknown to us?  How poorly have they been reviewed?  I can’t actually say.  Someone outside of LDOE needs to review these types of disclosures (All of them)  – before they happen.  It is important for the public to have an accounting of both what was promised, but also what was actually delivered.  Frankly, if LDOE doesn’t understand their own data, they shouldn’t be providing it to others.  I also question whether they should be collecting it all or storing it for decades in the first place.

At a time of deep budget cuts, it is time to cut the Recovery School District (RSD)

Latest John White lie

Bobby Jindal recently released his budget for the 2015 fiscal year.  This budget has some pretty steep cuts for the Louisiana Department of Education.

State Superintendent John White recently claimed Bobby Jindal’s 2015 budget would force him to lay off as many as 100 of his 300 workers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget would force layoffs of about 100 of the state Department of Education’s roughly 300 workers, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday morning.

White said he was originally told that the governor’s budget plan could result in 45 agency employees losing their jobs.


Of course this a statement from a John White, a well documented liar, and an article from Will Sentell, who is rumored to be White’s pal outside of working hours, so it doesn’t surprise me that these figures are dishonest and not fact checked – not even a little.

Fortunately I had recently asked for the lists of LDOE and Recovery School District (RSD) employees. RSD is a branch of LDOE and directly overseen by LDOE. The true number of employees I came up with was 447 “DOE State Activities” employees, 117 Special School District Employees, and 108 RSD employees. That comes to 675 employees scattered across several divisions that report to John White, or more than twice the number White quoted to the Advocate – and Will Sentell dutifully reported.

From payroll file 1/23/2015


But what is one more lie?

LDOE employees with multiple offices

RSD no longer directly manages any schools, it just recruits them and “oversees” them. (New Schools for New Orleans is a non-profit that already does that.)  RSD’s employees are actually extensions of the LDOE. Many LDOE employees live in New Orleans and have offices in Baton Rouge and luxury offices in New Orleans. Many of LDOE’s executive employees live in New Orleans and do all their work from the RSD offices across from the Superdome, or from the privacy of their homes – as their exorbitant conference call bills will attest to.

Sources have relayed that a non-exhaustive list of employees operating this way are:

  • · Katherine Westerhold
  • · Hannah Dietsch
  • · Alicja Witkowski
  • · Taina Knox
  • · Rebecca Kockler
  • · Kunjan Narechania

The truth behind LDOE state employee RIF’s (Reductions In Force)

Everyone knows that John White and Bobby Jindal have claimed they have cut back employees in state service, so I decided to verify that claim myself. I asked Civil Service for the payroll of LDOE as of 1/1/2012 and 1/31/2015. A direct comparison would lead one to believe that John White had reduced his employees. John White filed dozens of RIFs, or Reeducations In Force, during his tenure.  However what you can’t tell from these files is that John White simply reclassified all of his IT positions as belonging to DOA instead of LDOE. Many of these folks still work at the Claiborne building where LDOE is housed in their same roles, they just are paid from the DOA budget although they still work for John White and LDOE on LDOE systems.

I asked for listing of these employees, but Civil Service has no way of identifying them. Therefore I excluded all the people from the IT area from my 12/31/2011 file so we could have an apples to apples comparison.  These are the numbers I came up with as of 12/31/2011 excluding IT.


However this was when RSD actually staffed schools with teachers!  Now almost all the RSD employees are unclassified operatives of John White.  Many freely move back and forth between these agencies at will as I will show you later.

What this means is employees John White controls for day to day operations is down to 675 from around 697 – excluding IT and RSD employees.  RSD actually had to run schools three years ago and most of those employees were teachers. Now RSD skims money from grants these schools receive and skims MFP funds to support their lavish lifestyle  – as I will also get into later.

Next I wanted to find out what types of employees are left and how the workforce changed. Instead of support personnel for things like Special Education, most of LDOE was turned into a charter school recruiting office and assessment section. At first blush it would appear the number of unclassified positions decreased, however when you add in RSD unclassified positions you can see a dramatic increase in this type of unrestricted worker.  Below are some distinctions between classified and unclassified employees.  Please refer to this definition from Civil Service.  I have summarized some of the differences below:

Unclassified state employees have no restrictions on salary or raises, can lobby legislators and donate to candidates, do not have need to have any specific qualifications, and are generally supposed to be restricted to just the heads of departments.

Classified state employees cannot engage in any political activity, or even the appearance of political activity. They cannot donate or endorse candidates and cannot even discuss these topics publicly without suffering sanctions or being fired. Raises for classified workers are tightly controlled and limited. Classified positions have specific sets of duties, education requirements, and experience requirements they must meet to qualify for positions.  Classified workers cannot be promoted if they do not meet the requirements of their new position. The vast majority of state workers used to be considered “classified.”

Below are the basic positions defined in Civil Service that are supposed to be classified as unclassified.

  1. Elected officials and person appointed to fill vacancies in elective offices.
  2. The head of each principal executive department appointed by the Governor.
  3. Registrars of voters.
  4. Members of State boards, authorities, and commissions.
  5. One private Secretary to the president of each college or university.
  6. One person holding a confidential position and one principal assistant or deputy to any officer, board, commission or authority mentioned in (1), (2), (3), or (4), above, except the State Department of Civil Service.
  7. Members of the military or naval forces; including those employees in the Military Department of the State of Louisiana who are members of the Louisiana National Guard or Louisiana State Guard, either active or retired.
  8. The teaching and professional staffs, and administrative officers of schools, colleges, and universities of the State, and bona fide students of those institutions employed by any State agency.
  9. Employees, deputies, and officers of the legislature and of the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General; and of police juries, school boards, and assessors; and of all offices provided for in Constitutional Article V.
  10. Commissioners of elections, watchers, and custodians and deputy custodians of voting machines.
  11. Railroad employees whose working conditions and retirement benefits are regulated by federal agencies in accordance with federal law.
  12. Notaries Public.
  13. All employees of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Obviously unclassified employees are supposed to be restricted in number and held to a pretty high standard.  Unclassified positions are supposed to be rare.  The vast majority of state employees in Civil Service are supposed to be “classified” to prevent a return to the “spoils” system of governance in Louisiana; when most of the positions in state government we doled out based on who folks supported in elections.  A classified state worker is loyal to the state, not a specific political party, candidate, or appointee.  From information I’ve been given, John White reportedly did not like that arrangement and exploited Civil Service rules to simply drive off hundreds of classified state workers loyal to Louisiana and replace them with unclassified employees (mostly from out of state) loyal to him.

Of 108 positions at RSD today, 107 are unclassified.

What possible harm can come from converting our workforce from classified to unclassified?  (Hint: New taxes!)

In case you were wondering how this arrangement works out in the real world consider this.  RSD and its staff, in conjunction with the charter lobby, successfully PR’d the public in New Orleans last year to pass a tax that contributes 90% of the proceeds to RSD until 2025 (in additional to their state and federal funding and fees they charge charters.)

Shall the Orleans Parish School board (the “School Board”) levy a tax of four and ninety-seven hundredths mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of property within the City of New Orleans assessed for City Taxation, (an estimated $15,540,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning in 2015, for the purpose of preservation, improvement and capital repairs of all existing public school facilities, to be levied and collected in the same manner as is set forth in Article VIII, Section 13(C)(Second) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974; provided that said tax is to be levied each calendar year at a millage rate not in excess of the difference between 4.97 mills and any millage levied in such calendar year for any outstanding general obligation bonds of the School Board?”

How will property taxes be extended and/or redirected to fund RSD?
OPSB is expected to pay off school facility debt by 2021 using 4.97 mills of property tax previously approved by voters. The tax is expected to end in 2021, and the amount collected from voters will begin to decrease as the debt service decreases. If voters approve the proposition, the mills will be renewed and extended through 2025. The difference that is not applied to the debt service will be set aside for facility preservation, and RSD can begin to access the funds as early as 2016. The mills currently collect approximately $15.5 million each year. (Source: OPSB FAQ on Tax Proposition. )

In full effect and after OPSB has fulfilled its debt obligations, the non-elected RSD would receive 90% of the funding ($13,986,000) of property tax revenue. OPSB would receive the remaining portion of approximately $1,554,000.

What does RSD do with all their money?

What does RSD do with all its money you ask?  Well for one thing, they like to rent luxury office space in downtown New Orleans across from the Superdome.

RSD takes up the entire 14th floor at 1615 Poydras street. Here is the floor plan of the suite right above them


Here are some of the images of the building and the amenities:

Encompassing 508,741 rentable square feet, the Class A Property is 85% leased and serves as the corporate headquarters for McMoRan Oil & Gas.


The property’s rent rolls are dominated by high profile, local, national and international corporations including Freeport-McMoRan, ANKOR Energy, U.S. Coast Guard, Gillis Ellis & Baker, Kuchler Polk Schell Weiner & Richeson, Usry Weeks & Matthews, Duplantier Hrapmann Hogan & Maher, First NBC Bank and Regus.


1615 Poydras accommodates an on-site restaurant, a barbershop and dry cleaning pick-up & delivery services.  Our location in the Central Business District (CBD) directly across from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, provides easy access to City Hall, hotels, Canal Street shopping and the historic French Quarter.  Tenants enjoy easy walking distance to the NFL Saints Champion Square and the world-class Mercedes-Benz Superdome directly across the street.


Man, who wouldn’t want a drycleaners with pickup and delivery service and a barbershop in their office building?

Check out the gorgeous marble and mahogany floors and enormous meeting rooms overlooking the city.

Who knew being a state worker could be such a sweet deal, especially amidst a 1.6 billion dollar deficit?

But maybe there was a logistical reason for locating so close to the superdome in a luxury office building?

RSD claims this move makes them more accessible to families and parents.

Recovery School District


The Recovery School District is a special district of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) charged with transforming chronically underperforming schools in Louisiana. The organization’s mission is to ensure that all students graduate high school on-time and be college and career ready.  Their move to 1615 Poydras provides a more centrally-located site in the Central Business District – closer to business and community partners [true] and more accessible for families and parents [not true].  Recovery School District also maintains three Parent Centers at various locations throughout the city.

But let’s be honest. This is move to put them closer to the Saints, not students. Right across the street in fact!  RSD used to be located in a warehouse before John White came to town, where many of the parents actually lived.

Let’s compare.

RSD Pre-John White at 1641 Poland Avenue.  Note the graffiti on neighboring buildings and less than august surroundings. . . but I bet the rent wasn’t too steep.


RSD – Post John White at 1616 Poydras street on the 14th floor across from the Mercedes Superdome.  Who knew School Reforming could be so good?


So what if RSD is ripping us off. . . at least I get choices!?!?

Now when parents have problems they can’t actually reach anyone at RSD. RSD makes thousands of parents with enrollment problems line up all day in the hot sun every year while they try to fix the choices the One AP enrollment system selected for them.


Last year some parents waited in line all day only to be turned away and told to come back tomorrow.




RSD Choice. We choose for you.

In my district, East Baton Rouge Parish, I actually have choices and can apply to numerous schools and programs.  I can choose to send my kids from among the schools I get into. In public schools I have the choice to send my kids to a Montessori program, magnet school, language immersion school, Arts integrated or Math Sciences and Arts school, a trade focused school, a charter school or just send my kids to the school down the street. I can apply to all of those choices and select the one I want based on the ones I can get approved for. In New Orleans you put your top 3 choices in, and maybe the computer selects one for you. If you don’t like the selection, or the selection scatters your kids all across town, you and thousands of other parents must queue in line all day to try and find a new school for your kids to attend.

That type of “choice” is more like Communism, than Capitalism folks. You know, where the state assigns you to a school and you line up for days to make simple changes to anything (and that’s on a good day.)

The free enterprise system charter supporters often tout as the cure-all for the ails of the public education system can’t work because bad or undesirable charters can stay in business when the few desirable schools run out of spots.

RSD and New Schools for New Orleans claim that RSD and the New Orleans Experiment has solved the problem of kids being limited by their Zip code. In actuality, they have just made it worse.

These groups claim to provide choice, but the choice belongs to RSD, to the state, not to the parents.

This is the future that awaits us as this “public/private” partnership proceeds.

Wow. Can RSD do anything right?  Uh. . .

But that’s not the only form of waste at RSD.

RSD’s 100+ strong workforce loses more property and equipment each year than the rest of the state put together.  About a million dollars a year at last tally. Here is a statement from the legislative auditor:

Statement: The Recovery School District reported more than 28 percent of its movable property missing in its 2014 inventory. Because of the large volume of missing inventory, [the Louisiana Property Assistance Agency] disapproved the agency’s property certification and completed an internal investigation on the losses. We have since reported our findings on the issue to the Attorney General and Legislative Auditor for further review

The full report is here: http://app.lla.state.la.us/LLApress.nsf/10fbc08e4e1f685a86257c3f005437d5/dcf94ca15acaf57986257dab00780aa9/$FILE/RSD%202014%20Release.pdf

You can also see how RSD’s losses compare to the rest of the state in Lee Zurik’s report:


RSD and LDOE employees switch jobs fluidly because they are really the same agency now.

To see this in action let’s look at the curious case of Kunjan Narechania, who came to Louisiana and RSD with John White as his chief of staff. Then she went with John White to LDOE, and now is back at RSD but is paid from LDOE’s budget.



From payroll file as of 1/23/15


From Nola.com article as of 2/2/15.

Recovery chief of staff Kunjan Narechania said the department has held off on finalizing the Dunbar agreement pending the John Mac and Livingston decisions; if Believe moves into John Mac, it would be moot. She added that the Recovery system does not typically have written agreements with charter programs about which buildings they will get, though “the process has been fairly inconsistent.”

Gotta’ love that freedom.

As you can see, RSD and LDOE employees are fluid and all report to John White.  They certainly don’t oversee any schools, and I sure hope they aren’t trying very hard to look after property that is disappearing at a burn rate of a million dollars per year.  So do we really need them to recruit charter schools in a 100% charter district?

Is RSD the future we want for Louisiana: a giant, unaccountable, exceptionally wasteful, state level agency who’s employees can lobby and donate to local and state officials for increases to its budget and power and which oversees all the schools in the state – instead of local school boards?

Is there a conclusion in here somewhere?

It is clear that RSD is not working. . . for parents or students. At a time of great financial crisis in our state, RSD is providing multiple luxury offices to its staff members so they don’t have the inconvenience of driving into Baton Rouge – where they really are supposed to work.

Louisiana is facing a 1.6 billion dollar shortfall this year, while some state DOE employees are assigned multiple offices (luxury offices).  Based on my calculations, Bobby Jindal is probably right to recommend 100 employees be reduced at the department of education. John White has actually maintained his staffing level at LDOE via RSD over the last 3 years (while increasing his overall payroll by eliminating classified positions and replacing them with unclassified positions.) The payroll at RSD alone is 1/4th of the entire payroll at LDOE for 1/5th of the employees. Many of John White’s employees swap back and forth for budgeting reasons but, they all ultimately report to White.

RSD is the past, and it needs to be left in the past, and now is the time to do it.

John White claims he needs to start discussions and meetings to determine where to make layoffs. I actually have 108 employees to recommend eliminating right now (or maybe 109 depending on where Kunjan actually works).  It’s time to eliminate the RSD.

That is a real choice that would be good for just about everybody.

Background On the High Stakes Testing Opt Out Movement in Louisiana

Unless you are already opting your kids out of testing this spring, most folks have probably only heard about this movement to “opt out” (parents refusing to permit children to take) of high stakes tests in Louisiana in the past couple weeks.  Here are some recent stories:

The opt out movement has been building momentum in this state and throughout the country for the past few years.  I have been consulted numerous times by various organizers of this movement to promote it or provide information about possible consequences and implications.  I actually don’t have a firm stand one way or the other on the “opt out issue” but I have been linking people up with individuals that do for the past year or so.  A few of the opt out information providers in our state are Ann Burruss from Lafayette and Lee Barrios from St Tammany.  You can generally find them on Facebook if you have any questions and want to keep up with the latest developments.  This post is not going to delve too deeply into whether parents should or should not do this.  I will leave this for them to decide. What I did want to do is provide some background on this issue.  I found the background on this situation to be lacking in most mainstream outlets.

First let’s define what High Stakes Testing means.  This is a term that has come to mean annual tests that are tied to consequences for teachers, students, schools and districts.  Low scores on these tests can mean teachers are fired, students are retained, schools are closed, districts are seized by the state.  For a pro side you can review this edreform site that describes what education Reformers are hoping to accomplish.  For the argument against High Stakes testing you might try looking through www.fairtest.org and this link: http://www.fairtest.org/arn/caseagainst.html

High Stakes testing became all the vogue in 2001 with the passage of NCLB (No Child Left Behind act).  NCLB is actually being debated and right now in Congress and even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is telling Congress that standardized testing has gone too far and needs to be scaled back.  (The original was co-authored by John Boehner and Edward Kennedy so you know it has to be good, right?)

Today some school systems may spend a third of their class time taking standardized tests or preparing for them.  I’ve spoken with parents in districts in Louisiana that claim test prep booklets sample tests start getting sent home in January for the high stakes tests we give in April each year.  Parents are outraged about how much time is consumed in taking and preparing for tests, and I don’t blame them.  I send my kids to school to learn, not to take or prepare for tests endlessly.

A new wrinkle for this year is that no one outside of Louisiana State Superintendent John White and his close circle know what test kids will be taking.  White has claimed at different times our children will be taking a PARCC or PARCC-like test.  (PARCC is one of two major testing Consortiums tapped and funded by US DOE to develop Common Core tests for the States.)  However Governor Bobby Jindal and his DOA intervened in a contract dispute and declared the way it was approved invalid and have asserted they will not pay for PARCC with State funds.  This has led to several lawsuits brought by education Reform proponents and parents groups as well as the Governor’s office and BESE.  I honestly have no idea where any of that stands right now.  One judge has ruled the state can’t block White from procuring the tests.  Jindal has vowed to seek repayment of any funds spent that way.  Lawsuits are still pending. I’m not sure anyone else can tell you how this will ultimately play out with any degree of certainty either.

Still, John White has made it clear Louisiana will be giving the PARCC exam this Spring and districts need to be prepared for it.  According to previous statements and decisions by White and BESE, no students will be held back based on this exam, whatever it is.  No teachers should be penalized based on the scores their students get for this year either.  However (SPS) School Performance Scores will still be based on these test results.  Schools and districts that do poorly on these mystery exams could be subject to seizure by the State Recovery School District (RSD) and handed over to charter operators.  Students that “opt out” will be assigned a zero on the exam.  If schools end up with a lot of zeros it could severely impact their SPS score and make takeover very likely if the school is already in a borderline achievement category and has been for several years.

Louisiana has not defined a formal way to “opt out” of testing.  Currently tests are mandatory.  Some parents are writing letters to their principals that they wish to opt out of testing.  It’s unclear whether any principals will honor these requests. My guess is students that get sent to school will be given tests regardless of any letters.  To prevent this from happening parents are considering keeping their kids home on testing days and makeup test days or bringing them to school late.  These would be considered unexcused absences.  I would caution parents that do this that they could run afoul of LRS 17:221 and LRS 14:92.2 that outlines possible fines and jail time for parents of kids who are habitually absent or tardy (truant). Enforcing those laws would probably be worse case scenarios but some districts might play hardball with parents trying to keep their kids home during testing. Some parents have taken a third route.  They have instructed their kids to bubble in all the same answer or to make “pretty pictures” on their scantron answer sheets if they have given tests against their parent’s permission.

I’m not very clear on what the value of these tests could possibly be.  Unless John White made a secret deal with PARCC to get the assessments for free (he is still a PARCC Governing board member so I wouldn’t rule that out) or PARCC has accepted the risk of contentious legal battles over any payments made, they are not true PARCC assessments.  They will not be comparable to last year.  They will not be comparable to next year. They may be rigged to be similar to PARCC using combinations of last year’s test and new items the state may have used micro contracts to generate.

What I can tell you is this.  These test booklets have already been printed or are in the process of being printed by DRC, the State’s longtime testing vendor.  When I worked at LDOE 3 years ago it took months to print the hundreds of thousands of test booklets they have to prepare each year.  DRC needed enrollment data from us in November or December to “precode” (pre-fill site code, name, DOB, grade level, etc) the majority of the test booklets give to students.  Someone should be able to require John White turn over a sample test booklet to see how they are portraying the test they will be giving in a few months.  Will they be calling it PARCC, iLeap, iPARCC, ParccLEAP?  Who knows?  What I am sure of is I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision on this till at least next year.

Would you like to see a sample/practice PARCC test?


I was recently told by a parent that they tried the 7th grade math portion with their child and failed miserably.  Common Core, which these tests are based on, was not phased in.  That means many kids in higher grades will not be able to pass these tests because they were never taught the material.  Because these tests are designed for kids to fail initially in the higher, unprepared grades as has happened in States like New York that gave these exams last year, parents are concerned this will lead to school takeovers anyways, as well as some mental anguish for their children.  In some schools these tests are emphasized a great deal and a lot of stress is put on kids to perform.  Some kids can shrug it off, and others can take this type of failure pretty hard and it can damage their self-esteem.

I know from experience I hate this type of situation.  I’ve had teachers that tested us on subject material we were not taught or even assigned and it did impact my attitude towards school and my teachers in very negative ways.  I lost respect for those teachers, lost respect for the subject material, and tuned out.  It did not inspire me to “try harder”.  It just made me think tests and schools were stupid.  Perhaps now I would handle that differently?  It’s hard to say, but children are not little adults.  Scholastic achievement might be tied to their self-esteem and identity, and they may not have other experience or achievements to anchor themselves.  If I had this concern, if I thought my children would be impacted like I was, I can guarantee I would consider opting my children out.

Anti-Common Core Forums and Town Halls Feed John White a Healthy Helping of Crow

Anti-Common Core Forums and Town Halls Feed John White a Healthy Helping of Crow

Despite what John White claimed a few weeks ago in the American Press newspaper, a local paper serving the Lake Charles area, opposition to Common Core and Eureka is not confined to a few isolated communities that only appear numerous because they take photographs from small rooms. It is a vast, broad and growing coalition of parents across most parishes and the political spectrum.

“They tend to show up at school boards in numbers that are not large relative to the size of the parish,” White told the American Press editorial board Tuesday. “But they’re large relative to the size of the room where the school board meeting is held.”

The only supporters of Common Core appear to be paid henchmen of corporations, affiliates of LDOE, LDOE and Teflon groups like Stand For Children and LaBAEO that get their funding from outside corporate forces are led by former LDOE executives. (Check it out, mainstream news media. I dare you.)

I honestly can’t go to all the town halls I’ve been invited to speak at. They are occurring just about every other weekday and sometimes on the same day. Fortunately these groups all have their own local champions. I would invite the media to contact the organizers of these townhalls and verify my claims for themselves. Some are even being hosted by legislators who have received so many calls from constituents the only way to talk to them all is in giant forums. Tonight, for instance, there are actually two forums, one in Vermillion Parish and one in Tangipahoa. These are new parishes coming to the public Common Core fight, although resentment and anger has been building and simmering for months, if not years.

Vermillion, Abbeville, 10/28/14

There will be a town hall meeting Tuesday to talk about Common Core.

The public is invited to attend the meeting, which will be held at Magdalen Place, downtown Abbeville.

It will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Those putting on the meeting are encouraging parents and teachers to bring questions.

Sen. Jonathan Perry and Rep. Bob Hensgens, and Rep. Brett Geymann will be on hand.

Also, BESE Board member Jane Smith and Anna Arthurs, a grass roots Common Core activist.

“The people were left out of the process in the adoption of Common Core,” said Rep. Geymann. “This town hall meeting is an opportunity for their voices to be heard and a way for them to learn how they can be involved in taking control back, regarding the education of our students.”

Rep. Hensgens added, “Brett is correct. The BESE Board went around and asked for the crowds grass roots help on exiting Common Core and protecting Louisiana’s sovereignty in education.”


Tangipahoa 10/28/14

Tangipahoa Parish Library

Central Ave., Amite Louisiana, 70422

630 – 8:00 pm


Here is a small 2 mile long room of anti-common Core activists in a parade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hb8Tc9-wtS0

And here is a small room of 800 people, in Calcasieu.


Is Opposition to Eureka Math and Common Core really limited to a few isolated troublemakers, like John White told the American Press?

Recently John White made the claim that only a few isolated pockets of parents in a few parishes are upset about Common Core and Eureka Math.

Small groups of people in several isolated areas of Louisiana, including Calcasieu Parish, are voicing loud opposition to Common Core State Standards, said state Superintendent of Education John White.

“They tend to show up at school boards in numbers that are not large relative to the size of the parish,” White told the American Press editorial board Tuesday. “But they’re large relative to the size of the room where the school board meeting is held.”

I’ve been getting reports from folks from across the state since that statement was made. I would like to put together a spreadsheet/inventory of just how widespread opposition truly is, but I need your help. Please provide information so I can counter John White’s claim that only a few folks from a few isolated communities are upset about Common Core and Eureka Math. My pastor actually made an offhand reference about Common Core Math during one of his sermons a few weeks back and was met with a room full of groans of disgust and frustration. What was remarkable was most of the folks in this service were not parents, but just grandparents, and they had had enough of Common Core. This was not an assembly of gathered for any other reason except to worship, but Common Core, and the math associated is so dreadful it provokes groans of disgust from an entire congregation. I attend church in the middle of Baton Rouge. I’m pretty sure this hatred is thorough and not the least bit isolated.

To help me document this for mainstream media types which don’t have the time or inclination to do this research themselves, please provide what curriculum you use in your parish. If there is organized resistance to it, let me know. If there is a contact person or name you would like to provide, please let me know that as well. I will update this list/post periodically as information comes in. I hope this post will also help connect groups in different “isolated areas of Louisiana” feel less isolated and work together going forward.


Please provide your feedback in the comments below. I will transfer summarized data to this spreadsheet. If you wish to be contacted by folks that might research this topic please leave your contact information in your comment as well. if you wish to provide an anonymous update please send your info to crazycrawfish@yahoo.com



Curriculum Used by School District for the 2014-2015 School Year (as reported by parents) 

Last updated: 10/25/14

Produced by Jason France 




Math Curriculum 

ELA Curriculum 

Notes & Contacts (official and Anti-CC)


Acadia Parish





Allen Parish 





Ascension Parish 


Core Knowledge 

 Board members staunchly in favor of CC and Eureka

Lorraine Wimberly (opposed?)


Assumption Parish 





Avoyelles Parish 



 Avoyelles Against Common Core


Beauregard Parish 

 Go Math (HMH)

Treasures (MMH)



Bienville Parish 





Bossier Parish 





Caddo Parish 





Calcasieu Parish 



multiple forums, parades,SB meetings against Common Core and Eureka 


Caldwell Parish





Cameron Parish 





Catahoula Parish 





Claiborne Parish 





Concordia Parish 





DeSoto Parish 





East Baton Rouge Parish 

 Go Math (HMH) + EngageNY




East Carroll Parish 





East Feliciana Parish





Evangeline Parish 





Franklin Parish 





Grant Parish 





Iberia Parish 



Iberia Asst. Supt of Instruction: Carey Laviolette calaviolette@iberia.k12.l1.us 337-364-7641


Iberville Parish 





Jackson Parish 





Jefferson Parish 


Core Knowledge 



Jefferson Davis Parish 

My Math (SMH)




Lafayette Parish 



Numerous groups opposed to Common Core


Lafourche Parish 





LaSalle Parish 



 LaSalle Parish Against Common Core


Lincoln Parish 



Lincoln Chief Academic Officer: Mike Milstead mmilstead@lincolnschools.org


Livingston Parish 



Anti-CC forum being held 10/16/14

Livingston SB contact Director of Curriculum: Dawn Rush



Madison Parish 





Morehouse Parish 





Natchitoches Parish 





Orleans Parish





Ouachita Parish 





Plaquemines Parish 





Pointe Coupee Parish 





Rapides Parish 


Journeys (HMH)

anti-CC forum/townhall 10/21/14

SB agenda item Nov 5th

Opposition contact: Stephanie Hooke Riley parent of 2

petition to remove over 700 names


Red River Parish 





Richland Parish 





Sabine Parish 





St. Bernard Parish





St. Charles Parish 





St. Helena Parish 





St. James Parish 





St. John the Baptist Parish 





St. Landry Parish 

 Go Math (HMH)




St. Martin Parish 





St. Mary Parish 





St. Tammany Parish


 Core Knowledge

multiple SB meetings resulting in removal of Eureka before end of 2014-2015 School year

Anti-CC townhalls Oct 22 and 27


Tangipahoa Parish 



Opposition leader: Terra Orgeron



Tensas Parish 





Terrebonne Parish 

Eureka + Envision


 Some stirring of org, no formal anti-CC


Union Parish 





Vermilion Parish 



Vernon Parish 



Facebook activity/groups (staunch opposition)


Washington Parish 





Webster Parish 



P Susan Willis Addington (pulled grandson out of public and put in private school)


West Baton Rouge Parish 



 Parents are complaining on Facebook

Crystal Bass Bell, parent

Nov 1,anti-CC townhall


West Carroll Parish 





West Feliciana Parish 





Winn Parish 





City of Monroe School District 





City of Bogalusa School District 





Zachary Community School District 





City of Baker School District





Central Community School District 





Special School District 





RSD-UNO New Beginnings Schools Foundation 





Louisiana School For Math Science & the Arts 





LA Schools for the Deaf and the Visually Impaired





Louisiana Special Education Center 





LSU Laboratory School 





Southern University Lab School 





New Vision Learning Academy 





V. B. Glencoe Charter School 





International School of Louisiana





Avoyelles Public Charter School 





Delhi Charter School 





Belle Chasse Academy, Inc. 





Milestone SABIS Academy of New Orleans 





The MAX Charter School 





D’Arbonne Woods Charter School 





School For A New Millennium, Inc. 





Community School for Apprenticeship Learning, Inc. 





Voices for International Business & Education 





RSD-Lagniappe Academies of New Orleans 





RSD-Spirit of Excellence Academy 





RSD-Morris Jeff Community School 





RSD-ReNEW Schools 





RSD-Shreveport Charter School, Inc. 





RSD-Crestworth Learning Academy, Inc. 





RSD-Arise Academy 





RSD-Success Preparatory Academy 





RSD-Benjamin E. Mays Preparatory School





RSD-Pride College Preparatory Academy 





RSD-ADVANCE Baton Rouge 





RSD-100 Black Men Capitol Charter Initiative 





RSD-Advocacy for the Arts & Tech in N.O., Inc. 





RSD-Intercultural Charter School Board, Inc.





RSD-Akili Academy of New Orleans 





RSD-Advocacy for Science and Math Education 





RSD-Sojourner Truth Academy, Inc. 





RSD-Miller-McCoy Academy for Math and Business 





RSD-New Orleans College Preparatory Academies










RSD-Broadmoor Charter School Board 





RSD-Pelican Educational Foundation 





RSD-Dryades YMCA 





RSD-Friends of King 





RSD-New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation





RSD-Choice Foundation 





RSD-Treme Charter Schools Association 





RSD-Algiers Charter Schools Association (ACSA) 





Recovery School District-LDE 





RSD-SUNO Institute for Academic Excellence 





RSD-Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) N.O.





RSD-FirstLine Schools, Inc. 





Office of Juvenile Justice 




The Louisiana Eureka Rebellion

The Louisiana Eureka Rebellion

Across the state parents and teachers are confronting their school boards and curriculum leaders with the same universal complaint. Eureka Math sucks. (That seems to be a nearly universally agreed upon fact by most parents not paid by LDOE or financially biased Common Core proponents.) Now however, complaints have shifted from the blindly adopted Common Core “standards” to the precise curriculum used to pound those standards into helpless children.

For those of you wondering how we got here, let me give you some backstory. Common Core was adopted sight unseen by Louisiana’s BESE board in in the summer of 2010 at the urging of US DOE and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan before the standards were even finalized later that Fall. Parents were given no education about these changes and no opportunities to review them, comment on them or reject them. One of the only former teachers on the State’s BESE board actually works for CCSSO, one of the two organizations that created these standards. These “Standards” weren’t finalized when they were adopted so no one could research them or review materials that implemented these changes. It took years for these materials to be developed and presented to the public. When they were, many groups in support of these “standards” told parents it was too late to say anything. They had missed their chance to comment; according to Common Core supporters (when there was nothing concrete to comment on.) In the future I imagine this will ensure parents object to all changes; because they won’t get a chance to comment or modify anything later based on their experiences with the Tyrannical implementation of Common Core.

In 2012 and 2013 LDOE directed LEAs to implement Common Core but without any real support or direction. (It was even theorized this was done on purpose.) This lack of direction in the name of “empowering educators” led to much confusion and poor product selections. One of the worst math products LEAs adopted during this time was a “free” math curriculum called EngageNY (Sometimes parodied as EnrageNY because of the trouble it created for New York school districts when they tried to adopt it in their schools.) To use EngageNY one had to print out everything or use it online (which didn’t help much for completing classroom or homework assignments.) Districts that adopted this last year in Louisiana like East Baton Rouge Parish, had to spend loads of cash – and probably burned through plenty of printers and toners cartridges to implement it – and it was not well received. (I actually wrote a little blog post about one of my daughter’s first grade assignments that, for good or ill, is probably my most popular piece to date.)

The commercial version of EngageNY is known as Eureka. In an attempt to address the concerns brought up by me and countless others about the poor roll-out and implementation of Common Core (I actually theorized this was done intentionally and with forethought in this post.) LDOE offered to review all textbooks for the following school year, and make recommendations, out of the kindness of their hearts. . .and for $500 per subject per grade level for most vendors that I have yet to see an accounting of where that money went. This year I’ve been told most publishers are considering refusing to submit their materials to LDOE because of how they were shafted last year. My understanding is the only Tier 1 selections Eureka for Math and Core Knowledge for ELA were exempted from paying the $500 fee per grade level per subject and these two products are linked to our current Superintendent of Education, John White.

This brings us to where we are today. Despite much ado from Governor Bobby Jindal about removing Common Core – which has turned into what kids are calling “Epic Fails” these days – Louisiana finds itself barreling headlong into a full-blown Common Core bonanza. At the forefront if this bandwagon-train is Eureka Math, the top pick of John White and his Teacher leaders and LDOE designated Louisiana Core Advocates which made up most of the selection committees.

These days the only thing that riles up parents more than Common Core is Eureka Math. School Boards across the state are being hammered by parents underwhelmed by the “rigor” of Eureka and overwhelmed by the typos and pointless exercises. I have reports of nearly armed revolts from parents in some of the largest districts in the state that foolishly “Believed” in John White and his Teacher Beliebers.


From a teacher (Crying parents, teachers and kids)

We had an inservice on Eureka Math in Rapides Parish Yesterday (9-29). The teachers had concerns about Eureka, lots of them! We were told by the presenter that they did not want to hear ANY negative comments. There were teachers crying at this meeting. They told us this math was WONDERFUL and that lots of teachers liked it and thought it was great. I really want to see these teachers because I don’t believe they exist. It is like a dictatorship in Rapides Parish. I was so shocked and disgusted that they wouldn’t let us speak that when I left the meeting I called our local news channel and told them about it. I was afraid to give my name, so I didn’t. They are not listening to us and don’t want to hear us. It is so sad. They also told us that we didn’t have to give the test that come with series. We could give a multiple choice test instead. Doesn’t that defeat the point. If this math is so great, why can’t the students pass the end of the module test? It is because they are not conceptually ready for the concepts. It is also crazy because they want the student to “go around the world” to get an answer to a simple problem. They also told us to look at the end of the module test and only teach the standards that are on the test and to teach them as they are presented on the test. Isn’t that teaching the test? I am beyond shocked. Are teachers in other parishes experiencing this too?

From a parent:

I am a Rapides parish parent. My 6th grader is a Magnet student with an impressive record. He boasts only one “C” on his report card in his entire school career, and a high school reading level. You can imagine our shock that he is currently failing math! And he is not alone. According to an administrator, an estimated 25% of his grade at the magnet school is failing math as well. I am hearing horror stories all over the parish! Kids melting down, crying themselves to sleep, hating school (all of these we have personally experienced). We want this curriculum out of our parish, and a group of us intend to petition the board to do so! Can you please tell me which Tier 2 math curriculum EBR switched to? Also, ANY help you can offer in direction for the upcoming school board meeting would be very appreciated! I would like to contact the media. However, the local station is very biased toward the school board. Any suggestions there would be greatly appreciated as well. The teacher from Rapides parish who commented above is NOT exaggerating! I have spoken with high level district personnel who have told me that the school board has no authority in this. The curriculum was chosen by the Superintendent and assistant superintendents out of the need for our students to “be able to pass the statewide assessment at the end of the year”. The entire demeanor of the Rapides parish administration is that they are in control and we need to sit down and shut up. They obviously don’t know me very well…




Over 800 turn out for a town hall to vent their frustrations over Common Core in general and Eureka Math in particular.


Brandi Sharpton, a parent and local high school math teacher, said she has done her best to work with the Common Core standards, but her research and experience tell her she cannot support the initiative. “As an expert in my field and an involved parent, I feel like it’s important for others to hear my opinion,” Sharpton said. “I’m definitely a supporter of raising standards, but raising them this way will only serve to make the gaps bigger and frustration levels higher.”

Sharpton went on to discuss the Eureka Math curriculum, which the Calcasieu Parish School Board adopted this year and the state Department of Education identifies as a superior quality curriculum. She pointed out that, even with a degree in math education, she would spend hours each night trying to determine how to help her second-grade daughter with her math homework.

“My daughter has an excellent teacher and an excellent school, but this curriculum is developmentally inappropriate,” she said. “My child cries almost every night, and I cannot allow this curriculum and these standards to set a negative tone about learning that will affect her for the rest of her life.”

Local fourth-grade teacher Shawna Dufrene agreed with Sharpton. Having taught math for more than ten years, Dufrene said casting Eureka Math as “the Cadillac” of math curricula is wrong. “I can appreciate a Cadillac, but I know a lemon when I buy a lemon,” Dufrene told the panel.

Tiffany Hebert, a parent and former teacher, said in a statement to Breitbart News, “Highly educated parents with graduate and post-graduate degrees should not have to go to ‘Parent University’ to help their elementary kids do math homework.”

I’ve heard a meeting is taking place tonight in Calcasieu where the standard operating procedure by the State seems to be to fill the Board room with Teacher Leaders to support John White’s Eureka agenda by heckling parents trying to testify about their problems. I heard this occurred in St Tammany. I strongly urge supporters of Eureka and Common Core not to do this going forward. Parents and teachers need to work together and that type of behavior will make this a very personal fight that only charter school operators will win.



I received this comment and researched it myself:

Had a conversation with a Caddo elementary principal about the new math curriculum. According to her every school in the parish is struggling with it. Her school is high ranking, with selective admissions and lots of gifted kids, but math is a problem for them this year.

Offline I was informed by multiple sources that Caddo uses straight up photocopied EngageNY, which is Eureka on crutches. I’ve heard from others that their schools are struggling with it. I can easily understand why. Even the trainers LDOE provided at their summer conference to provide professional development struggled with Eureka and even failed to complete their presentations. Wow. I’m not sure how that didn’t make it into the news at the time. . .


St Tammany


In St Tammany there was so much concerted uproar the School Board decided to vote to drop Eureka for next year just 2 months in.


After more than three hours of passionate debate, the St. Tammany Parish School Board voted Thursday night to remove the controversial Eureka Math materials from the district’s classrooms by next school year.

At Thursday’s meeting and a special meeting held last week, a steady stream of parents pleaded with the board to remove Eureka Math from the parish’s math curriculum.

To learn some detailed tips about what dirty tricks transpired at St Tammany’s School Board meetings and how to be aware of them and fight them, please refer to this blog post by ThePeopleLLC.


Eureka is giving a face to the Common Core fight, and it’s not a pretty one. I’ve been asked to make a recommendation, but unlike some folks, I recognize I am unqualified to make that recommendation. Unlike LDOE and a number of members of BESE, I defer to experts in their area of expertise. I rely on teachers with decades of experience to counsel me on education issues. What appears to have happened in Louisiana is that large multi-national corporations told very inexperienced folks like previous Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek with his law degree and zero years of teaching experience and current Superintendent John White with his 2 to 3 years of dubious teaching experience that Common Core was the panacea for all education ills, and they bought into it, with our tax dollars and our children as guinea pigs. (From what I hear, John White has never met an education proposal he hasn’t wanted to spend your money on.) Once they decided what they wanted to do, they simply sought out folks that agreed with them. That’s the exact opposite way to do things, but this is Louisiana, this is Bobby Jindal’s administration, and doing the opposite of what you should be doing seems to be our trademark traditionally and the hallmark of Jindal’s administration. If we learn nothing else from the Common Core and ongoing education reform fiasco, I hope we learn to ask questions and engage parents first. Shooting first, without identifying a target or aiming, is the exact opposite of what we should be doing, although the exact mindset that Louisiana’s first, chief, Common Core adopter – former Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek – worked so diligently to foster at LDOE.

Planning is for no good long-eared varmits! Pow! Pow! Eureka!